Part of our ongoing scope of work as PR pros is to continually observe and assess how the media landscape is changing and make sure we’re adapting our efforts as needed to evolve along with it. Now more than ever, we are competing for journalists’ very-divided attention to secure coverage and deliver on business goals. To survive (a.k.a. stand out and break through the noise day in and day out), we must constantly re-evaluate and rethink how we’re planning and packaging clients’ stories and the ways we’re targeting and approaching press. To really thrive, we must pay careful attention to how we’re building and managing ongoing relationships with journalists and seek out opportunities to add more value and make those relationships even stronger. Ultimately as PR pros, having a better understanding of our audience of journalists, allows us to better help them. Before we can effectively reach them, it’s important to know where they’re coming from first.
For its recent 2021 Global State of the Media Report, Cision surveyed 2,700+ journalists in 15 countries around the world from February 1 to March 1, 2021. The goal? To identify the biggest challenges journalists face, how those challenges are influencing their editorial strategies and priorities, how they feel about the state of the media landscape, and what they really want from PR pros like us. With that in mind, here are three ways PR pros can help journalists (and themselves), based on Cision’s research.
1. Do your homework – Knowing your audience (of journalists), starts with doing your research and using that education to inform your outreach to the targeted media contacts you’ve identified for a given pitch, announcement, or other client initiative that deserves to have its story told. Consider Cision’s research a cheat sheet. 61% of journalist said one of the best ways PR pros can help them (and themselves) is to understand both their target readership as well as what’s relevant to them and their coverage area (or areas) of focus. According to one respondent, “Ninety-nine percent of those emailing me have never even read a story I wrote… I don’t expect every single pitch to be relevant, but if you have no idea of my beat, you’re just spanning me.”
2. Always deliver on what you promise – Two in three journalists surveyed said PR pros can support them by providing expert sources and data when it’s needed. Emphasis on the, “when.” To accommodate, PR pros should first make sure journalists have their direct phone numbers, so they can be reached quickly if/as needed. The following are a few additional insights journalists offered for PR folks around being proactive and attentive, and choosing who to offer as the “expert source” in a pitch or announcement:
“I’ve gotten a number of pitches recently where they offer something up and don’t deliver. Don’t send a press release, then be unable to put me in touch with anyone from the company who I asked to talk to.”
“Provide the most informed sources, rather than spokespeople or designated talkers. Actually set up interviews rather than just provide canned statements.”
3. Stay off their “Block/Don’t Call” lists – Knowing what journalists DON’T want is just as important as knowing what they DO (if not more so). Violating a journalist’s top pet peeve is a quick way to get yourself removed from their virtual rolodex, and Cision’s report notes that this happens more often than you might think. When asked which PR moves – or rather, missteps – qualified as instant dealbreakers, journalists checked the boxes for: “Spamming me with irrelevant pitches” (73%); “Following up with me repeatedly” (52%); “Providing inaccurate or unsourced information” (51%); “Pitches that sound like marketing brochures(51%); “Dodging inquiries/lack of transparency” (46%); “Failure to respond to me same day/within deadline” (29%); “Broken embargoes” (24%); and, “Canceling on me last minute” (24%).
Hungry for more insights and inspiration? Dig into these out of the box PR ideas based on Muck Rack’s “The State of Journalism 2021” survey.