Survey: What journalists desire from PR pros

Does an online presence make a difference in media relations? Hundreds of journalists nationwide were asked that question. Here are insights from their collective response.

This article was originally published on PR Daily in May 2016.

The mark of a successful media relations pro isn’t a prestigious background; it’s understanding the concept of balance.

The ability to combine traditional PR skills with digital know-how can unlock the media relations kingdom and solidify your rapport with journalists.

Wasabi Publicity and Dr. Jeanne Hurlbert of Hurlbert Consulting surveyed more than 250 journalists to understand what they look for when choosing whom and what to cover.

In terms of PR’s climate, things have certainly changed over the years. Wasabi Chief Creative Officer Michelle Tennant sums up the shift: “I’ve seen PR go from typewriters to Twitter.”

Despite the change in equipment, the survey’s results suggest that the primary methods for PR pros’ interactions with journalists—and what it takes succeed—shouldn’t be unfamiliar to industry veterans.

Here are some highlights from the survey—and a few takeaways for even the most experienced media relations pros:

Where digital intersects with traditional

A healthy mix of fruits and vegetables is essential to a well-balanced diet. A PR pro’s ability to strike a balance between digital and “real life” sources and connections is no different.

The survey states that on an average day, nearly 29 percent of respondents reported not receiving a single phone call pitch. Although 58 percent said they receive from one to four calls, when comparing those numbers against the barrage of daily emails that journalists receive, the difference is staggering.

“What this translates to in the realm of client results is that a personal touch—such as a phone call—can put clients front and center for the media,” the survey states.

Wasabi CEO Drew Gerber says that although all PR executives should have a presence on social media, a continual effort to make personal connections is just as important.

Here’s more from Gerber on attaining a balance between pitching by email and phone:

Just like everyone else, we PR pros are enamored with the digital world. Though a social media strategy can be one sure-fire key to success, let’s not forget our relationship-building roots: personal outreach. It’s shocking that 28.6 percent of respondents don’t receive any phone call pitches on an average day. What an opportunity to rock it old school—dialing and smiling. Calls may even be necessary for coveted venues receiving thousands of pitches a day. As long as you’re respectful of time and interest—in our experience—journalists love special attention and phone calls, as long as you treat them professionally.

How journalists select sources

Are you still emailing press releases before publishing a press kit online or picking up the phone to contact a reporter?

Survey results suggest that isn’t helping to establish you as a credible source.

When journalists have to find a new source for a story, respondents said their No. 1 resource is Google (20 percent). In contrast, “pitches from sources” was a close second (18 percent).

“This is a highlight worth noting for PR teams that practice effective pitching strategies,” the survey states. “Breaking news was third on the list, followed by social media and finally press releases, which only [roughly] 10 percent of respondents reported as a typical sourcing tool.”

Gerber advises paying more attention to providing online press kits or a digital portfolio of information, photos and other resources for journalists to use.

“Pitches are still very important,” he says. “To supercharge PR pitches, however, I recommend tying them into breaking and seasonal news. Another trend I’m seeing with media contacts lately is they prefer short pitches with a link to an online press kit.”

RELATED: Learn best practices to create powerful integrated marketing campaigns.

Data show that 34.5 percent of journalists look for sources to have well-developed media materials such as an online press kit, which 14.5 percent specifically sought out.

The “importance in the overall development of media materials should not be understated,” the survey says.

Don’t fear social media

Regarding journalists’ preferences for interacting with media relations reps, Gerber stresses the importance of social media. Here’s how he suggests cultivating an online presence for you or your client:

Not only are [members of] the media finding their sources through social media, but it’s also how they’re now looking to establish a source’s credibility. If you’re touting a client as an international expert and they have only 100 Facebook fans, [a reporter] will question how true your statements are about their influence. One-hundred fans doesn’t scream expert in any language, no matter how much you underscore international reach, or how many books they sold in the 80’s and 90’s. Reach online is more relevant today than ever, especially as tech-savvy twentysomethings enter newsrooms.

What are your best media relations practices, PR Daily readers?

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