It has been a tumultuous year for journalism, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. Journalists are contending with fewer resources and a host of challenges, including receiving more PR pitches than ever, according to a Cision 2019 State of the Media Survey.
It says the past 12 months have been challenging for the media industry. Members of the press must contend with personal attacks, accusations of fake news, and the rapid spread of misinformation. Social media has been particularly difficult to work with this year, with complex updates to data privacy laws and sudden changes in newsfeed algorithms.
However, amidst this formidable environment, there’s a glimmer of hope; trust in the media might actually be on the rise. According to the survey—the company’s 10th annual—which collected responses from 1,999 journalists in 10 countries, relevance and trust are more important than ever.
The report says responses reflect growing concerns around the changing role of social media, an increasing reliance on data-driven storytelling, and positive shifts in perceptions of trust.
In this fragmented, dynamic media environment, communications and PR professionals have an opportunity to become even more reliable partners with their media counterparts.
Journalists and PR professionals all work in the storytelling business, and should work together to be valuable partners for each other given the increasing challenges facing the industry as a whole.
According to the survey conducted between February 5 and February 27 this year, 16% of journalists said they want PR professionals to stop spamming them. Nearly everyone working in the public relations industry is a professional with the best interests of their brands and the media in mind, but a few bad actors can ruin things for everyone else.
When asked how PR professionals can write more effective press releases, journalists universally agree that press releases should include more information that is relevant to their target audience. They also recommended including a clear news hook and avoiding industry and marketing jargon.
Today’s media environment is fragmented, crowded and noisy; it’s more important than ever to write for the end consumer. Content should be tailored for target audiences. 65% of journalists would rather receive customised press releases, than one mass-audience release. Delivering more relevant pitches has an outsized impact. As one respondent said, “If you haven’t taken a few minutes to understand what our publication covers, I’m less likely to open your next email.”
“If the press release is king, relevance is the kingdom. While journalists face a shortage of resources, they don’t face a scarcity of leads. Unfortunately for journalists, the vast majority of pitches they receive are irrelevant. In fact, 75% of journalists say fewer than a quarter of the pitches they receive are relevant or useful.”
This was one of the most common themes in this year’s survey: Pitches need to be more relevant. This year, survey results suggest that PR pros overlook, ignore, or simply do not understand the target audience of the journalist they’re contacting. If there’s one thing that PR professionals can do to help journalists do their jobs better, it’s to better understand a publication’s audience and what
they find interesting.
As journalists struggle with resource limitations, PR professionals have been and will continue to be a valuable partner. In 2018, Cision asked respondents how their relationships with PR professionals had changed over the year, and only 9% said their relationships with PR professionals had gotten more valuable. This year the number jumped to 27%. Overall, while the journalist-to-PR-professional relationship has improved, there is still plenty of room for more improvement.
According to the survey report, to cultivate a valuable relationship, it is important for PR professionals to provide trustworthy, relevant and useful content. When asked what type of content they want to receive from brands, 71% of journalists said news announcements and press releases (which has been the top answer for the past four years). Invitations to events and original research reports came in
close after that.
And for non-branded content, journalists equally trust interviews, industry experts, and newswires (for press release distribution). For more than a century, the press release continues to be a journalistic staple.
“To be a good partner to journalists, focus on being relevant and targeted with your outreach. Deliver clear and concise pitches, and be sure you’ve done your research before you reach out. Provide new information, backed up with data, images, and expert sources, and understand who your target
audience is (and how to best reach them),” the survey report concludes.