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Does the media fail to meet the public’s need to discuss grief and bereavement?

In an era where media wields unprecedented influence, its role and responsibilities should extend far beyond captivating headlines and scandalous stories. Yet media analysis and intelligence firm CARMA’s recent report on grief in the media has exposed a missed opportunity to lead the conversation on profound subjects, like bereavement.

Consider the prevalence of menopause in the media today. Thanks to the relentless efforts of PR professionals, this topic has burst to light - once a taboo, now reclaimed. PR and the media have the opportunity to make the same impact with grief and bereavement yet, right now, it is continually ignored and overlooked despite being, inevitably, the most universal of experiences.

Key findings

CARMA’s analysis found that national coverage of the topic was up 14% from 2019 into the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, then skyrocketing by 62% into 2021 at its peak. However, the increase in media coverage slowed between 2021-2022, only rising by 7% during this time, despite a volume spike caused by the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

Though the growth of national coverage of grief has had inconsistent peaks and troughs, the search trends of British people tell a different story. Google searches on keywords such as ‘grief’ and ‘bereavement’ have risen steadily throughout all major world events, with no drop-off, increasing by a huge 42% in the past four years alone, indicating a need for support, discussion and resources going unmet by the media.

How PR can step up

As an industry that harnesses human connection and engagement to tell stories, influencing opinion and changing behaviour, PR has a responsibility and great skills to offer. Closing the gap between public need and media output, highlighted in CARMA’s report, is one primed for PR to overcome. By challenging these taboos, PRs can affect real change - not just encouraging media to better reflect society’s experience, but also to improve access to care, benefits, financial planning, bereavement policies and more.

Understanding the intricate dynamics between the public, media, and challenging topics is paramount in fulfilling this task. Thankfully, PR professionals are more than up to the task. Just like with the subject of menopause, PR professionals have the power to create a culture of openness and encourage dialogue in media where there was none before.

So why does the grief gap matter to the PR industry? Whilst grief remains a taboo subject, the PR industry still has work to do.

Article written by Orla Graham, insights consultant at CARMA

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