Pitching to Journalists in a Social Media World

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More than nine in ten journalists prefer to be pitched by email rather than phone and over half rely on social media to write their stories. These are some of the headline conclusions from Cision’s State of the Media Report 2016, which explores journalist practices in the United States and Canada in 2015 and looks at future challenges and trends. 

A key difference from previous years is the way journalists prefer to be approached by communication professionals. 93% of journalists said email was the best pitching platform, while 37% considered the phone off limits.

But what makes journalists follow up the pitch? In the US, 54% said they would pursue the pitch if all the details were included, while 13% of journalists only followed it up if they had a personal connection with the PR person. Surprisingly for a profession enamoured by scoops, only 7.5% considered exclusivity as important.

Media outreach best

When it comes to how communication professionals can help reporters do their job better, journalists said improvements could be made in four key areas. Tailoring the pitch to suit the coverage was the most important wish (79%), while researching and understanding the media outlet (77%), providing information and expert sources (42%) and respecting pitching preferences (35%) were considered the other main areas in which to improve.

Roughly three in four journalists said they used social platforms to build relationships (73%); for marketing and promotion (72%) and to monitor public opinion (64%). Freelance writer Brian Staker told the survey’s authors that social media is “essential as a journalistic resource.”

In addition, 52% of respondents said they used social media to build stories, with 20% favouring the medium to source stories and receive pitches. 56% of respondents said they have used more user-generated content in their stories over the past few years.

Nearly 40% of respondents to the report – 346 journalists, bloggers and influencers from the US and Canada – said Twitter was their most valuable social network, despite its decreased revenue and dwindling user growth. The platform’s recent enhancements, including Curator and Moments, continue to entice users who view Twitter as the social platform most likely to grow in value for journalists.

Facebook has also launched various tools of its own, like Instant Articles in May and Signal in September, which help journalists sift through the site for interesting content and stories.

While Facebook and Twitter are the undisputed media darlings, newly-launched apps such as Periscope and Meerkat are bursting onto the market, with LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube seen as the other social networks likely to grow in value in 2016.

Twitter and Facebook meet journalists needs

For all its strengths, social media undoubtedly has its flaws. Many respondents said “incorrect information posted on social media” was the biggest obstacle journalists faced in 2015. Others said social media added more to their workload, as they have to compete with various platforms to engage readers and gain page views.

In terms of media trends for 2016, mobile compatibility is seen as the most important in Canada, but is closely followed by multimedia. In the United States, the shift towards journalists producing multimedia content was seen as the number one trend, with mobile compatibility in second place.

Video and image-based content was ranked third, with 13.5% saying they always use video and image-based content. 35.4% said they often do, while only 10.9% said they never have.

Changing media landscape final

Overall, 2015 marked the continued growth of multimedia, audiovisual and mobile as tools to create stories. These trends are likely to accelerate in 2016 as social media platforms play a growing role in the distribution of news.

About Ed Sawyer

Communication Assistant at Clear Europe and Journalism student at Southampton Solent University. Twitter: @ESJourn

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