reporters seek PR help during covid-19

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Burdened with new challenges during the Covid-19 epidemic, reporters are relying more on public relations professionals.

An overwhelming 95% of financial and business reporters surveyed by communications agency Prosek Partners say they now use PR pros as much or more. Clearly, PR teams have a huge opportunity to be valuable to reporters, says Jennifer Prosek, managing partner.

Clearly, journalism has become more difficult without in-person contact. Sixty-one percent of reporters say it’s been harder to develop new sources in the remote work environment; only 11% say it’s become easier. Other key challenges journalists face include:

  • bonding and building trust with new sources (named by 26% of respondents);
  • Covid-19 dominating the news cycle (19%);
  • brainstorming and collaborating with other reporters (12%).
  • maintaining work-life balance while working from home (44%).

Seek Alternatives to In-Person Interviews

Blocked from developing sources through in-person contact and collecting information through personal observations outside the office, reporters have been scrambling for alternatives.

Reporters try to obtain in-person, socially distanced interviews when possible and to find new ways to connect with sources online, says Colleen Connolly, a freelance journalist covering education. They also rely on more teamwork; scour data for story ideas that don’t rely on face-to-face meetings. Some also use social media to find and interview sources.

“Not all stories can be told through phone and Zoom interviews,” Connolly says, noting that in-person interviews are generally preferable to online ones.

Reporters Favor Phones over Zoom

Zoom quickly became the communications method of choice for business communications, including public relations. But an overwhelming 73% of financial/business reporters favor phone interviews over Zoom or other video conversations apps, according to the Prosek Partners survey. That’s likely because reporters were already accustomed to phone interviews, and video adds another unneeded layer of complexity.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents (62%) say New York and London will remain key media hubs that are essential for financial and business journalism despite limits on interpersonal reactions.

Many reporters are eager to return to traditional ways of doing work: 11% are already physically back in newsrooms, 26% expect to be back in the office by the end of the year, and 69% anticipate being back by the end of Q1 2021.

One-third (33%) of reporters said they are already comfortable hosting in-person, socially distanced interviews, with another third stating they will likely be comfortable by March 2021. Just a quarter believe in-person meetings are a thing of the past, and two-thirds disagreed with the notion that conferences will be less important for them to attend in the future.

Bottom Line: Reporters are relying more on PR professionals while they’re stymied from developing sources through in-person contact. That opens a considerable opportunity for PR.

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