Research reveals what journalists want from PR people

Given half a chance, hacks often like to run down their PR contacts, so it is not so surprising that recent research into what journalists think of PROs, carried out by media communications specialist DWPub, raised a few gripes.

What are your greatest frustrations when dealing with PR people?

For instance, half of the respondents say that PROs do not understand what a journalist needs, although several commented that PROs who used to be journalists have a better idea.

Another complaint (from 44 per cent of journalists) is that PROs are not generally well informed and fully briefed about the organisations they are representing.

What do you want from a PR professional?

Journalists are happy to explain what they want from PROs to make their lives easier. Daryl Willcox, DWPub chairman, lists eight top requests:

  • Understand the media outlet, its readers, and the specific needs of the journalist you are pitching to.
  • Be as relevant as possible.
  • Really understand clients and their industry.
  • Be honest, if you can’t do something, say so.
  • Provide images in the format the journalist asks for.
  • Appreciate what makes a good news article or feature.
  • Provide access to spokespeople.
  • Don’t ring to ask if a journalist has received your press release.

How do you prefer to be contacted?

When it comes to the best way to contact journalists, the overwhelming answer is by email. Some do not mind getting an exclusive over the phone, but this must be well targeted to their publication and readers. As different journalists have different preferences, the most sensible option is to contact them by email first and ask them how they prefer to be approached.

Underlining how annoying phone calls are, over half of journalists list unwelcome phone calls as one of their greatest frustrations when dealing with PR people. The biggest frustration by far (listed by 80 per cent of journalists) is that PROs fail to understand the publication they are contacting and its subject area.

Discussing the pieces of advice that journalists are keenest to give to PROs, Willcox, says one of the most common ones is to “think like a journalist”.


DWPub surveyed journalists between 19 August and 12 September 2014 to find out what they really think about the ways PR people work with them. Journalist contacts came from its FeaturesExec Media Database, which covers all media types and all sectors. Respondents included journalists from BBC Newsnight, The Daily Express, The Scotsman, Cotswold Life, Estates Gazette, Concrete Magazine, The Lawyer, Shropshire Star, Financial Times and many others. Over 400 journalists responded, of which 85 per cent were staff and 15 per cent freelance.

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