The State of the Media: 7 Things Communicators Need to Know

Now more than ever, journalists need good PR people.

That’s the key theme in Cision’s 2019 Global State of the Media Report, which surveys reporters and editors about their working conditions and how they relate to public relations professionals.

Each year, I review the results of the survey to help pressure test how we’re approaching media relations with our clients.

And this year’s report — which surveyed 1,999 journalists — includes a number of takeaways that will help shape our media strategies in the coming months.

Here are 7 that stand out:

1. Keep your pitches short and sweet — Today’s journalists are more time strapped than ever, largely because there are fewer of them. One-third of large newspapers and one-fourth of online outlets have suffered layoffs since 2017. And that’s on top of years of previous cuts.

With fewer reporters on the beat, their time is valuable — and the number of pitches they receive is daunting. To cut through the noice, be selective with what you pitch — and keep it short and sharp.

2. Make it about them, not you — One of the biggest complaints among journalists in this year’s survey (and among the journalists I talk to regularly) is the fact that too many PR professionals spend way too little time getting to know the journalists they’re trying to pitch.

Your path to media relations success isn’t paved with press releases. Instead, it’s built through getting to know what matters to individual reporters, and being able to respond to their needs.

3. Be ready to move quickly — As a PR professional, it’s easy to forget that reporters aren’t planning all of their stories ahead of time. Many of them are jumping from story to story — and 42 percent of those surveyed say they work on stories no more than a day in advance.

This means you have to be ready to move quickly when they reach out — and that you should be paying attention to what’s breaking to see if you have something to offer for fast-moving news events.

4. Be patient — This might sound counter intuitive in light of the previous tip, but in a world where reporters are getting hundreds of pitches daily, you have to be ready to wait when you do send a pitch. “Your pitch isn’t the only one we receive in a single day, so please have some patience,” one reporter said.

With this in mind, don’t be too pushy. If you don’t get an immediate response, give the reporter some time to respond before you start sending follow ups. 

5. Have more than a release — News releases remain important, as more than 7 in 10 journalists say they rely on releases for information. But make sure you can provide more than a flat release. More than one quarter of journalists say they are likely to respond to pitches that include compelling images and nearly 1 in 5 say they are looking for useful infographics.

6. Be targeted — Journalists report the vast majority of pitches they receive are irrelevant. Most reporters say that less than one out of four pitches they receive are relevant or useful. In other words, most PR folks are wasting reporters’ time — and their own — by creating and sending off-target pitches.

Before you pitch, do your homework. Get to know what reporters cover before you craft your outreach.

7. Op-eds and submissions still matter — Newsrooms might be shrinking, but there’s still a real need for strong stories and opinions. To stretch their resources, more outlets are relying on guest opinion pieces, compelling images, and insightful data to help fill their pages and draw clicks.

We’ve been adjusting our strategies this year to focus more on how we can help our clients get their voices heard through op-eds and data — and we’re seeing some really strong results. Think beyond releases and announcements as you’re looking to get your voice heard in the media.