Public Relations

The State of Journalism

By Gabrielle Mehan

Update: Read our 2020 State of Journalism e-book here.

As the media landscape rapidly evolves, how do we as communication professionals keep up? This question about the state of journalism comes to mind almost daily. It presents itself as we craft everything from media strategies, pitches, and press releases, to blog posts, tweets, and infographics. The challenges that journalists face every day (like shrinking newsroom staffs, blurring lines between fact and opinion, and the 24/7 news cycle to name a few) are increasingly impacting how we work together and how we tell our stories.

So, what does the state of journalism look like in 2018? What are journalists looking for (and not looking for) when it comes to working with communications professionals? Muck Rack’s annual survey, The State of Journalism Today, contains a wealth of insights that PR pros should take into consideration.

Are Press Releases Dead?

The survey says… sort of. The majority of U.S. based journalists (53%) reported that they do not rely on press releases at all; 36% noted that they rely on them somewhat. Interestingly, 49% said that they would pay more attention to a press release if it contained an infographic, with 13% pointing to the inclusion of video as a component that would catch their interest.

While press releases might not hold the weight that they once did, it’s time to get creative with how information is being distributed. Before drafting a release to push out over the wire, ask yourself an important question. Can the news be shared in a blog or social post, targeted media outreach, or even a video interview? Odds are, there might be a better medium for your news that will gain wider visibility than the wire.

What is the role of social media in journalism?

Unsurprisingly, social media has grown as a news source for journalists. More than one-third of journalists go to social media as their “first” source of news. Outside of online newspapers, Twitter remains the biggest source of news for journalists (27%). Instagram’s popularity is also on the rise with media. A reported 37% of journalists say that they plan to spend more time on the platform this year. The fallout with Facebook is all too real however – 44% of journalists expect to spend less time on Facebook.

What does this mean for PR pros? Social is still a viable channel for announcing certain client news and for building relationships with reporters. While its parent company Facebook is falling out of favor among media, Instagram is just heating up. The latter platform has released various capabilities like its Questions Sticker or IGTV. These are capabilities that can be viewed as potential new ways of sharing news.

Social holds a lot of weight when it comes to your pitch as well. More than 41% of journalists revealed that they consider the potential “shareability” of a story when deciding what to write about. It’s also important to consider how you’re engaging and promoting earned coverage on social. This is especially crucial if you want to build better relationships with media. Sixty-three percent of U.S.-based journalists noted they track how many times their stories are shared on social media. So, if a story featuring your client plays well on social, its more likely they’ll continue to use your client as a source.

What do journalists think of PR firms these days?

There’s still room for improvement in relationship building between journalists and PR pros. Fifty-two percent of U.S.-based journalists think their relationship with PR firms is mutually beneficial, but not quite a partnership. (Only 4% view it as a partnership.)

Part of what might be standing in the way of communications professionals creating partnerships with journalists is that many still stick to outdated communication methods – i.e. mass sending untailored pitches that focus solely on details the reporter could find in the press release. If we’re going to take collaboration with journalists to the next level, creativity and customization are key when sharing news. Instead of pitching a press release, can the information be distilled into something more digestible like an infographic or a video? Rather than sending a reporter an email, is there an opportunity to pitch them the news via Twitter? When reporters are receiving hundreds of the same pitches a day, it’s going to take some out of the box thinking to break through the noise.

What’s next?

Change is nothing new. But as the state of journalism continues to transform at a breakneck pace, it’s crucial that our approach to media relations and external communications evolve alongside it. While change can be scary, it’s exciting as well. We’ve seen social media, video content, and even podcasts change the game of how media are sharing information. With the rise of disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and interactive voice devices, the ways in which the media can tell stories will only continue to be reimagined.

To read Muck Rack’s The State of Journalism Today survey in full, download it here.

What new technology are you most excited about using to tell your brand’s story? Comment below or send us a tweet @heyINKco. You can also check out more of our best practices for media relations on our blog.