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How can PR combat news avoidance?

Recent research by Reuters found that the number of adults across the globe actively avoiding the news has hit record levels.

In its latest Digital News Report which sampled over 94,000 adults across 47 countries (2,017 of which are UK-based), Reuters found that 39% of people admit to “news avoidance” - a conscious choice to consume less news.

This marks the highest level of news avoidance since the first Digital News Report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism was released in 2012. The highest previously was 38% in 2022.

Open comments suggested that conflict in the Middle East and Ukraine is part of the reason consumers are averting their eyes from coverage.

But, what can PR do to combat the rise in news avoidance? We asked a host of PR pros to share their views.

Use influencers to draw people back in

Chris Lee, independent content consultant and copywriter, Eight Moon Media: "Media is so fragmented nowadays, so it also doesn’t surprise me that many adults are avoiding the news, not just because the news is often so bad, but also because there are so many content choices out there for people to consume. 

"It’s not a new challenge, but it underlines why PR teams should always deploy a broad media approach that reaches audiences where they are. Working with influencers and podcasters to deliver useful, engaging content on the right social media channels per audience has been key to generating cut-through over the last decade. It also  appears to be more relevant now, as many people are seemingly turning off mainstream media. I’ve seen mixed studies around public trust in online influencers compared to the mainstream media, but for consumer products, at least, it appears to be a sound way to get front of mind and drive purchase intention.”

These stats are nothing new

Amit Chakravarty, founder and editor at men's fashion publication “News aversion isn’t a new thing. In this age of selective media consumption, the challenge has always been about trying to capture attention when eyeballs and ears only tune in on their own terms. 

"For PRs, this means putting further emphasis on the story being crafted, alongside ensuring the channels and timings are utilised to amplify the news. It’s also a big challenge for media and publishing companies who PRs need to work with to supply the news and create interesting content. Luckily, we both have data to assist us in the pursuit of capturing attention. The data informs us of the most engaging content formats, the best channels to deploy and appropriate timings to landing the biggest impact. That said, the global news agenda and on-going socio-political tone is a huge factor to contend with.”

Don't throw the baby out with the bath water

Tom Yazdi, client director at BoldSpace: “Find new ways to reach people. Use physical and virtual spaces that aren’t necessarily where audiences go to find out what’s going on in the world, and engage with them authentically on the issues they are talking about. Listen, don’t broadcast. Be a citizen they want to side with, support, argue with, trust. But – let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water here. The trend is worrying, for sure, and the PR industry can’t ignore it. But most adults still consume news in some form or another. So let’s be bold and continue to back the news, work with our partners in the media, and do our part by feeding them content that audiences can trust.”

Consider video

Michael Phillips, head of communications at Havas Media Network London: "The survey tells us 39% are avoiding the news, but not what type of news, so a bit of perspective is needed. Aside from disaster/crisis/war consultancies and psephologists [the study of elections and voting], I can’t imagine any PR professional is looking to be part of the news being avoided. 

"There has always been ebbs and flows in the negative and positive news output. As comms professionals, it’s our job to adapt in order to find new opportunities to connect. In a tough news cycle, people are more likely to seek out lighter relief from trustworthy sources and it appears people are consuming news across more channels and formats (video in particular) than before – here would be a good place to start if you haven’t looked already."

Cut through the negativity

Paul McEntee, founder and CEO at Here Be Dragons: "Part of the skill of a modern PR agency is around de-risking the investment of the client when a campaign goes live – just in case a real hard news story (war, the royal family, politicians doing silly things) knocks it off the news agenda. PR campaigns these days have to be multifaceted and work across different media segments be they news, lifestyle, broadcast, social etc. It's the same for news aversion; somehow PR has to find a way to cut through to connect with those hard to reach audiences, whatever media they are digesting."

61% aren't avoiding the news, though?

Lauren Phillipou, senior account director at Axicom: “One of the main reasons for news aversion? The focus on doom and gloom. After the past few years of global crises and subsequent media fearmongering, it’s no surprise that some audiences are looking for a respite, with many turning to social platforms like TikTok for more light-hearted content. Considering this in PR campaigns and focusing on the positives could help tilt the scales again. At the same time, prioritising news outlets alone is an outdated way of looking at PR – paid, owned and social channels are now just as important, and campaigns should be tackled with an integrated approach from the outset. 

"It’s more of an opportunity than a challenge as every channel reaches a different audience, whereas previously, the primary output route was specifically through those who read the news. That said, if the research suggests that 61% of adults still read the news, it’s still a vital channel for the majority and shouldn’t be deprioritised.”

News needs social media buzz

Sarah Woodhouse, director, AMBITIOUS: "PR is not about sheer eyeballs anymore; it's about genuine engagement and that means ensuring our messages resonate deeply wherever they land. Traditional news outlets will hold their value, but the most effective PR strategies combine them with social media buzz, podcast insights, interactive webinars, live events, strategic partnerships, influencer authenticity, and more. Each platform uniquely amplifies a brand's voice, making sure storytelling is not just heard, it's felt. Moreover, the credibility of the content soars when shared by someone we trust. This isn't just adaptation; it's revolutionising how we connect in an increasingly selective world and meeting an audience where they are."

The industry is already responding

Chris Baker, senior PR consultant, business and corporate at Speed Communications: "What we could be looking at might be news saturation, or overload, rather than aversion to information. Relentless coverage of global conflict and climate breakdown, combined with the always-on opinion culture that we now have, is oppressive for many, so it's natural that people lean out from it. As the report points out, this isn't a sudden shift in media habits, more of an evolution of trends the way we consume media, which the industry is already responding to. We always need to understand where stakeholders prefer to get their information and adapt our strategies to deliver relevant and timely context through those channels. We often talk about 'cut through' in PR, but perhaps now it's more about finding commonalities with audiences?"

Scattergun approach is not the answer

Sarah Skinner, managing director, corporate reputation at Launch PR: "I don’t think it’s necessarily an aversion – I think it’s self-preservation. When you’re spinning multiple plates, fully expecting one to fall at any moment, you don’t need an anxiety provoking news agenda.

"It’s vital we work with our clients to be honest, tell the truth and offer information that is genuinely helpful, in small doses. Not self-serving, preaching, and certainly not telling the UK public what they already know. I am amazed at some (and I stress some as I think there is brilliant content being produced at the moment), of the material being pedalled out, which is so utterly out of sync with the nation’s psyche. 

"On a more practical level, layer up stories to ensure that you are hitting different media verticals, whether that's through expert commentary, life-enhancing tips or human interest accounts. Hit as many facets of the media landscape that you can but be targeted. No one likes a scattergun approach."

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