PR Roundup: TikTok Ban, Princess Kate and Journos Still Value PR

iPhone with TikTok app logo on the screen. red-blue background

This week's PR Roundup looks at the business implications of a TikTok ban, Princess Kate's image issues and Muck Rack's 2024 State of Journalism, which shows that journalists still value PR.

TikTok Ban and Implications for Business

What happened: The ongoing saga between social media platform TikTok and the Federal Government continued this week, as U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to potentially block the app in the States if its China-based owners do not sell. The government sees the app as a continuing threat to national security.

However, the bill still has to be passed in the Senate before any permanent damage can take place. ABC News notes that that may be difficult, because while some senators are on board, others have stayed quiet.

Communication takeaways: TikTok currently reports more than 170 million users in the U.S., and its successes are taken quite seriously by communicators and businesses. TikTok boasts viral shopping trends and awareness for causes, amongst other popular culture items, like the resurrection of formerly popular songs and analysis of news.

So naturally, digital teams that represent companies, organizations and influencers with large followings on TikTok are somewhat concerned as to what could happen to their strategy under a ban.

Paige Borgman, VP/Head of Digital Strategy, Reputation Partners says the simple answer is to adapt.

“While a national ban on TikTok would surely be impactful for brands and businesses who are successfully leveraging the platform, it would ultimately be just another change in the always evolving digital landscape,” Borgman says. “In times of uncertainty, the best thing to do is ensure your digital marketing strategy is built to be agile, and your team remains flexible and committed to finding the next best solution for your business.”

Journalists Still Value PR Pros

What happened: This week Muck Rack released its 2024 State of Journalism report, which surveyed 1,106 journalists on topics about everything from generative AI use to buyouts.

The State of Journalism survey also always includes a section on media relations and the ongoing relationship between PR professionals and reporters. The good news is that a majority of journalists still favor a positive connection with communicators, with 70% saying PR pros are at least moderately important to the success of their job.

Other insights include:

  • About one-third expressed concerns about the lack of funding and trust in journalism.

  • 36% say their workplaces went through layoffs or involuntary buyouts this year.

  • 46% receive six or more pitches daily, 49% seldom or never respond and 73% reported rejecting pitches due to lack of relevancy.

  • 1:1 email pitches that are 200 words or less are preferred, and 64% don’t care which day the pitch is received

  • 51% say that one follow-up is ideal and 48% say it should come 3-7 days later.

You can access the full report here.

Communication takeaways: It’s important for PR professionals to keep a pulse on what is going on with their journalist neighbors. After all, many communicators got their start in a newsroom.

This has been one of the toughest points in history for the media. With the shutdown and shrinking of newsrooms and departments, it is one of the most rapid erasures of journalists in modern times. And the public’s lack of trust in the media isn't helpful for boosting the industry's morale.

Muck Rack co-founder and CEO Gregory Galant says it’s important for communicators to work to make stressed journos’ jobs easier.

“It’s a difficult time for many journalists, with layoffs and buyouts happening far too often,” Galant says. “Even as newsrooms continue to shrink, our research indicates that some PR professionals are still sending irrelevant pitches, which bog down journalist inboxes and can ruin credibility for the PR pro. That’s why it’s becoming even more critical for communicators to thoroughly research a journalist and send targeted 1:1 pitches to ensure the story fits their audience.”

Princess Kate’s Doctored Photo and Apology

What happened: One of the world’s current greatest mysteries continued to grow in legend this week: Where is Princess Kate (Middleton)? If you have been keeping up with the story, you’ll know that Kate’s last public appearance was on Christmas Day, leaving church services in December 2023. On Jan. 17, 2024, Kensington Palace announced that the princess underwent abdominal surgery and would not be participating in any public appearances through March 31.

However, on March 10, Mother’s Day in the U.K, Kensington Palace released a photo of Kate and her kids, saying Prince William took the photo earlier in the week. That evening several news outlets, including the Associated Press, pulled the photo after finding instances of image manipulation.

The next day Kate issued an apology (through Kensington Palace) for the image, saying, “Like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing. I wanted to express my apologies for any confusion the family photograph we shared yesterday caused.”

Communication takeaways: The media, because of the secrecy surrounding the princess’s condition, is having a field day with this story. There seem to be many unanswered questions and extensive analysis, including many news outlets identifying the photo edits and posing questions as to why these occurred.

NiemanLab even published a detailed timeline of how Kensington Palace PR messed up this seemingly easy press opportunity.

Curtis Sparrer, Principal and Co-Founder at Bospar, says the confusion lies within the story of two Royal PR programmes  (note the use of British English).

“Kensington Palace controls Will and Kate’s PR, whilst Buckingham Palace leads PR for King Charles and Queen Camilla,” Sparrer notes. “When you compare the two programs, the adults are clearly in charge at Buckingham Palace. Their level of transparency about Charles’ cancer diagnosis has answered the most important questions about the King’s health. Meanwhile at Kensington Palace, the level of disassemblement has only amplified a bad story, and put into question not only the public’s trust in two state figures, but whether the U.K. should prattle on with maintaining a monarchy.”

Sparrer thinks the Kensington Team should take a lesson from their “upstart colonies.”

“‘The cover-up is worse than the crime,’” he says.

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