Take Six: Cision’s 2020 State of the Media Survey – Part One

A key foundation for successful media relations is knowing one’s “customer” – that is, understanding the wants, needs and perspectives of the reporters you target.

To that end, Cision, a provider of earned media software and services to PR and marketing communications professionals, recently released the results of its 2020 State of the Media Survey, compiled by surveying more than 3,500 journalists around the globe.

The survey aims to provide a picture of industry trends through the eyes of the media and to highlight key takeaways for communications professionals to consider in their outreach.

While every year brings new challenges for journalists, 2020 added the unique challenge of a global pandemic layered on top of the ever-changing media landscape.

While the survey was sent out prior to the pandemic officially being declared, it soon became clear that the virus would become a major factor in reporters’ day-to-day life. This led Cision to reach back out to journalists and see how it was affecting them and their work in particular.

With COVID-19 still affecting many communication professionals’ business decisions across all industries, part one of our overview of the survey will focus on findings influenced by the pandemic.

Here are six takeaways the survey reported about pitching media in these ongoing times of COVID-19.

Target Smart – Regardless of a pandemic or not, journalists reported that PR outreach needs to be more targeted and relevant than ever before to stand out. Better homework needs to be done prior to pitching. Reporters are more strapped for resources due to the limitations of the pandemic and some outlets have transitioned entire staffs to cover COVID-19 and put other types of stories on hold.

This means you need to understand a journalist’s current coverage area more than ever and once you know that, you still must ask yourself, “what about my news is relevant, helpful, or new?” What stories do you see resonating with the audiences of the publications you are targeting, in both industry trade outlets and locally?

Email First, Don’t Call – Something that most of us know but that should be underscored, especially now: journalists overwhelmingly prefer being pitched via email. It is preferred most anytime but it is even more so now that many reporters are carrying a heavier workload during the pandemic.

Email pitches are the least time consuming for the reporter and give them space to review pitch ideas and consider the resources being offered without being put on the spot. Be sure to keep your pitches short, simple, to the point and provide data or resources that a reporter can look into for context.

Pandemic Levels of Patience – Journalists have been swamped this year, especially those working for overall business / news outlets and local news outlets. It may take longer than usual for a reporter to respond to your outreach, so don’t be surprised or discouraged if it takes longer to get a response.

As for the timing of when you send your pitches, many journalists mentioned that early in the morning is a preferred time, before breaking news and video meetings slam them for the day.

Offer Video Options – In your email pitches, offering up your experts for video interviews has become even more desirable to journalists in 2020. Amidst COVID-19, the media is mostly unable to conduct interviews or cover press conferences, product demos, events or tradeshows in person.

So providing the opportunity to do a video interview can help personalize the experience and can result in better communication than via answering questions via email  or even over the phone.

Live Like the Locals Do – If you are trying to pitch local news media in a certain areas, it is especially important to know the on-the-ground situation for each, as each state is handing the COVID-19 crisis differently. There is no blanket approach; you must know what each area is dealing with specifically in terms of business, protocols, governance, up-to-date data, etc.

There is also some good news at the local level, as one journalist mentioned that in addition to readers searching out pandemic news, non-COVID-19 feature readership is also trending up, so if you have a feel-good or other local story, don’t be afraid to pitch it.

Don’t Be a Repeater … Or a Downer – If you are pitching a story related to the pandemic, try to find a fresh angle. Journalists are realistic about COVID-19 fatigue setting in on audiences, but as it is a fluid situation, most audiences still want regular updates, especially on a local level.

Just keep in mind that many companies have shared what they did when the crisis hit, so what is unique about your story? What positive angles can be found? Some reporters responded that positive stories are on their radar more than usual, since everyone could use some positive news during a crisis.

(We’ll take a look at other interesting and helpful findings of the Cision 2020 State of the Media Survey in a future post. Please stay tuned!)

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Author: Leslie Dagg

Leslie is an account supervisor at Bianchi PR with 19 years of B2B PR experience representing clients across multiple industries.

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