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PR can help media industry, PR pitching tipsThe news media face turmoil and an uncertain, anxious future. The public’s trust in the media is at an all-time low. Publications continue to struggle financially with reduced subscriptions and less advertising – resulting in layoffs of journalists and fewer published stories. While online news sites are gaining subscriptions, few people are willing to pay for digital subscriptions.

A new survey of more than 3,000 journalists and PR professionals reveals the depth of apprehension.

The survey by MyNewsDesk indicates that:

  • 69% of journalists fear that independent news organizations will not be financially viable.
  • 70% worry about their professional stability.
  • 50% are concerned that the news media is no longer trusted as a reliable source of information.
  • 71% believe Facebook has too much power as a source of information, because more people now find news via algorithms rather than directly from media outlet websites.

PR’s Mutually Beneficial Relationship

“The importance of establishing mutually beneficial relationships between PR professionals and journalists during these rapidly changing times cannot be underestimated,” the report states.

Public relations professionals often furnish publications content and story ideas. However, journalists reject most of what they receive from PR. According to the survey, journalists say: content from brands is too self-serving (60%), PR professionals are always looking to sell something (55%), and stories from brands lack journalistic discipline (48%).

Deadline-crunched journalists look to PR professionals for stories and not sales pitches, the report states. The ability of PR pros to effectively build personal networks and craft compelling press releases will make all the difference to the amount of coverage they secure.

Journalists’ Recommendations to PR

PR success requires a strong, multifaceted media industry. The media can start to overcome its current ordeals with more and better stories that attract more attention and subscribers – which in turn attract more advertising, PR can help journalists and the media during its troubled times by offering compelling or at least interesting stories with information that the specific audience wants to know. Completely self-serving stories do not help the audience, the media, PR professionals or clients.

Journalists participating in the survey recommend that PR:

  • Customize pitches to the needs of each news source.
  • Pitch editorial stories rather than product/brand stories.
  • Include supporting media such as videos and images with pitches.

More Advice for PR

Create content that’s useful, well researched, vetted by experts and expertly crafted. Make the job of journalists easier by telling the types of stories they would want to publish.

Before hiring a journalist in the PR department, ensure a cultural fit. Many companies hire journalists to produce content, but leading journalists are often reluctant to enter the corporate world. Ask yourself if you publish high-quality content that a journalist would be proud to add to their portfolio. Ask if the journalist would be satisfied working for your organization – and what the organization needs to do to get more and better placements in the media.

Become a trusted source. Frequently provide useful information to journalists – even if it isn’t related to your company.

Connect with journalists on the channels they prefer. Be aware of country and age differences. For instance, younger reporters tend to prefer Reddit.

Experiment carefully with new technologies and digital media. The types of technologies you use to publish content should match what journalists actually use and prefer.

Treat your credibility as an asset. PR and marketing risk losing credibility and trust through techniques that “hijack attention” such as sponsored content that that’s not disclosed as advertising.

Previous research by marketing and PR agency Fractl found that the email subject line is key for gaining attention of journalists. Messages that are tailored to the publication niche or reporter’s beat and avoid buzzwords and unrealistic claims are more likely to gain attention. Being personable and authentic also helps.

Words in the email body associated with higher success rates include: “happy,” “hope,” “loved,” ”great,” “week” and “weekend.” Commonly used words in subject lines associated with low success rates included: interactive, state, U.S., data and video. That shows that journalists are more concerned with the content, not the format.

Bottom Line: Journalists and PR professionals share common ground and agendas in the rapidly changing media landscape. PR can develop mutually beneficial relationships by providing high-quality content relevant to a publication’s niche, rather than self-serving promotional or sales pitches.

William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.