Flickr Creative Commons photo by Steve Bustin.
Now more than ever, journalists need good PR people.
That’s the key theme in Cision’s latest Global State of the Media Report, which surveyed nearly 2,000 reporters and editors about their working conditions and how they relate to public relations professionals.
I often find this report useful as I review my PR strategies. And this year’s report — which surveyed 1,999 journalists — includes a number of takeaways that are valuable to nonprofit communicators who work with the media.
Here are seven that stand out:
1. Keep your pitches short and sweet
Today’s journalists are more time strapped than ever, largely because there are fewer of them. One-third of large newspapers and one-fourth of online outlets have suffered layoffs since 2017. And that’s on top of years of previous cuts.
This is an incredibly important trend to nonprofits, since there are fewer reporters who are actively covering your work — and even fewer that have nonprofits as a defined beat.
That means you’re going to have to work harder to get them to understand your work and why it’s important.
And that begins by respecting their time.
The number of pitches today’s reporters receive is daunting. To cut through the noise, be selective with what you pitch — and keep it tight and sharp.
2. Make it about them, not you
One of the biggest complaints among journalists in this year’s survey (and among the journalists I talk to regularly) is the fact that too many PR professionals spend way too little time getting to know the journalists they’re trying to pitch.
Your path to media relations success isn’t paved with press releases. Instead, it’s built through getting to know what matters to individual reporters, and being able to respond to their needs.
If working with reporters is part of your job, think about yourself less as a salesperson and more as a concierge.
If you can help them get useful information on deadline — and even point them to resources outside of your organization — you’ll build valuable capital that will pay off later.
3. Be ready to move quickly
It’s easy to forget that reporters aren’t planning all of their stories ahead of time. Many of them are jumping from story to story — and 42 percent of those surveyed say they work on stories no more than a day in advance.
This means you have to be ready to move quickly when they reach out — and that you should be paying attention to what’s breaking to see if you have something to offer for fast-moving news events.
4. Be patient
This might sound counterintuitive in light of the previous tip, but in a world where reporters are getting hundreds of pitches daily, you have to be willing to wait to follow up with them after you send a pitch.
“Your pitch isn’t the only one we receive in a single day, so please have some patience,” one reporter said.
With this in mind, don’t be too pushy. If you don’t get an immediate response, give the reporter some time to respond before you start sending follow ups.
5. Have more than a release
News releases remain important tools for conveying key information. More than 7 in 10 journalists say they rely on releases for information.
But if you’re looking to stand out from the crowd, make sure you can provide more than a flat release. More than one quarter of journalists say they are likely to respond to pitches that include compelling images and nearly 1 in 5 say they are looking for useful infographics.
If you have photos, graphics, or other visuals, consider including them as attachments to your pitches or, as an alternative, mentioning in your cover note that you can provide visuals if they’re interested in covering your story.
6. Be targeted
Journalists report the vast majority of pitches they receive are irrelevant. Most reporters say that fewer than one out of four pitches they receive are relevant or useful.
In other words, most PR folks are wasting reporters’ time — and their own — by creating and sending off-target pitches.
Before you pitch, do your homework. Get to know what reporters cover before you craft your outreach.
This will ultimately help you too, since you can focus your efforts on stories and relationships that matter most to your nonprofit.
7. Op-eds and submissions still matter
Newsrooms might be shrinking, but there’s still a real need for strong stories and opinions. To stretch their resources, more outlets are relying on guest opinion pieces, compelling images, and insightful data to help fill their pages and draw clicks.
Think beyond releases and announcements as you’re looking to get your voice heard in the media.
Many nonprofits are finding more value in writing and submitting their own pieces than they are in hoping that they can get the attention of reporters.
If you’re like most nonprofit communicators, your work on media relations is only a small part of your job.
By paying attention to what reporters are telling you — and adjusting your strategies to conform with what they need — you’ll get a higher return on investment for the time you spend on media outreach.