Most PR professionals (68%) say media relations is getting harder or much harder, according to the 2019 JOTW Communications Survey. This is up 17% from last year where 51% said media relations was getting harder.
What can PR do about it? Study the media.
Over the last few months, there have been three separate surveys that polled hundreds of editors, reporters and journalists. All of these provide insight into what’s on their minds and what they say motivates them to cover a story.
That’s the theme for this week’s Unscripted Marketing Links (UML), where on the occasional Saturday, I examine three links to stories or studies, detail the findings and wrap them in insight.
Earlier this year, Muck Rack, one of the PR technology vendors I’m tracking, published a survey of 700 reporters for a report it calls State of Journalism 2019. While I took a brief look at it at in a previous post, I reviewed it more carefully today.
Here are some of the facts and figures I found interesting:
- Social networks of most value to reporters. “Journalists again cited Twitter as the most valuable to them (up from 70% last year), followed by Facebook (up from 22% last year).” Here’s how the numbers break down specifically:
- 83% of reporters said Twitter was most valuable;
- 40% said Facebook;
- 26% said LinkedIn;
- 21% said Instagram;
- 13% said Reddit;
- 12% said YouTube;
- 8% said WhatsApp;
- 5% said Signal; and
- 1% said SnapChat.
- Reporters review business social media profiles. 61% of reporters said when they are reporting on a company, they “always” or “usually” “consult the company’s social media.” Another 29% said sometimes and just 11% said “rarely” or “never.”
- Reporters love a follow and share. The survey found, “78% of journalists like when PR pros follow them on social media” and 71% “track how many times your stories are shared on social media.”
- The best pitches are short emails in the morning. 93% of reporters prefer 1:1 email pitches, although 19% said mass emails and newswires are okay. Another 11% said the phone was fine and 13% said Twitter. Most journalists (65%) prefer to be pitched before 11 a.m. One-third of reporters “want to receive pitches under 3 sentences in length, with another 61% preferring under 3 paragraphs.”
- Embargoes get mixed reviews. “57% of journalists believe press embargoes are either detrimental or don’t matter. 43% find them useful.”
- Exclusives matter. “76% of journalists are more likely to cover a story if offered an exclusive.”
- Follow-ups are okay. “73% of journalists are OK with receiving a follow up to a pitch they didn’t initially respond to. Only 12% would prefer to not receive any type of follow up.”
- Credible sources. Who are the most credible sources from a reporter’s perspective?
- 89% said academic subject matter experts;
- 75% said CEOs;
- 58% said company PR representatives;
- 37% said agency PR representatives;
- 16% said bloggers;
- 13% said social media personalities; and
- 13% said celebrity spokespeople.
I’m not surprised by the mixed perspective on embargoes and exclusives. Over my career, I’ve usually found embargoes to be troublesome and tricky to navigate. There are too many ways these can be broken and complicate a relationship. I don’t like to do them but I will for a reporter that makes an effort to know me, the way I strive to know him or her.
2) What reporters want from PR pitches.
“My biggest issue with pitches is that they rarely have anything to do with my particular beat. It’s like the person who sends them does not even bother to look up what I cover.”
That’s a verbatim comment by an editorial contact in a report by Fractl which found writers at top publications can receive anywhere from 100-500 [email] pitches per week.
The agency survey 500 writers, editors, and publishers over three months to produce the report – the Pitching Publishers Survey.
Here are some of the statistics that stood out to me:
- Provided space for reporters to develop their own angle. “70% of publishers prefer to collaborate on ideas, while only 30% want to receive a finished asset.”
- Original research has the most appeal. “39% of publishers want content that has exclusive research.”
- Contributed articles are often your best shot at earning coverage. “19% of publishers requested articles, 13% requested infographics, 12% requested mixed-media pieces, and 11% requested data visualizations.”
- Get to know the reporters you are pitching. “64% of publishers think it is of some importance that you establish a personal connection before pitching.”
- Pithy emails with descriptive subject lines in the morning. “81% of writers want your pitch to be sent through email…85% want a pitch under 200 words.” Another 9% said social media pitches were acceptable while just 5% welcome phone calls. In addition, “85% of writers said that they open an email based on its subject line, and 42% want a subject line that is descriptive.” Finally, “69% of writers want to receive your pitch in the morning hours.”
The company has sliced this survey up into several different reports, and a separate report notes there are consequences for bad pitches:
- Blacklisting. “53% have blacklisted at least one person this month due to bad pitches. 30% have blacklisted three or more.”
These statistics are media relations 101 level, and yet these are recurring themes I’ve heard for 20 years. Your chances improve by sending fewer targeted pitches to reporters you read and follow.
3) Money, charity and strategy drive news coverage.
Ogilvy, a large PR and advertising firm announced its sixth annual 2019 Global Media Influence Survey at Cannes in June. The survey asked 300 journalists about what drives them to cover a company.
While I didn’t see an actual report to download on the Ogilvy website (but I’ve contacted the POC on the Ogilvy press release to inquire but have yet to receive a response) there were several stories about it, and the source document seems to be this press release. So, I took a look and here’s what stood out:
- Money, charity and strategy. According to the announcement, “financial reporting, CSR [corporate social responsibility] initiatives and strategic business decisions are most influential in shaping earned media coverage…”
- Reporters say Twitter tops Facebook. “Twitter is the social media platform that most often informs reporters’ coverage, ranked first by an average of 48% of reporters worldwide compared to 29% of those who cited Facebook or Instagram.”
- Media coverage is cumulative. The release said 89% of journalists “research past coverage in their reporting, a reminder that both positive and negative stories live forever online and emphasizing the lasting impact of earned media strategies.”
- Owned, earned, and paid media. The survey found “a plurality of reporters (46%) believe a balanced combination of earned, owned and paid media is necessary to successfully manage corporate reputation and influence their coverage.”
- Reporters aren’t too hot on social media influencers. “An average of only 10% of journalists worldwide cited third-party social media influencers alone as the most impactful contributor to brand reputation.”
It seems natural to me that financial reporting – funding, earnings, M&A – make news, but the commentary on CSR is a little surprising. I have never seen a whole lot of coverage of CSR efforts and my counsel to businesses is to tread carefully. Do good things because it’s the right thing to do – and if you get coverage that’s a bonus. But do not do good things just to get coverage.
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Earned Media: 3 PR Studies Quantifying the Impact of Media Relations on Sales [UML]
Image credits: Unsplash and respective reports.