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How Helping Journalists Get What They REALLY Want Boosts Your PR Results

Earned media – it’s a focus of many public relations campaigns.

What is earned media? Some might refer to it as publicity or media coverage. It involves working with media outlets to get clients noticed and, in a perfect world, featured. And that, of course, means working with journalists.
But – what’s the best way to work with journalists? What do they REALLY want?
Paying attention to their preferences can help make the difference between being ignored and getting noticed – which leads to being covered.
Each year, public relations software company Muck Rack conducts a survey asking journalists about their preferences and perspectives. The findings of their latest survey were published a few weeks ago. More than 2,200 journalists responded.
Let’s look at some key takeaways that may help you as you reach out to the media.

How to Help Reporters – So They Can Help You

Choose the Right Spokesperson – The Credibility of CEOs Is Declining
As I reviewed the survey results, one of the major a-ha moments for me was this: In the eyes of journalists, the credibility of CEOs appears to be falling, dropping 12% in two years.

Despite that, CEOs rank in second place just after academic subject matter experts as sources preferred by journalists.
I’d like to understand the reasoning behind this, as no explanation is provided. However, it’s worth noting as CEOs often serve as the spokesperson for an organization.
It’s also interesting in light of the Edelman Trust Barometer’s finding that of all types of organizations, businesses have ranked at the top of the list as the most trusted for a few years now – and the only type of institution viewed as both competent and ethical.
What it says to me is that reputation matters more than ever. If you build trust with media outlets and journalists that reach your target audiences, you stand a better chance that they’ll turn to you when looking for a source.
The opposite also applies – if you’re not transparent with journalists, it could ruin your reputation as a trusted source.
Journalists Are Concerned About Disinformation and Lack of Funding
A trend that dovetails into the above – a lack of trust in sources – is that journalists expressed concern about disinformation. Look for this concern to continue to grow, as generative AI like that used in tools such as ChatGPT stands to increase its spread.

Use care in pitching journalists. For example, sending AI-generated pitches isn’t a good practice. They can determine the difference between authentically written pitches and those generated using AI. If they find that you sent a pitch written by AI, that can damage trust and cause them to avoid using you as a source.
The trend tied at the top of the list with disinformation was lack of funding. This may explain the tendency of some publications, especially industry trade publications, to try to tie paid media to editorial coverage (aka earned media).

I see more of this blurring of the line between the two.
For example, some publications that in the past would’ve covered a new product announcement or published a thought leadership piece will now ask for payment, making the piece a “sponsored” piece – or worse, they may flat-out ignore pitches from organizations that aren’t paying for ads.
While spending a little of your marketing budget on paid media isn’t a bad idea, it should never be an expectation on the part of the media outlet.
Where Do Journalists Get Their News?
The survey found that most reporters get their news from online newspapers. Why does this matter?
Often, clients might turn their noses up at coverage in a lower-tier publication, like a local paper or business journal. But – if this is where reporters get their news, then it stands to reason that seeing a story about a company in an online news source may spark an idea for a piece they plan to work on.  
This supports the idea that media coverage in one outlet – regardless of how major an outlet it is – might lead to coverage in other media outlets.
Are Journalists Still on Twitter?
When Elon Musk took over Twitter last fall, many journalists said they would leave due to a variety of factors, including the way some fellow reporters were being treated. While a majority said they’ve considered leaving, most are still there.
In a survey of 4,000 journalists analyzed by the Tow Center, fewer than 10 deactivated their accounts.
In fact, Twitter remains the social media platform of choice for most journalists. 90% of those who responded to Muck Rack’s survey use Twitter.
How do they use it? To follow the news, promote their work, find sources, discover new voices and more.
This brings up another important point: when you can get a journalist’s attention – AND they cover you or your company in the news – you should share that coverage on your social media outlets, tagging the journalist and the publication.  

It’s not only good media relations etiquette, but it also helps to build the relationship between the two of you.
Do Journalists Look at a Company’s Social Media?

In answer to this question, the resounding response is – YES. 59% of journalists responding either “agree” or “strongly agree.”
As I often mention, part of a successful PR effort involves having an active social media presence
I usually recommend having an active presence on Twitter – as that’s the preferred social media platform of journalists – and perhaps one other outlet BEFORE you start pitching any news, content or stories.

That might be LinkedIn (journalists said they planned to spend more time there in 2023), Instagram, Facebook, or maybe Threads, the newest kid on the social media block. It depends on where your audience is spending time.

Nuts and Bolts of Media Pitching
In answer to questions about the how and when of pitching, here are some quick takeaways:

  • Email is the preferred way of pitching by most journalists – 92% prefer a one-to-one email
  • Send pitches in the morning – 61% prefer to be pitched before noon
  • If you can pitch stories that tie into trends, that may give you a leg up, according to 69% of journalists responding
  • It IS OK to follow up on your email pitch – most prefer one follow-up sent, with 51% saying it should be 3-7 days after the initial pitch

Read the Full Report to Amp Up Your Media Outreach Efforts

If you’d like to learn more about journalists’ preferences, you can reference the full Muck Rack report here.

Looking to up your PR game? Need help with your media relations efforts? Learn more about my public relations consulting services here.

100% of this blog post was written by me, the human, with no contribution from AI.

About the author: Michelle Garrett is a PR consultant, writer, and speaker who helps B2B businesses create content, earn media coverage, and position themselves as thought leaders in their industry. Michelle’s articles have been featured in Entrepreneur, Muck Rack and Ragan’s PR Daily, among others. She’s the founder and host of #FreelanceChat on Twitter, a co-host of #PRLunchHour on Twitter Spaces, and a frequent speaker on public relations. Michelle was named among the top ten most influential PR professionals in 2021 and 2022.
Photo by Yan Krukau:

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