Public relations professionals outnumber journalists six to one today, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Over the next decade, the U.S. Department of Labor Statistic anticipates that this imbalance will only grow, projecting employment in the field of PR to rise by 7% between 2019 and 2029 while reporting jobs decline by 11% over that same period. Now add to this the impact of dramatically accelerated new cycles and full-time coronavirus pandemic coverage expectations. Taken together, these trends mean getting journalists’ attention and generating coverage is no walk in the park (time to understand the state of the media in 2020).
So what can you do? As newsrooms continue to shrink and the volume of competition vying for attention inflates, you must commit to understanding and adapting to the media’s challenges and preferences. Here are six key takeaways from Cision’s 2020 State of the Media Report that can help you more successfully collaborate with journalists:
Carefully consider all things COVID-19
Journalists continue to read email pitches in the post-COVID world, and recommend that you reach out in the early morning before the day gets out of hand. According to one reporter, “All of our normal coverage is now being looked at through the lens of COVID-19 and normal stories now take a different turn. The possibilities are endless right now.” But, be strategic and avoid crossing any lines. As another recommended, “Offer experts related to the news of the day. Don’t try to capitalize on the crisis by promoting clients in distasteful ways.”
Support accurate and trustworthy coverage
A whopping 59% of journalists believe that the public has lost trust in the media over the last year. And 51% say that ensuring content is 100% accurate is now more important than revenue, exclusivity, or being the first to publish. Help reverse the fake news narrative (and build stronger relationships with reporters) by ensuring that the information your contacts receive and report on is always factual and trustworthy.
Stand out (or go unnoticed)
Nearly 40% of reporters receive 50+ pitches per week, and 14% get over 150. Many struggle to keep up and don’t have the time to review every incoming offer. You have to separate your message from the herd, and the best way to do that is by focusing on brevity, relevance, creativity, timeliness, and sometimes even humor.
Personalize and customize pitches
A total of 37 percent of journalists say the number one thing PR pros can do to be helpful is understand who their readers are and what they find relevant. As one reporter put it, “Understand yours and our target audience and make sure your story pitch works with our publication’s demographic, area of coverage, and subject matter. Random press releases and generic pitches not tailored to our publication are useless and annoying.”
Timing is everything
More than one-third of all journalists plan their stories daily, if not more frequently, while 42% map out plans a week to a month in advance. Make sure you have a sense of each reporter’s individual MO and keep it in mind when planning outreach and following up.
Press releases are preferred (but not perfect)
Press releases continue to be one of the most useful sources of information for media members. In fact, 72% of journalists report that an official press release is one of the top pieces of content they want to receive. That said, there are several significant press release concerns among reporters, including insufficient information relevant to their target audience, unclear news hooks, and rampant jargon and/or marketing language. Keep these points in mind and you’re more likely to receive a positive response from more reporters on your next announcement.
The media landscape is in a constant state of flux and it’s important to know where your media counterparts stand and the overall state of the media. Consider the above data points and best practices (as well as the full report) when planning media campaigns and announcements over the coming months. These insights come from real journalists – perhaps some you’ve heard of or worked with directly. Understanding their perspectives and preferences can help build stronger, more fruitful relationships and earn better coverage results over the long term.