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Journalism statistics: 7 media relations takeaways from the 2023 State of the Media Report by Cision

A survey of 3,000+ finds 75% of journalists say the top action any PR person can take is to understand a reporter’s target audience and what they find relevant; journalism statistics show reporters worry about accuracy, credibility and keeping pace amid more work and fewer resources

Most PR professionals say media relations is getting harder. It’s been trending in that direction for years.

So, how can PR improve their odds in media relations?

A good way is to spend some time understanding their world – that is how reporters and journalists see their work. To that end, the 2023 State of the Media Report by Cision is a useful resource. The company polled 3,132 journalists in 17 countries across North America, Europe and Asia for this year’s report.

I recently spent some time perusing the findings and took note of a few of the statistics that stood out. I’ve listed those below with some takeaways for media relations.

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1. Journalists say accuracy and trust are the top personal priority

Cision asked journalists to choose their three top personal priorities. On the whole, 58% of the journalists surveyed said accuracy is their number one priority. Being perceived as trusted was next with 14% (although 33% listed trust as their second top priority – see graphic nearby).

Takeaway: Clients and employers are entitled to their point of view – and PR can help them articulate that – but opinions need to be grounded in facts too. Don’t mislead a reporter.

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2. Credibility is the top challenge facing journalism as a whole

When asked, “What do you believe was the biggest challenge for journalism in the last 12 months?” more respondents said, “maintaining credibility as a trusted news source and combating accusations of fake news.”

Here’s how all the answers stacked up:

  • 27% said maintaining credibility as a trusted source and confronting fake news labels;
  • 20% said lack of staffing and resources;
  • 20% said declining advertising and circulation revenues;
  • 19% said the rise of social networks and influencers bypassing traditional media; and
  • 11% said blurring lines between editorial and advertising.

Takeaway: Credibility is an existential threat to journalism – and always has been. When you pitch a story, you need to be credible too. Use accurate subject lines, not clickbait. Make it clear who or what you are pitching. Draw a correlation between your pitch and their prior coverage. Be professional; always.

3. The top personal challenge for journalists is simply keeping up the pace

The survey also asked about challenges on a personal level: “What was your biggest challenge as a journalist in the last 12 months?” [emphasis added]. The top challenge was keeping pace amid the downsizing and reduction of resources.

The full list tallied up like this:

  • 38% said keeping up amid downsizing and reduced resources;
  • 22% said balancing reporting on important topics against pressure to drive business;
  • 13% said battling misinformation;
  • 11% said other; and
  • 10% said politicization of the press as individuals.

Some of those that said “other” wrote in comments like these:

  • “Determining the most important news to share with time/space available.”
  • “Adapting to changing audience interests.”

Takeaway: The takeaway here is simply to be responsive. When you receive a reporter’s inquiry, respond as soon as possible. Even if you don’t have the answer, acknowledge the question and let them know you are working on it. If they ask for an interview, make it easy for them to arrange a time. Companies that do this will get more opportunities – those that don’t won’t – and you might just burn a bridge.

4. The sources journalists find credible

The survey asked respondents “about the sources they trust most when it comes to validating information” [emphasis added]. What do they find credible?

  • 27% said newswires;
  • 23% said industry experts;
  • 20% said press releases [ostensibly those that aren’t sent over a wire service];
  • 16% said internal spokesperson; and
  • 4% said customers of a brand.

Takeaway: It’s certainly convenient for Cision that reporters find newswires most credible – since they own two in PR Newswire and PRWeb. Both of those services have experienced “pump and dump” releases. However, I do think there’s something to this finding.

Why? Because there are standards you have to meet to publish press releases over these services – where you can publish anything you want to your own online newsroom (and you should do this too).

To be clear, I’m not saying you must use a newswire. But insofar as presenting your story idea as credible – because that’s important to journalists in this survey – it’s worth considering.

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5. More journalists are using data to decide what to cover

According to the survey, “40% of journalists say they are relying more on data this year (views, engagement, demographic data, etc.) to shape their editorial strategy than they have in previous years.” Further, more than half (54%) “say they are relying on” data about the amount.

Takeaway: Journalists are checking to see what’s hot with readers and writing more of that. PR needs to do that too. While you don’t have access to their analytics, you still can observe the overall trends. A time-tested path to coverage is to figure out how your employer or client fits within these trends. How? Do your industry reading. Listen to industry podcasts. Watch useful webinars. Attend conferences. Follow big thinkers in the space.

6. Journalists want data from PR

What do journalists want from PR? The survey asked this in a variety of ways and the answer boils down to one word: data.

Consider the following:

  • 68% “said they wanted data” such as original research;
  • 37% said they won’t consider covering a product unless the pitch includes “data showing trends and problems the product is solving for my readers.”
  • 34% said they have included surveys in their” articles in the last year – “more than twice the number who said the same the year before (16%).”

Takeaway: If you want to see a good example of data in PR, take a look at Kastle Systems. This company makes the key cards that many corporations use to give employees office access. Right now, there’s a major debate unfolding between the remote work camp and the butts-in-seats camp – and Kastle has data mined from its systems about office attendance. This is better than survey data because it’s behavioral. Most SaaS companies should be capable of doing this. An old colleague of mine used to call it “data-as-an-asset (DaaA).” Kastle is crushing it right now from a PR perspective.

7. Simple advice for PR pitches from journalists 

Reporters get a lot of pitches. The results found 61% of journalists get 100 pitches a week or more. Most want those pitches by email (91%) while just 4% accept DMs on social and 2% want phone calls. So that means, the majority of reporters are easily 20 pitches a day and if those emails are not relevant, then they are disruptive.

The survey asked, “What can communications professionals do to make your job easier?”

Here’s what reporters said:

  • 75% said understand my target audience and what they find relevant;
  • 42% said understand and respect my deadlines;
  • 46% said stop spamming me;
  • 38% said provide short pitches with facts that enable them to produce content quickly;
  • 66% said provide data and expert sources; and
  • 28% said include multimedia assets with their pitches and press releases.

What are some things PR pros do that reporters find valuable?

  • 63% said alert of new or upcoming events;
  • 58% said help find sources;
  • 47% said provide new or interesting story ideas;
  • 46% said provide exclusive information;
  • 44% said access to events;
  • 35% said help fact check;
  • 33% said new or upcoming product launches; and
  • 21% said provide products to test.

Takeaway: This is 101-level media relations stuff that reporters have been saying over and over again for years. The solution to the problem – and perhaps the secret to media relations – is to put the work in before pitching. Research, read, be active in the respective community and write compelling pitches.

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* * *

The full report contains many more findings and is worth a read. You can download it here.

Do you need help with B2B tech marketing and PR? I’m a seasoned consultant that can both bring big ideas and execute them; I’d be glad to speak with you about your needs. Here are some useful links: aboutservices and contact. Or just reply to this message if you are a subscriber and received this post by email.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
10 PR Tips for Making Your Company Easier for the Media to Cover

Image credits: Cison report and DALLE “several reporters typing on an old fashioned typewriter in a busy newsroom in the style of van Gogh”

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