By the Numbers: What journalists want vs. what PR pros do

A comparison of Muck Rack’s State of Journalism and State of PR surveys on pitching, platforms and more.

What journalists want vs. what PR pros do

Journalists and PR professionals both have strong opinions on pitching: how it should be done, what’s most effective and what makes for a great pitch.

But how aligned are those perceptions? ?

To find out, PR Daily compared survey data from Muck Rack’s annual State of Journalism and State of PR surveys. While the questions asked weren’t identical, they provide a revealing look into what journalists want — and what PR professionals are actually providing.

Here’s what we found.

Pitching that misses the mark

PR professionals and journalists are in near lockstep with each other on one aspect of pitching: One-to-one pitching via email is the method 83% of journalists prefer and what 83% of PR professionals feel is most effective.

And yet when push comes to shove, 62% of PR pros pitch at least two journalists at once most of the time. Nearly a quarter of communicators typically pitch 15 or more journalists at once.

This gap between what most PR professionals know to be best practice and what happens in the real world can likely be chalked up to time constraints and the constant pressures put on those working in the industry.



But it’s then not surprising to find that the No. 1 reason journalists reject a pitch is because they aren’t relevant to what they cover. And it’s not even close: 73% of journalists said that’s the primary reason they reject pitches; the next closest responses were “other” with 7% and “lack of personalization” with just 6%.

Yet PR professionals are consistently underestimating just how important offering relevant pitches is to the people they hope will pay attention to their emails. Just 37% of the PR professionals surveyed said that subject matter relevance is the most important factor in getting a pitch picked up.

So 73% of journalists said they reject pitches because they aren’t relevant, yet only 37% of PR professionals cite that as the most important factor in a pitch.

That’s a huge discrepancy — and one that should give every PR professional who gave another answer on that survey pause.

Twenty percent of PR pros said that personalization or customization was the most important part of a pitch — but again, only 6% of journalists cited that as a top reason for rejecting pitches.

It’s unclear what exactly “customization” means in this context. Does it mean just changing the name out in the salutation? Adding a compliment on a recent story? The survey found that among PR professionals who do personalize pitches, 46% only change a few sentences, so that doesn’t likely mean a wholesale reimagining or re-angling of the pitch itself. But the fact that PR professionals value it so highly while journalists don’t seem to much care should lead to a reevaluation of priorities.

There are other mismatches, albeit less serious than the divide between relevance and everything else. The majority (64%) of journalists don’t care which day something is pitched on, while 51% of PR pros think Tuesday is best.

And on some issues PR pros and journalists align quite neatly: 51% of journalists think following up on a pitch is just fine and like just one reminder, while 46% of PR pros say the same. The vast majority of communicators (94%) also keep their pitches short and to the point at 300 words or fewer, which is roughly in line with journalist’s desire for pitches that are 200 words at most (65%).

Social media wars: X vs. LinkedIn

X (formerly known as Twitter) has long been a favorite platform for journalists who are hooked on the platform’s real-time news feed. That’s true even now, amid widespread changes on the platform, likely because no other platform has effectively replaced the way users report instant, digestible updates. Thirty-six percent of journalists still spend most of their social media time on the platform, followed by 22% on Facebook and 17% on LinkedIn.

Meanwhile, PR professionals are less optimistic about X. Only 10% said they found it an effective channel for pitching, plummeting from 28% just two years before. And only 16% of PR pros said X was the most useful platform for them personally. LinkedIn reigned supreme, with 50% of PR pros citing the network as their favorite.

It’s unclear precisely why this mismatch has developed. Many journalists are still using X, but perhaps not in the same way. They may have become observers more than posters, making it more difficult for PR pros to identify them. Or perhaps PR pros find X less effective simply because they’re spending less time there, given changes to its functionality and controversy about its ownership.

Whatever the reason, it’s a major shift.

A moment of empathy

Both PR professionals and journalists have challenging, important jobs. And most journalists recognize that importance, with 70% saying PR professionals are somewhat or very important to their success.

But there are more and more pitches coming from a growing number of PR pros to a shrinking number of journalists. Indeed, 46% of journalists say they receive 30 or more pitches per week, with 12% receiving 100 each week — or more.

That perhaps explains why 49% of journalists say they seldom or never respond to pitches, while 24% only respond half the time. Imagine being asked to respond to an extra 30 (or more) emails each week, many of them from strangers that aren’t relevant to what they do. Add that to the fact that journalists typically earn less than PR pros (53% of journalists earn less than $70,000 a year; the average salary for a PR professional is $84,000) and work more hours (64% of journalists work more than 40 hours a week, compared to 51% of PR pros).

While it’s not a competition to see who has it harder, it’s wise to remember to put yourself in the journalist’s shoes if you’re looking to stand out from their slush piles.

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


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