How not to wind journalists up

Journalists generally have decent relationships with PR professionals, but there are areas that can be improved if PR people wish to get their attention. According to the latest Social Journalism Study from PR software provider Cision and Canterbury Christ Church University, journalists are becoming less reliant on PR professionals because of social media, which suggests PR professionals need to adapt how they reach out to journalists.

Email is the preferred way journalists like to be contacted, but the study also states that “there is evidence from a small number of journalists that they would like to see social media used more widely for sharing PR content with journalists.” In some ways PROs are responding to these changes, as last year 18.5 per cent of respondents said that one of the most common ways PROs contacted them was through social media, this year the figure is up to 32.4 per cent.

One thing is clear, as with other years of the study, journalists would like fewer phone calls from PR professionals. From the differences between preferred choices and the actual ways journalists are being contacted, it is clear that the use of the telephone continues to be a major source of irritation for journalists with 16.1 per cent asking for less contact by phone.

The study also suggests that journalists are sometimes sceptical about their trustworthiness, after finding that less than half think that PR practitioners are reliable sources of stories.

Another potentially worrying finding for PROs is that over one third of respondents believe they are now less reliant on PR professionals because of social media, but this is to be expected as journalists reach their audience directly.

At the same time, PROs can reach their audiences directly as well and no longer need journalists to convey their messages. Kristine Pole, programme director, PR, media and marketing at Business School, Canterbury Christ Church University adds: “The greatest danger is treating all journalists as one group, contacting them all in the same way. Given the sophistication of databases there is no reason why PROs can’t tailor the content and the contact methods to suit journalists’ preferences. The survey clearly identifies five different types of journalists with different use, behaviours and attitudes towards social media. Perhaps PROs should treat journalists more like a company treats its customers as smaller groups, rather than one whole group, if they wish to get a better reception from journalists.”

Pole goes on to describe how journalists are changing their use of social media in more depth and how the UK patterns compare with the rest of the world: “Over the last four years UK journalists have reported a high use of social media ranking, only just less than Canada and the US for most years. Sourcing and publishing are the key reasons why journalists use social media, but increasingly it is being used for monitoring and verifying information with brands such as Facebook and Twitter being firm favourites, but there is also an emerging trend in using newer more bespoke journalism related tools.”

“Whilst over half think they couldn't do their work without it and it has improved their productivity, journalists feel using social media is an additional task they need to undertake. In response, journalists are becoming more strategic about their use of these tools concentrating their time on social media rather than being ‘always on’.”


Cision Europe and Canterbury Christ Church University conducted an online survey about the behaviours and attitudes and the uses and perceptions of social media among journalists. Respondents were taken from Cision’s media database of more than 1.6 million influencers globally. The United Kingdom report is based on 466 responses from journalists and media professionals collected during July-September 2014. Throughout the survey the term “journalist” is used to include all media professionals, e.g., researchers, editors, etc., who took part.

If you enjoyed this article, you can subscribe for free to our twice weekly event and subscriber alerts.

Currently, every new subscriber will receive three of our favourite reports about the public relations sector.

PRmoment Awards ESG Awards Winners SUBSCRIBE NOW PRCA Apprenticeship CIPR