Article: Social media may be the king of communication, but old school tactics still work best to reach reportersAuthor: Tony Theissen
Date: Tony Theissen
2022 Surveys from Muckrack and Cision reveal what works and what doesn’t for journalists.
I might be showing my age a bit, but when I started working in television newsrooms in the mid-80s, I couldn’t have imagined the sweeping technological transformations that would come over my 30-year career. The use of film for video was fading, taken over by linear videotape and then digital storage, meaning we could get video to viewers in minutes instead of hours. Reporting at live events switched from unwieldy and unreliable microwave trucks to small cellular-based boxes that could be set up instantly, from nearly anywhere.
The most impactful switch of all, however, came with the introduction of computers, the internet, and email. Previously, every story pitch we received came in either through a letter (yes, snail mail), or a phone call to the newsroom. The phone was ringing a lot.
As the transition to the internet became prevalent, e-mail quickly became the preferred method for reaching out to the newsroom. Although the techniques used to pitch media have evolved over the years, one thing has remained consistent: reporters and newsrooms overwhelmingly prefer to be contacted via e-mail. Recent media surveys from Cision and Muckrack back that up, with e-mail being the #1 preferred method of contact for reporters.
Here’s some other highlights, including findings that may surprise you:
- Power of the Press Release: The press release is still the number one driver for generating stories with reporters. Although many may perceive the press release as a fading art form, there is likely one strong reason it’s still a priority for journalists: trust. The Cision survey says reporters feel their number one obstacle with the public is trust, or accusations of being “fake news.” Press releases are generally viewed as researched and factual, as opposed to what might be sent as a pitch. Reporters feel they can rely on the information provided in a press release. As we at rbb work with clients on targeted outreach programs, it’s always important to consider whether a press release is the best opportunity to tell a client’s story. In many cases, a direct pitch to a well-known or highly targeted reporter may still be the best way to build a relationship and gain their interest, and trust.
- Don’t slide into their DMs: Even though reporters are using social media more than ever for researching and vetting story ideas, they overwhelmingly do not want to be pitched there. Only 23% find it acceptable to pitch via social media, while 34% don’t prefer this method. Further, 12% of reporters say they will go so far as to block people who pitch them on social. It’s certainly worthwhile to engage with journalists on social media and support their efforts, but unless you have a personal relationship with them, it’s best to stick to shares, likes and comments as opposed to direct messages.
- Take a reporter to lunch: 83% of those surveyed say that COVID is still impacting their work, as many remain virtual, working from home, and rarely getting the chance to meet sources “in the field.” As a result, reporters are more open to in-person meetings. An invite to meet over lunch or coffee not only offers the chance to build a personal connection but gives the reporter an opportunity to take a break from working from their home office. In the post-pandemic world, it’s never been a better time to build a personal relationship with a reporter.
- One of the things that shouldn’t surprise us: just as with many industries, data is king. A full 59% of journalists say detailed metrics are making them rethink the way they evaluate possible stories. As the fight for eyeballs in the digital space becomes more and more ferocious, reporters (and their editors) are finely tuned to which stories generate the most clicks. They’re battling not just with other media outlets, but their own co-workers for relevance. For PR professionals it is more important than ever to consider the potential audience when pitching a story. Finding the hook that generates the most widespread interest will help the reporter and create a larger net for your client’s story.
At rbb, we’re always reviewing and updating best practices to build mutually beneficial relationships between our clients and the media. What do you find works for you? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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