PR Roundup: Media Layoffs and Media Relations, Causes That Count and Lessons from Kyte Baby

Time magazine sits in a rack in local bookstore days after layoffs announced

In this week's PR Roundup we examine how exactly to handle media relations when all of your media contacts keep getting laid off, a study released on what causes people really care about and PR lessons from the Kyte Baby apology saga.

Media Layoffs Continue

What happened: It seems like the bleeding may never stop. Journalism cuts had an extremely rough year in 2023, and it doesn’t seem to be letting up in 2024. This week alone saw layoffs at The Los Angeles Times (where not even Pulitzer Prize winners were spared), Time Magazine and National Geographic. Last week GQ absorbed Pitchfork, and threw its entire staff overboard. Sports Illustrated also gutted its staff with mass layoffs.

Several unions have voiced their displeasure with management. On Tuesday, the Conde Nast union held a one-day strike to protest the company’s current layoff negotiations with the union. More than 400 of the 500 union members walked off the job. Variety reported that actress Anne Hathaway showed solidarity with the union by walking out of a Vanity Fair photo shoot that same day.

The New York Daily News and Forbes’s unions also conducted walk outs on Jan. 25.

Communication Takeaways: Without journalism there is no public relations. The industries work hand-in-hand. So, the importance of humane media relations during this time is crucial. Journalists may be overworked due to having to shoulder laid-off employee duties. Roles may shift in the newsroom.

And unfortunately, that great media contact you had? They may no longer exist at that company.

Michael Grimm, Senior Vice President at Reputation Partners, says the media layoffs are “deeply concerning and saddening” as the remaining media will be spread even thinner. Grimm notes the importance of efficient communications in the interim.

“As public relations practitioners, we need to develop a keen sense of being extremely selective in ensuring all media communications, whether a quick pitch, phone call or press release, provides real, unmistakable value for the journalist and their audiences,” he says. “Strong media relations results will be built on repeatably valuable communications that help media do their job easier and more impactfully.”

Grimm also points out the opportunity for PR practitioners to become advocates for those impacted by layoffs.

“[We can] help them land on their feet at the next gig by advocating for them publicly or introducing them to industry colleagues as they may consider transitioning to the public relations or in-house world,” he says.”The relationships built with these reporters are two-way, and we can support them as they approach their next gig.”

Media relations will also continue to evolve as communicators pursue “non-traditional” influencer relations.

“[This] can include targeting YouTube channels, Substack newsletter authors, podcasts and social media influencers as quasi-journalists that can help tell a client’s story to relevant (and sometimes massive) audiences,” Grimm says.

'Causes That Count' Study Released

What happened: Purpose consultancy Revolt released a new study pinpointing the issues that are most important to people around the world. This year’s “Causes That Count” research found that poverty, war and climate change are the top three most important issues, with food security, government transparency and access to healthcare all in the top 10 for a second year running.

Researchers surveyed over 5,000 participants from five main markets: the United States, United Kingdom, Brazil, China and India.

Communication Takeaways: While some brands seem to be shying away from purpose and diversity campaigns, the importance of public concerns cannot be ignored. Businesses should always be ready to adapt to changing concerns. The battle for communicators is how to illustrate those adaptations.

Alex Lewis, Co-founder at Revolt, says the report should catch the attention of brands.

“The stability of Revolt’s top 10 causes should send a clear signal to brands whose operations touch one of these issues, that there is a pressing need for them to step up purposeful action,” Lewis says. “With causes such as poverty and climate change stabilizing as the defining causes of our time, there are big opportunities for brands to help both people and planet while driving business growth.”

While brands do not need to enter every conversation, Revolt says tactics like employee engagement, colleague safety and charity can go even farther than a public statement.

Kyte Baby Backlash

What happened: We’ll be honest. When PRNEWS first heart the name “Kyte Baby” this past week, we thought it was a new rapper or influencer. Upon further research (and an excellent roundup by Axios), we discovered Kyte Baby (a children’s clothing brand), did not do anything even remotely humorous when it came to employee communications and care.

Even though it's branded as a “woman-owned” company, the organization denied employee Marissa Hughes’s request to work remotely as her premature baby (22 weeks) was placed in neonatal intensive care. Kyte said she “opted to leave.”

The company further dug itself into a hole when the CEO released not one, but two apology videos—acknowledging her first one was not “sincere.” CEO Ling Liu says the company is currently reviewing its policy and procedures for family leave.

Communication takeaways: While Kyte Baby CEO and founder Ying Liu has made several apologies on social media, the damage had already been done and her efforts fell flat with the audience.

Tracy Williams, founder and CEO, Olmstead Williams Communications, says there are better ways for PR teams to deal with crisis fallout.

“Two apologies by the Kyte Baby CEO didn’t hit the right notes on social media,” Williams says. “Navigating the path to redemption isn’t easy, and reading an apology that sounds like it’s coming from lawyers is a damning path. Recovery is possible with transparency and ongoing communications on efforts to address internal/management issues, and while your redemption can’t be bought, activities that support families and children in NICUs could help.”

Nicole Schuman is senior editor for PRNEWS. Follow her @buffalogal.