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Hang Tight

Marketers remain reticent toward social-networking sites, and the recession isn’t helping. MySpace and Facebook attract more than 100 million unique visitors a month in the U.S., but the ad dollars aren’t following, and 2009 won’t be much better.

Traditional publications, meanwhile, are doing far worse. The Tribune Co. declared bankruptcy. Print ad revenue is down 19.26 percent to $8.2 billion. Online ad revenue is down three percent to $749.8 million. Dell is canceling ad contracts for the back covers of Fortune and The Economist. NPR is laying off 34 staffers after shutting down some shows. And the layoffs go on and on and on.

What can PR departments and agencies do? Befriend the beleaguered staffs of the media organizations that your clients and their customers care about. By “befriend,” I don’t mean, “Send more generic email pitches.” Instead, read their stories, follow them on social networks, comment on their stories, draw attention to their work, add to their conversations, and then — if you have the goods — feed them tips.

It also means working with clients to dig deep and find real stories that real people will really care about. Product launches and platform initiatives are fine. But as staffs and budgets shrink, the reporters, editors, analysts, and bloggers left standing are going to need all the help they can get.

Help them to hang tight.