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Research suggests how PR must evolve to meet new journalist demands

The evolving fields of PR and journalism interweave with more complexity than perhaps any other sectors.  Any changes felt in one can dramatically impact the other.

In Muck Rack's recent State of PR and State of Journalism reports for 2023, the 'state' of both industries, regardless of whether they were B2B, B2C, or both, has revealed some fascinating insights, illuminating the curious dynamics of these two industries. How best to find them? By reading both reports side by side. The real nuggets can be found in what the reports don't say.

So, in this article, we dive into these challenges and offer some solutions. 

The battle for press coverage increases

Securing earned media coverage is predicted to become increasingly challenging for the foreseeable future, with 70% of PRs expecting it to get worse over the next five years. This is partly attributed to current issues in journalism, including a lack of funding and the ongoing challenge of misinformation.

So, what can we do to support journalists? Simple - provide high-value content that is factual and authentic, especially in thought leadership which continues to dominate in B2B campaigns. Optimising a distinctive voice while understanding the media's challenges, is essential for maintaining our relationships with them.

The email pitch remains king

LinkedIn is an important platform for PRs to connect with key journalists, but is not the best avenue in terms of pitching. Journalists continue to prefer email contact. Both sectors see LinkedIn's appeal however, and pitching aside, journalists, PRs and businesses plan to invest more time into the platform this year, for strengthening profiles and deepening conversations. (Here's a recent PRmoment Podcast which talks about the disadvantages of email as a communications channel between PR and journalism.)

Twitter switches purpose

Twitter remains a difficult platform for journalists, with about half contemplating leaving, yet only 28% are actively planning to spend less time on the forum. Social media tools aren't just for searching news topics. Journalists report using channels as listening tools to track coverage of articles daily and check the popularity of their articles.

Academic spokespeople are favoured over CEOs and C-Suite

Academic subject matter experts are favoured again by 80% of journalists as a source of commentary this year with CEOs only favoured by 62% of reporters. However, if the story is connected to a trending topic, it will get the journalist's attention more quickly.

It is clear the divide still stands between journalists and PRs looking to promote comment or interviews with their business’ senior leaders. If our aim is to provide the media with strong spokespeople, we should encourage clients to explore executive profiling as an essential part of their brand awareness campaigns.

Journalists turn down non-personalised pitches

Thankfully, both parties agree on pitching, with both understanding the importance of subject matter and personalisation - far more critical than data in the subject line. Email still rules, with online databases still much favoured by PRs as places to find the right journalist and email address. Pitches should be no more than 300 words and, even better, relating to a trending story.

The key to clever pitching is understanding the needs of the journalist. Over 60% of journalists say they receive around 255 pitches a week, yet only two of them will make a story. Standing out may be one way, but nothing beats a personal email from someone they know. Maintaining and strengthening our relationships with the press remains essential. The more we take time to do that, and understand what they need, matching our client goals, the better we can serve everyone.

Article written by Michelle Hatcher, associate director at agency EC-PR

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