2017 turned conventional journalism on its head with the ever-hastening 24-hour news cycle, creating a rise in reporting from non-journalists and “fake news.” These factors have altered how journalists do their jobs—and public relations professionals too.
Even if you do not count the constant stream of news flowing from and about President Trump’s Twitter account, the media landscape is noisier than ever. Citizens are increasingly generating news via blogs and social media platforms, responding to the stream of current events that demand continual coverage.
Couple this with the fact that according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are about five public relations professionals for every one reporter– a sharp contrast from the reality just about 15 years ago when there were two public relations professionals for every one reporter.
So, what does this mean for public relations professionals and their role in the media ecosystem?
The good news is, 70% of journalists agree that despite the fact that the media landscape has shifted, there is a continued need for relationships with public relations professionals. In fact, 20% of journalists say that these relationships are even more important today. However, those same journalists caution that certain factors dictate whether they will invest the time to form and maintain relationships with PR pros.
Here’s six tips for PR professionals to sustain a strong relationship with the press:
1. Give it to them straight
Journalists agree that especially in times of communications crisis, they value input from PR pros that they know will have an honest conversation with them. That’s not to say you cannot and should not provide the positive details, such as how your client plans to address an issue, but reporters value the acknowledgement that everything might not be perfect.
2. Ensure your information is accurate
The shifting paradigm from print and broadcast to digital platforms dominating the news cycle has prompted an influx of news reporting from unconventional sources, creating a challenging balance for reporters to break news that is both timely and accurate. This is where PR professionals can help, as they are the experts in their clients’ industries and have a keen sense for what is important. By keeping up-to-date with factual information, PR pros can help journalists weed out inaccuracies in breaking news.
3. Avoid jargon laden pitches
While 63% of journalists say that the most valuable information they receive from PR pros are press releases and news updates, they acknowledge that they receive too much jargon in pitches. As Axios reporter Sara Fischer said at a Cision event, “Jargon seems to inhibit PR professionals from telling an interesting story and for the reporter to be able to pick up on that story.” Remember the need for a story to have mass appeal and understanding when crafting pitches.
4. Timeliness matters
Once upon a time, a longer lead story that wasn’t breaking didn’t need to be directly connected to the news cycle, but journalists agree that today’s news cycle moves too fast for untimely pieces. PR pros should be flexible and remember that often, there is a way to connect a pitch to the current news cycle.
5. Do your research
Familiarize yourself with a reporter’s past coverage and understand who their audience is. Most publications offer media kits that detail information on their readership and a Google search of a reporter’s latest stories or scan of their Twitter page can help garner more detailed insights into what they and their readers find interesting. Investing the time to get a sense for a reporter’s interest is often the difference in them investing in the time to read your pitch.
6. Cut down on the self-promotion
People want to know what you can do for them, not what you can do for you (or your client). Reporters are looking to give their readers objective information. Recognizing PR professional’s responsibility to advocate on behalf of their clients, remember to try and find the balance between advocacy and promotion.