Report: Journalists are ditching the press release

A recent survey of reporters revealed that many are ignoring press releases. How can you capture their attention? Turn to social media, consider data and build relationships.

The press release isn’t dead, but its traditional format is on life support.

Muck Rack and Zeno Group surveyed more than 500 journalists around the world and found that roughly half of journalists around the world (53 percent in the United States and 41 percent outside the U.S.) don’t use press releases to find new story ideas.

The survey also revealed that only 3 percent of journalists globally said that they heavily rely on them.

Sending press releases isn’t entirely a fruitless activity: Twenty-nine percent of U.S.-based reporters and 36 percent of non-U.S. based reporters said they “somewhat” rely on press releases, and 16 percent of journalists globally use press releases but would prefer a different format.

So, how can you pivot from the traditional press release?

Nearly half of reporters (49 percent) said they’d more likely pay attention to a press release if it contained an infographic, and 13 percent said they’d pay attention if a video was featured in a release.

Thirty-five percent said nothing PR pros do will make them interested in releases—so you might want to flex your social media muscles and get your storytelling juices flowing. Short, snappy pitches with an enticing narrative sent through email or Twitter will probably gain more attention.

PR pros and reporters work together—but aren’t partners

Along with altering (or abandoning) your press release, don’t forget the importance of relationships with reporters.

Roughly half of journalists (52 percent in the U.S. and 45 percent outside the U.S.) said they consider relationships with PR pros and agencies “mutually beneficial, but not quite a partnership.” Though only 22 percent of reporters globally think of PR pros as “a necessary evil,” far less (4 percent) overall consider them partners.

Social media is important, but not perfect

When it comes to boosting your media relations efforts—and endearing journalists—look no further than social media. Along with using digital platforms to source news, many reporters consider how well their stories are going to be received online.

Sixty-three percent of journalists in the U.S.—and 68 percent outside the U.S.—track the number of times their stories are shared through social media platforms, and more than 41 percent said they consider a story’s potential for social media sharing when considering if they should write about it.

For reporters, social media is also a powerful way to source breaking news stories. More than one-third of journalists (34 percent) turn to social media platforms as their first news source, and 37 percent of journalists said they expect to spend more time on Twitter and Instagram this year. Twenty-seven percent of reporters said that Twitter is their primary news source.

However, not all platforms are golden.

Though a quarter of journalists said they aim to spend more time looking at news on LinkedIn (26 percent) and YouTube (25 percent), 16 percent said they will probably spend less time looking at LinkedIn compared to last year. Fifteen percent of reporters said they aim to spend less time on Twitter, and 44 percent said they will spend less time on Facebook.

Part of the reason for journalists turning away from social media channels is changing algorithms: The majority (70 percent) said that the way Facebook and Twitter rank news sources isn’t helpful to their work.

Data rules—mostly

Measurement is an increasing focus for publications—and the journalists they employ. Though many communicators are embracing metrics, the role of data and analytics isn’t something that reporters have completely figured out yet.

More than half of the U.S. reporters surveyed (52 percent) said they use analytics to track how well their stories perform online. Forty-three percent of journalists outside the U.S. agreed. The majority (72 percent) said that measurement has affected their jobs.

However, only 35 percent of reporters said that data and analytics help them to improve the work they do, and only 30 percent of reporters in the U.S. (and 35 percent outside of the U.S.) said that metrics “increasingly influence” the stories that they cover.

Struggling with data’s role is a communications trial to which many PR pros can relate.

Use it to your advantage and include new or interesting statistics and data in your pitches. Don’t use old data or analytics that have already been widely used. Instead, sprinkle your pitch with numbers that grab journalists’ attention and clearly show why a story is important to cover.

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8 Responses to “Report: Journalists are ditching the press release”

    Shel Holtz says:

    Press releases serve a host of purposes beyond getting a reporter to cover a story. While I would not rely on them for that, I would be careful about abandoning them altogether. Posting press releases to your media center or news page makes them discoverable in searches of your site as well as web searches. They get placed in trade publications, edited for style, to fill space. They serve as a single source of truth (you can point to it as your statement of record when someone inaccurately reports on your company’s activities). They still fulfill some regulatory requirements. And more.

      Ted Kitterman says:

      A great point Shel! They definitely can still serve a purpose, especially if they are well-constructed.

    Snappy says:

    Strange! The Cision’s 2018 State of the Media report (1.355 respondents) doesn’t seem to substantiate those findings (at all). Journalists are certainly not ditching the press release. They appear to value their relationships with PR professionals as they always have and, of all interactions with PR professionals, the press release is most preferred.
    The research shows no signs of wavering interest or interaction between media and PR professionals. No less than 70 % of respondents say (the value of) their relationships remained neutral and 20 % say it is more valuable.
    When we look at the means of interaction the research shows that, for three years in a row, media professionals (63%) have ranked press releases and news announcements as the most valuable type of content they receive from PR contacts. Moreover, they have also chosen the press release as their most trusted brand source (this sentiment is nearly universal amongst journalists worldwide).
    What I personally experience however, is that the quality of press releases that PR professionals put out is a continuing source of discontent amongst journalists.

      Ted Kitterman says:

      A good point! In our research, the press release is still a useful tool for PR pros, but shouldn’t be the only tool a PR pro uses to share their news. I think there’s also a pretty striking diminishing return for the press release as newsrooms shrink. And of course, not all press releases are created equal.

    Lenox Mhlanga says:

    In my experience I have found that the efficacy of a press release is dependant on the relationship with the journalist. Its important to use the release as one of the tools to establish oneself as a source of reliable, factual information about a client or organisation. Current trends also point to a departure from the traditional structure to sharing a journalistic formatted and ready to be published story as opposed to some puff piece. I found that this increases the chances for it being published.

    Kate says:

    A press release is not a communications channel unto itself, and how it is disseminated is just as important as its content.

    Are you emailing it directly to a journalist? What kind of pitch note are you including? Are you BCC’ing a whole bunch of people in an email? Are you posting on a news wire? Are you targeting specialty publications?

    The statement “journalists don’t use press releases to find new story ideas” doesn’t tell us enough. Does this mean they’re not going to wire sites and browsing through news releases for ideas? Or, does this mean they don’t find press release in their inbox are giving them good story ideas.

    I’d like to know how journalists want to be contacted by PR professionals and what can be done to get our emails/tweets/phone calls noticed.

      Ted Kitterman says:

      Interesting point Kate, though I think it is safe to say that misused press releases and poorly crafted press releases are leading reporters to ignore them completely. I know almost every press release in my inbox is deleted out of hand.

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