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Large decline in total articles within top UK media leaves brands competing hard for press coverage

The total number of articles published by leading UK media outlets has shrunk significantly (21%) over the last five years, meaning brands are having to fight harder than ever to secure coverage, reveals research announced today.  

The in-depth study, ‘Navigating The New Landscape: Brands and Media in 2021’, from communications agency, Brands2Life, and digital research consultancy, Media Measurement, explores the changing UK media landscape and its impact on brand presence in the press and shows how the big issues increasingly dominate. Based upon a thorough analysis of 25 national and business media titles since 2016, the report finds that articles mentioning brands has fallen even more steeply – by 28% – over that period.  

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has unsurprisingly been the main driver of issue-led coverage in the last 17 months, there has also been an increase in the proportion of media articles referring to the ‘big issues’ tracked in this study. In 2020, excluding COVID-19 and Brexit, the issues that have come to the fore include Racial Justice and Equality, Mental Health and Wellbeing, the Future of Work and AI and Climate Change; with Climate Change more than doubling its presence in the news in Q1 2021 compared to Q3 2016. Migrants & Refugees, Sustainability and Big Data saw considerable falls in volume of coverage. 

The research indicates that many brands are putting their efforts around purpose and sustainability at the centre of their communications, based upon a steady year-on-year rise of brands being discussed in connection with these big issues. Even excluding COVID-19, there was still a steady increase in the proportion of brand coverage mentioning social issues from 5% of brand articles in 2015/16 to 15% in 2020/21. 

The report also explores how a traditional driver of proactive coverage for brands, research and surveys, is in decline; the number of articles generated by this approach reduced by 44% from 2015/16 and the number of articles driven by research and surveys with a prominent brand mention more than halved (-55%). The research highlighted a trend for high engagement with articles about the leadership of companies, with individual leaders having an important role in communicating a brand’s stance on social issues but also being heavily under public scrutiny. 

Giles Fraser, Co-Founder, Brands2Life, comments: “The media landscape has changed hugely over the last five years and continues to do so. We sensed a shift was occuring but to see these insights – proven by thorough analysis – is fascinating. 

“Over the last five years, huge issues, such as Brexit, climate change and more recently, of course, COVID-19, have dominated the media agenda, which has meant brands are having to really compete for media coverage and social media engagement. What’s clear is that, more than ever, brands have to carefully consider how they can get a voice on these issues and put their efforts around purpose and sustainability into their comms strategies. But, only if it is executed authentically can they truly engage their audiences and generate the positive coverage they crave.” 

Tim Zecchin, Managing Director, Media Measurement, comments: “Providing digital intelligence to organisations that have a positive mission was little in demand five years ago, but this research proves what we have long observed with our clients – consumers and citizens have a significant and growing demand for brands with a social purpose. Brexit and Covid-19 aside – this is a change that is here to stay. With consumers increasingly focussing on purpose, these insights showcase the importance of data-driven decision making when keeping up with the changing media landscape and adapting purpose-led communications whilst actively contributing to solving society’s biggest problems.” 

To read the full ‘Navigating The New Landscape: Brands and Media in 2021’ report, including case studies and best practice guidance on how brands can thrive in this media landscape, visit here.  

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