So, what’s PR to do about it? Part of the answer is rethinking traditional PR efforts – and another part is studying the media to understand how it’s changing.
In the last few weeks I’ve stumbled upon a hat trick of studies that can help you do that – and it’s the common denominator for this week’s Unscripted Marketing Links (UML). As I’m wont to do on the occasional Saturday, below is a roundup of three ideas, wrapped in insight and present them here for your perusal (you can click the graphics for higher resolution).
1) The top challenges in journalism.
The State of the Media report by Cision was released this week and provides a window into what’s on the minds of reporters. The 10th annual survey polled an impressive ~2,000 reporters in 10 countries.
When asked about the top challenges faced in the last 12 months, reporters and journalists identified the following:
- 22% said “social networks and influencers bypassing traditional media”;
- 20% said [constraints on] “staffing and resources”;
- 19% said “ongoing conversation about fake news”;
- 15% said “blurring lines between editorial and advertising”;
- 14% said “attacks on freedom of the press”;
- 8% said “adapting to advances in technology”; and
- 2% said “personal safety and security issues.”
The survey also revealed several other interesting statistics:
- Getting it right vs. getting it first. 51% said, “‘getting it right’ was most important to their [media] organization”; followed by “revenue” (34%), “exclusivity” (10%) and “being first to publish” (5%).
- Potential performance of a story after its published matters. “65% of journalists said audience metrics have changed the way they evaluate stories”; additionally, “43% of journalists globally reported their organization’s primary measure of success for their content is readership or viewers.”
- Volume of work. “More than 1/3 of journalists globally publish more than seven articles a week”; and “42% of respondents work on stories no more than a day in advance.”
- Atmospherics of trust. When “asked journalists if the public lost or gained trust in the media over the last year, 63% feel the public lost trust. While this is still high, it’s the lowest it’s been in years.” [Note: it looks to me like the structure of this question changed from last year, which was a 5 point Likert scale].
- A deluge of pitches. “75% of journalists say fewer than a quarter of the pitches they receive are relevant or useful.”
Comment: Pressure for better performing stories that help a reporter’s employer drive revenue will continue to grow. The Journalist’s Resource, an organization based at the Harvard Kennedy School, recently summarize peer-reviewed research that found hundreds of job descriptions for open journalist positions emphasized marketing skills. Cision
While the study found, “fewer than 15 percent emphasized subject knowledge expertise” it also found “45 percent of announcements mentioned marketing expertise in areas such as audience engagement, market development and branding.”
I’ll leave the ethical implications of this trend in journalism to the media critics and ombudsmen – but will note it’s introducing new ethical considerations for PR pros. The industry is already geared to sex up stories to land coverage – news by definition covers anomalies – and the ante for pitching angles that are more outrageous gets higher and higher.
At risk of conjuring up my inner Neil Postman, it’s compounding too, because every time a reader clicks on this stuff, an algorithm feeds them more of it, which shows up in the audience analytics the Cision survey finds reporters use to evaluate stories.
Additional reading: Media Relations Keeps Getting Harder; Here are 6 Dynamic Techniques to Adapt
2) Key PR considerations about influencer marketing.
Meltwater commissioned PR News for a survey of PR on influencer marketing. Some 400 “U.S.-based PR professionals” responded. The report answers several considerations about tapping into influencer marketing which I’ve paraphrased below:
- Does PR use influencers? 49% said yes and 32% said no but are considering it.
- Why does PR use influencers? 39% said influencers bring an “authentic voice” to messages and 38% cited influencers third-party credibility.
- What influencers does PR use? 77% said social media influencers; 67% said internal employees and spokespeople; 65% said journalists; 59% said bloggers; 53% said customers; 53% said external experts; and said 30% celebrities.
- How does PR find influencers? 59% said manual research; 18% said through a list they built; 15% said through PR agencies, and 8% said through a platform or commercial database.
- Are influencers important to PR success? 34% called influence essential; 46% said they were of moderate importance; 20% said influencers have little-to-no importance.
- How do you measure influencer marketing results? 43% cited “social metrics, including engagement, interactions, reach, and sentiment”; 8% said web traffic or search volume; 7% said an increase in media coverage; 5% said purchase and conversations; 29% all the above and 8% do not measure anything.
Comment: PR is in the relationship business, so the word “use” makes me cringe. I’d also encourage PR to draw a distinction between bona fide reporters and journalists and influencers. The 2019 JOTW Communications survey found 83% of respondents believe media relations and influencer marketing are different because money typically trades hands in influencer marketing.
Still, the right influencers can be a helpful component of an overall PR strategy that’s overlooked – as Arik Hanson has noted – especially if media relations is harder for you. In B2B technology businesses, I encourage clients to define a project – a study, white paper, or webinar to test the waters. If that goes well, the relationship can grow to other programs and even events.
Additional reading: The Top PR Challenges and Tips for Overcoming Them
3) Examining publications and the rate of publishing.
Onclusive, the PR technology company formerly known as AirPR, used its own product to examine the growth of media properties, and the volume and rate of publishing. Several statistics stood out for me:
- In 2018 there were “16% more media properties globally”;
- The increase is attributed to tier 3 publications “as measured by the domain authority”;
- Overall, media outlets published 28% more articles, however, “There was a 23% increase in the average number of articles published by tier 3 outlets while there was a decline in both tier 2 [-6%] and tier 1 [-55%];” and
- The “number of characters per article [not words] drop by 18%, from an average 2,324 characters per article to 1,967 per article”;
Comment: The decline in the volume of articles by top tier publications is likely related to leaner news organizations. Together, this is a contributing factor to why a majority of PR pros say media relations is getting harder. There is simply a greater supply of story pitches pitching fewer opportunities among the traditional media outlets. As the Onclusive report notes, “The media ecosystem is not dying. But it is changing.” PR needs to change with it.
Additional reading: 21 Media Relations Insights From 3 Surveys Polling 3,000+ Journalists
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Do you work for a PR tech vendor? You should feel free to send me your announcements about studies and products. I’d prefer to get a link to the announcement through a direct message on Twitter, which makes it easy for everyone. Email is fine to get started (inquiry -at- swordandthescript -dot- com).
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5 Proven Ways PR can Develop Client Media References in B2B Organizations
Image credits: Unsplash and respective studies