The death or near death of literally dozens of metropolitan and regional dailies, magazines and trade publications and the related dismissal of hundreds-and-hundreds of reporters has changed the face of public relations forever. In particular, it has required a new way of thinking and communicating. Instead of influencing target audiences through key reporters and analysts, the job more-and-more is falling to the uploading of digital data or self-publishing.

Just as an example take the $219 billion global microchip industry, which is suffering a nearly 12 percent annualized decline according to the Semiconductor Industry Association www.sia-online.org. And with this decline, indefinite single-digit forecasts and the commoditization of chips, fewer of the remaining reporters are interested in covering the industry, much less their editors. The result is that mainline publications, such as the Wall Street Journal www.wsj.com or the New York Times www.nytimes.com, will only cover behemoth Intel www.intel.com and its favorite whipping boy, rival AMD www.amd.com. It’s not that the race between Intel and AMD for the microprocessor supremacy is even remotely close, even with Intel’s $1.25 billion legal payoff to AMD…..Quite frankly, the Washington Generals have a better chance against the Harlem Globetrotters.

When you exclude the two companies, there are still a dozen or so semiconductor companies with annual revenues exceeding $1 billion including Texas Instruments www.ti.com, TSMC www.tsmc.com, LSI Corp. www.lsi.com, Altera www.altera.com and Xilinx www.xilinx.com, but they face very tough sledding trying to get their voices heard by the major business media. So where do they turn in most cases? They turn to industry trade media, but here’s the rub…..There are really only two reporters left to cover the $219 billion global semiconductor industry or one reporter for each $109.5 billion in worldwide revenue, Mark LaPedus of EE Times www.eetimes.com and Ron Wilson of Electronic Design News www.edn.com.

The scenario that I just described for semiconductors is not only germane to this particular industry. It is being replayed over-and-over again from one industry after another, the exception being the very few media darlings that draw everyone’s attention including Google www.google.com and its search engine or Apple www.apple.com with its Macs, iPods and iPhones.

So if you are not one of the chosen few, how do you get your message out to your key audiences — customers, partners, suppliers, investors, financial/industry analysts and employees — in an age when more-and-more reporters are being shown the door? The answer lies with uploading or self publishing. It is time to publish or perish.

In some respects this trend is not new. The use of HTML language to upload websites to the Internet originated in the previous century, way back in the 1990s. Now companies are coming to the conclusion that using their own websites or separate websites for their own blogs, podcasts, webcasts, executive videos is a way to go around the declining number of reporters. Ditto for the use of Twitter www.twitter.com, LinkedIn.com www.linkedin.com, Facebook www.facebook.com and scores of other social media sites.

Otherwise, PR departments are in a competition with each other to see which one can get access to these increasingly stressed and irritable few remaining reporters, who don’t want to suck on a firehose when a water fountain will do. There is frankly just too much information coming from too many flacks and not enough hours in the day.

Many publicly traded companies are nervous about the dreaded selective disclosure of material information and the related SEC enforcement. Others fear the inadvertent disclosure of proprietary information. At the same time, conversational marketing from colleague-to-colleague via cyberspace is the most trusted communication on the planet. There are fewer traditional means for the dissemination of information, but with each passing day more of these digital media tools are becoming available. And this is the most credible voice. It’s time for even the most stubborn….err….resolute companies to ask not what social media can do for someone else, but what can social media do for the bottom line.

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