The world is always changing, and the journalism industry in particular has seen some cataclysmic upheaval in recent years, including media outlets merging or getting bought up by private companies, mass layoffs, publication closures and more. It’s a tough time to be out there fighting the good fight, and as PR professionals, we should strive to make their jobs easier, not harder.
The good news is that they haven’t completely abandoned us yet – according to Cision’s annual State of Media survey, “journalists’ dependence on PR hasn’t wavered.” But sustaining that dependence requires some work on our parts to build and maintain their trust – because once it’s gone, you won’t have a chance to redeem yourself.
Cision’s survey indicates that the No. 1 thing we can do to build and reinforce journalists’ trust is to – guess what – be interesting and straightforward “… by providing media professionals relevant and honest research and information via press releases, story and by arming brand spokespeople, including CEOs, with real and interesting stories to tell.”
Sounds simple, right? Yet these noble aspirations sometimes get mired in the muck of spin and sort-of-kind-of-not-really news. It’s our job to educate our clients on what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to attracting reporters’ interest, and remind them that although they may be excited about their new hire or new headquarters, unless it has greater relevance in the wider world, journalists outside the small coterie who cover the industry probably won’t care.
Of course, being honest and interesting isn’t the only way to get journalists to trust us and respond to our pitches. According to the survey, 28 percent of respondents felt that PR professionals could do a better job of researching and understanding journalists and their outlets before pitching, while 24 percent said they’d like pitches to be more tailored to their beat. Another 27 percent noted that PR professionals should have data and a stable of expert sources ready to go when reporters need them.
As a former trade magazine editor, I can’t tell you how many pitches I received that were completely irrelevant to anything I wrote about – in fact, one of my former colleagues has taken to posting the worst ones he receives on Facebook (with identifying information redacted) and using a certain scatological emoji to rank them in order of odiousness. So before you send a pitch, for the love of God, make sure it’s actually relevant.
These two important takeaways should inform every interaction we initiate with a reporter. In a world where “fake news” is a rallying cry against journalists, we rely on them for truthful, unbiased reporting more than ever, and PR professionals can do their part to help journalists find interesting, relevant new trends and stories.