Corporate newsrooms fail to provide what journalists want, study finds

More than 80 percent of journalists regard images with text as important, but only 38 percent of PR pros add images to news content, a study finds.

What do newsrooms want from PR practitioners these days?

Images. Video. Embed codes to ease video delivery on the media’s websites.

So, what are company and organizational newsrooms doing about that?

Not enough, according to a Proactive Report survey by Sally Falkow, president of PRESSfeed: The Social Newsroom. The survey found that 83 percent of journalists regard images with content as important, but only 38 percent of PR pros add images to news content.

Falkow says many corporate newsrooms are failing to provide content and links that journalists “are looking for, and things they think are important, and things that make their jobs easier for them, and that they would therefore use that content more readily.”

The report adds weight to a sense among many publicists and journalists alike that the PR industry hasn’t done enough to adapt to a new, image- and video-based environment.

Viewers have come to expect videos, Falkow says. Twitter last fall began displaying images in one’s feed, rather than requiring users to click on individual tweets, boosting the importance of pictures.

Only a third have video galleries

The survey also shows:

  • Only 39 percent of all companies offer an image gallery, while 49 percent failed to meet the quality standards of images for publication.
  • Surprisingly, although 53 percent of journalists said video is important with news content, just 13 percent of PR pros are adding videos with news content.
  • A little more than a third of organizations polled have a video gallery in their newsroom.
  • Although 82 percent of journalists ask for video to be delivered via embed codes, only 37 percent of online newsrooms offer these.

Embed codes are essential for media outlets that seek to have audiences view videos on their site rather than clicking away to YouTube or a corporate site.

So why aren’t publicists grabbing this opportunity? It’s not because they don’t want to, the survey showed.

“The No. 1 reason that they quote is lack of resources and, also very close behind, lack of skills,” says Falkow, author of “Smart News: How to Write Press Releases in The Digital Age.” “They don’t know how to do it.”

Technology also plays a role in this, says Bart Verhulst, co-founder and chief executive of PressPage, a social media newsroom technology. (PressPage is a Ragan Communications partner.)

“When it comes to images in newsrooms, it all boils down to technology,” Verhulst says. “If the newsroom in question does not support easy uploading of images, the hassle for PR pros to include them can sometimes be so enormous that it is simply undoable.”

Publishing for general audiences

However, he says the newsroom is not just for the media anymore. “As the Fourth Estate shrinks, getting earned media becomes harder by the day,” Verhulst says. “A newsroom should also publish to general audiences.”

Surprisingly, the kids aren’t much better than their elders in incorporating video and images, the survey shows. Falkow says “the little digital natives” know how to take videos and post images on Instagram, “but they’ve never been trained how to do it as a business strategy.”

At a recent Public Relations Society of America event, Falkow says, four or five recent graduates told her that they hadn’t been taught visual media strategies. She calls this a sad state of affairs, leaving young professionals unprepared.

She adds, “They’re not being taught analytics. They’re not being taught digital.”

What journos need

Shel Holtz of Holtz Communications + Technology says that what journalists want from media sites hasn’t changed much in at least 14 years. He cites a 2000 survey whose results look remarkably similar.

Why is this? “At the top of the list is simple negligence,” he says.

Many media relations professionals don’t see the value of a robust media site, preferring to work the old-fashioned way.

“I’ve even heard some argue that providing all this content online means the reporter won’t call to ask for it, hence the company won’t know the reporter is working on the story,” Holtz says.

A growing number of organizations, however, believe their news site is not exclusively for the press, and therefore it doesn’t have to accommodate the specific requirements of editors and reporters, he says. He cites Coca-Cola’s plan to kill press releases in favor of posting content on its Coca-Cola Journey site.

Falkow says society is becoming more and more visual, and PR pros must adapt. She has spoken to many editors in the last six months, she says, and they are telling her that it is now policy that they won’t publish organizational news unless it has visuals. Stock photos won’t cut it, either. The images have to be original.

Newsrooms have cut back on staff, and some-such as the Chicago Sun-Times-have eliminated their photographers altogether.

Because they are under so much pressure, reporters and editors often work late on deadline. Amazingly, there are still media websites that require passwords to get to the images (and, if we may add, there are still press releases that don’t include contact numbers). Often the organizational newsroom is buried.

“They will go to your website,” Falkow says, “but they want to see everything there. They don’t want to have to dig through your site to find the newsroom.”

Russell Working is a staff writer at Ragan Communications.


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