Of all the media relations insights the best one is this: be relevant. These three studies polled 4,000 journalists and their answers all center on relevance.
I’d do a considerable amount of blogging. Occasionally, I’ll use the service Help a Reporter Out (HARO) to field responses for a blog post.
Typically, these are softball pieces that in many ways serve the interests of my peers in PR. However, they do take time to compile, and so my requests are precise.
It’s an easy mention, but you’ve got to provide it the way I want it. It’s not ego, it’s efficient.
This past week, I tried it again with four simple requirements. Out of the 13 responses I received just two (15%) met the requirements I put in the query. A handful more met some of the requirements and the rest were not relevant.
This stuff isn’t hard, and while I’m not a reporter, an exercise like this is a glimpse into their world. The vast majority of media relations hinges on relevancy.
And that’s the theme for this week’s Unscripted Marketing Links [UML]. The UML is an occasional roundup of three related ideas that have been vetted, wrapped in insight, and presented here for your perusal.
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a) Survey of 1,000 Journalists by Muck Rack
Muck Rack is back with its annual survey of journalists. The company said it polled more than 1,000 journalists for the 2020 edition (cliff notes to the 2019 edition here). About 65% of journalists that responded this year are based in the U.S. The rest are from around the world.
Here are a few of the stats that stood out for me:
1) On “relationships” with PR. 64% of journalists describe their relationship with PR as “mutually beneficial, but not quite a partnership”; 15% call it “a necessary evil”; 14% say “antagonistic, but not inherently a bad thing”; and 7% call it a “partnership.”
2) Volume of PR pitches received. 48% of journalists responding to this survey said they get between 1-5 pitches a day; 18% get between 5-10; 12% get upwards of 10-20; and 13% get 20 plus pitches a day.
3) Best medium for PR pitches. 93% of journalists want pitches by emails; 69% do not want phone calls; this has been fairly constant for years now.
4) How long should pitches be? Most journalists (62%) say pitches are best at about 2-3 paragraphs long; still, about one-third prefer them pithier – just 2-3 sentences.
5) Best day and time to pitch. 62% of journalists had no-preference on the “best day to pitch”; although 20% said Monday and 10% said Tuesday; however, morning is still best as “64% prefer to be pitched before noon.”
6) Why PR pitches are rejected. The answers varied but they are all related: 33% of journalists reject a PR pitch that lacks personalization; 31% cited bad timing; 18% delete them if they are too lengthy; and 15% reject pitches with a confusing subject line.
7) Should you follow up? It seems you should: 55% of journalists said one follow up was okay and 27% said two email follow-ups are okay; most tap out on the third attempt; about half of journalists (51%) say PR should wait 3-7 days before following up.
8) Pitches that turn into coverage. About half of journalists (52%) said about one-quarter of the stories they publish come from PR pitches; some do more – 15% said half of their stories come from PR pitches – and some do less: 28% said none of their stories come from PR pitches.
9) More likely to cover an “exclusive.” 75% of journalists say they are more likely to cover a story if they are offered an exclusive. Keep in mind, the story you are pitching has to actually be worthy of an exclusive. Don’t dangle “exclusive” for a mediocre idea.
The full report is a quick and easy read: The State of Journalism 2020 by Muck Rack
b) Survey of 3,253 journalists by Cision
Cision also has an annual survey of journalists, which they use to produce a report called the State of the Media (here are my notes from editions in 2019, 2018 and 2017).
The company says respondents this year came from 15 different countries with 1,115 coming from the U.S., 542 from the U.K. and 348 from Canada.
Here’s what jumped out at me:
10) Volume of PR pitches. A little more than half (51%) of journalists that responded to this survey – said between 1 – 50 PR pitches per week; 25% report receive between 51 – 100 per week; 10% get 101 – 151 per week; and 14% have their inboxes flooded with 151 per week.
11) PR pitches lack relevance. Just 1% of journalists say 75-100% of pitches are relevant. That means the vast majority of pitches they receive are not useful, which makes everyone’s job harder.
12) There’s a need for good pitches. Cision says many journalists responding to this survey indicated they produce “10+ pieces a week.” Think about how much work that is – if you as a PR professional had to write 10 press releases or 10 blog posts per week.
13) Most plan their stories in the near term. The survey found “36% of journalists we surveyed plan their stories daily or more frequently, while 42% plan a week to a month ahead.”
14) Best day and time to pitch. A little more than 30% of journalists in this survey said they prefer to receive pitches on Monday; just under 20% said Tuesday; about 15% said Wednesday or Thursday; about 12% said on Friday; a small handful indicated weekend pitches were okay. Respondents did not have the option to choose “no preference” on this question, a Cision representative confirmed by email.
15) Appealing attributes of press releases. What elements of a press release drive journalist interest? 45% said information relevant to their audience; 17% said a clear news hook; 15% said avoiding jargon; 8% said quotes that “add depth to a story”; 6% want typo-free releases and just 4% want more multimedia elements.
The full report is fairly dense and covers a lot of ground including trust in news, media bias, and the top challenges facing journalists: 2020 Global State of the Media Report by Cision.
c) Survey of reporters by Innowire Advisory
Innowire Advisory, a small PR firm based in San Diego, surveyed reporters for a piece in The Next Web (TNW). The authors didn’t provide the sample size (the company did not respond to my inquiry by chatbot on their site, on Twitter, or my email, by publication time). However, the TNW article says most reporters cover tech (56%), business (15%), finance (9%) and science (9%).
Here’s how the company says answers from reporters tallied up:
16) How can PR help reporters? According to reporters responding to this survey, the ways PR can help are by providing insider information (62%); making connections to sources or officials (56%); providing quotes (44%); statistics (44%); press releases (32%); polls or surveys (27%) product launches and announcements (27%).
17) Are PR pitches useful? 91% of reporters said they find PR pitches are useful at least sometimes.
18) What characteristics are most valuable in a PR pitch? About three-quarters (74%) said proof of claims; 50% are looking for what makes the product or brand unique; 41% seek a personal hook or story; 41% like statistics; 35% want financial aspects.
19) What are the characteristics of PR pitches not considered? 88% cited irrelevance; 77% doubted the credibility; 67% said the pitch exaggerated claims; 62% said they were too busy for the topic; 50% had already covered a similar topic – and just 18% said it was because they didn’t know the person pitching (think about that in the context of the Muck Rack data point above on relationships).
20) Should you mention a reporter’s previous work in your pitch? About 51% of respondents said yes – the rest indicated it didn’t matter.
21) Do you accept embargoed press releases? 71% of respondents are open to embargoed releases – just 29% said no. If you use embargoes, be sure to get the reporter’s agreement before passing along embargoed material, and do not to abuse the concept.
The full article is a quick read and is less provocative than the title: What I learned about PR pitching from the reporters I keep spamming.
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Some of these numbers demonstrate that a good pitch only competes with about 15% of a reporter’s inbox. The rest is just noise. It’s hard work, but it’s not rocket science.
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Image credit: Unsplash and respective studies