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In part two of our look at Cision’s 2020 State of the Media Survey – which was compiled by surveying more than 3,500 journalists around the globe – we’ll be honing in on the challenges that reporters are facing right now and how PR professionals can acknowledge these challenges to become a better asset to the media … and as a result, end up with better results for themselves and their clients.
* If you missed part one, you can check it out here *
As we mentioned in our first blog about the survey findings, a key foundation for successful media relations lies in understanding the wants, needs and perspectives of the reporters you’re targeting.
By surveying the current media ecosystem and identifying some specific needs and trouble spots that the media are often running into, Cision was able to compile insights that we can now use to improve how we tailor our approaches to pitching news and story ideas.
Let’s dive right in – here are five takeaways from the survey that you should be aware of when reaching out to journalists:
1. Increased Workload – many journalists responded that they are filing more than 10 articles a week, up from last year. PR pros need to keep this in mind when pitching and be sure that your outreach follows what reporters prefer – which means using concise email pitches that include to-the-point information / data for context and with limited, non-hounding follow-up.
When it comes to the amount of pitches reporters receive, 51% of respondents said they get anywhere from one to 50 pitches a week, 25% reported getting 51-100 per week, 10% get 101-151 per week and 14% get more than 151. This underscores why PR professionals have to work hard and do their homework in order to stand out and make their case. Also consider timing: 36% of journalists surveyed plan their stories daily or more frequently, while 42% plan a week to a month ahead. Keep this in mind when you’re creating your pitches.
2. Bias and Trust – It is no secret that we often hear about distrust of the media among the chants of “fake news” and media bias these days. Cision’s survey finds that 51% of journalists say that ensuring content is 100% accurate is more important than revenue, exclusivity, or being the first to publish. This has not only become an important foundation overall but has especially proven so in the time of COVID-19.
So what can PR professionals do about bias? Not an easy question but one thing everyone can do is to recognize that none of us is totally without bias, no matter what our job is. Cision suggests that it’s important to step outside of the perspective of any brand, company or organization you may be working for and consider if someone who has never heard of that brand would be interested in the story you’re trying to promote. Try to read your pitch in the eyes of the reporter, make sure your information is accurate, and imagine what their readers will see in it and what they will be taking away from it.
3. The Social Factor – Social media algorithms continue to be the most impactful technology affecting the work of the media today. The survey found that 41% of journalists believe that these algorithms will change the way they work the most. When you’re pitching a story idea, keep in mind that reporters not only have to compete with a constant flow of content, information and news across multiple social platforms, they also have to know how the social media system works to succeed within it. They have to report the facts of a story while utilizing ways to gain readership and engagement with their work. Consider how your pitch could help them on both fronts.
4. … And Now, a Return to Our Traditional Press Releases – Even though social media might seem like the current king, the Cision survey finds that demand for good ol’ press releases remains high, with 72% of respondents saying that press releases and news were the types of content they want to receive.
BUT … (you didn’t think it would be that simple did you?) … the findings also show that there is a strong need for more clarity and appropriate targeting when PR pros are sending them out. The majority of journalists who responded to this question (45%) said press releases could be more effective if they had information relevant to their target audience.
And following that, 17% of journalists said they’d be more effective if a news hook was clearly stated. So make sure your press releases are targeted appropriately for the right audiences and that they are clear and free of unnecessary jargon. Don’t waste time getting to the point – make sure your news is impactful from the top.
5. Pitch, Please – Let’s Be Relevant – We already know this, we hear it over and over, but it bears repeating every time. A pitch can make or break all your efforts and strategy. Even if your news is big or your story is awesome, if it gets lost in the shuffle due to a weak pitch, it’s toast … especially in the drowning in-box of a busy journalist.
The subject line of your email should always be succinct; the body of your email should be brief and get to the point. Provide all necessary materials for the story that you possibly can, including images if you have them, as well as related links. Act as if the reporter was going to take your pitch and run with it based of what you provide upfront. Include a press release on the topic if you have one and be strategic with the supporting materials you send. Be clear about timing, scope, visuals you can offer and be sure to mention if you are able to offer an interview.