By the Numbers: What journalists really want from PR pros

New data from Cision sheds light on how you can help — or hinder — journos.

Cision's state of the media

PR professionals spend an inordinate amount of time trying to read journalists’ minds. So many hours are spent trying to determine the magical time, medium and message that will make a top-tier reporter sit up, take notice and slather our client all over the front page.

It turns out that what journalists want is pretty simple: good content that’s relevant to their audiences, delivered to their email inbox.

Go figure.

Cision’s 2024 State of the Media report surveyed more than 3,000 journalists about how they most want to interact with PR professionals. While the full report is well worth a read, covering everything from the greatest challenges journalists face to how they’re using AI in the newsroom, we’re going to zoom in on what journalists want from PR professionals.

 

 

Press releases still aren’t dead

Despite many, many repeated reports that press releases are going the way of the dodo, they’re still the number one thing that journalists want from PR pros. Cision found that 74% of journalists value receiving news announcements orpress releases. They’re also big on original research reports (it worked for Cision for this story!) and exclusives. Access to events and industry experts were also highly valued.

In fact, 68% of journalists said they find press releases useful for gaining story ideas. That’s significantly more than any other source, including direct pitches, industry experts or social media.

Press releases aren’t the enemy. It’s bad press releases and bad targeting.

We can see these play out in the top annoyances journalists list. A whopping 77% of journalists would block a PR pro for spamming them with irrelevant pitches. Another 55% are annoyed by pitches that sound like marketing brochures.

 

Again, the problem isn’t the press release. It’s sending boring press releases to the wrong people. The Cision survey also found that 73% of journalists say that a quarter or less of the pitches they receive are relevant to them.

Let’s say that again.

Three-quarters of journalists said that only one-in-four — or less — of all the pitches they receive are relevant to them.

Those are terrible odds, and an indictment of the PR industry.

Other annoyances are common sense: spamming follow-ups, being unavailable or just getting someone’s name wrong. Of course, doing something like providing inaccurate information can fundamentally break trust — a huge issue every professional should want to avoid.

So, enough bad news. It’s obvious what journalists don’t like. But what will actually gain their attention, favor and coverage?

The things they want boil down to “be good at the craft of PR.” Have good ideas that are relevant to what their audiences want, sent in a simple, quick-to-read format. Provide timely, accurate data and interviews.

There are no mysteries here. No magic words, no “send your pitch at precisely 10:19 a.m. on a Tuesday” to have the greatest chances of success.

No, all journalists really want from PR professionals is their best. Reporters want PR pros who take the time to research them and know that their pitch is something they’d conceivably cover. They want assets that make their lives easier. They want to end the practice of “spray and pray,” which only serves month-end activity reports to clients rather than any larger goal of achieving real, meaningful coverage.

Journalists put some of these desires into their own words. Here’s how they said you could get on their good side:

  • “Stop wasting my time with pitches that are completely out of my coverage area.”
  • “Provide print-ready copy, the better written, the better.”
  • “Fewer follow-ups to unsolicited messages. My inbox is drowning!”
  • “Provide sources for interviews who are subject matter experts and willing to be honest and answer questions.”
  • “Make sure the multimedia assets are usable — full resolution printable photos, for example.”

The bottom line

This data should show just how valuable PR-generated content could be to journalists if only each person takes the time to do it properly.

Craft press releases that are interesting and engaging. Send them to journalists who would potentially cover such a thing — and no one else. Be ready to follow up quickly and pounce on opportunities where they appear.

Stop looking for magical solutions and just do the work.

Allison Carter is editor-in-chief of PR Daily. Follow her on or LinkedIn.

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