Mending the PR-journalist relationship
It’s not every day that we have the opportunity to bring PR pros and journalists together in the same room… Or Zoom conference room, that is!
In our latest webinar, “Mending the PR-journalist relationship,” we had the pleasure of welcoming professionals from both sides of the media relations world to chat about the dynamic between these two groups.
What leads to such a rocky dynamic between the two? How do some PR pros and journalists avoid this disconnect with industry best practices?
The latest on journalist engagement
We began by discussing a steady, problematic trend in PR pitching activity that prevails year after year: declining journalist engagement with PR pitches.
Of nearly 150,000 PR pitches sent in April, journalists opened about one third of them and responded to only 3.17%.
PR Pitch Engagement Funnel: April
Both guests said these rates unfortunately make a lot of sense.
Weintraub said the numbers quite accurately reflect her day-to-day experience on the journalist side of things. At least two thirds of the pitches she receives are totally irrelevant, and then she only responds to what’s both directly relevant and personal from there.
Garrett adds that when PR pros are desperate for a response, they resort to methods that actually hurt their chances of receiving one.
“Instead of more pitches, perhaps we should be more thoughtful about who we are pitching, what we are pitching them, and also talking to our clients about the fact that spamming a list of journalists is not going to be effective,” Garrett said.
PR pitching gone wild
Why are there so many untargeted, irrelevant pitches landing in journalists’ inboxes? This leads us to our discussion on mass pitching.
Mass pitching means sending out your story pitch as an e-blast to dozens, and sometimes hundreds of journalists at the same time with no signs of personalization.
Weintraub said she receives about 250 pitches every day.
See the average monthly pitching volume per PR professional for the first few months of 2022:
Twitter for building connections
A great place to start building real, positive relationships with the “other side,” whether that be PR professionals or journalists, is Twitter.
Garrett has figured out how to create a thriving PR community on Twitter, hosting #FreelanceChat and co-hosting #PRLunchHour.
This is a clear platform of choice for communications professionals as over 70% of Twitter users turn to the platform to get their breaking news.
From this chat, the guests emphasized that while Twitter is a great place for relationship building, connecting further and engaging with different media contacts, this is not where you should pitch stories.
Both Garrett and Weintraub find it most productive to stick to emailing for story pitches to avoid time wasted digging for various resources across social media platforms.
Pet peeves of PR pitching
Karen Weintraub: On my top-ten list, irrelevant is at least one through eight. To me, the best relationships I have with PR people are people who are responsive and who have simple, compelling and easy-to-read visuals prepared.
Michelle Garrett: The biggest pet peeve I hear from PR pros is just, they don’t get a response. And I think part of that goes back to the PR pro. If you haven’t spent time thoughtfully researching the journalist you’re pitching, thoughtfully crafting the pitch to match with their interests, why would you expect a response? If you have done your research, it hurts a little bit more, but I do think we have to remember it’s about the volume of pitches too.
What can we do to change?
Karen Weintraub: Avoid wasting journalists’ time. Once I have a relationship with somebody, most of the time, those dynamics are very positive. The one thing I would say– If you can help me put your work in a larger context, like relating your news to a new study or other research reports, that’s always helpful for me. I’m much more likely to do a story about a transformation in treatment than I am on one study alone.
Michelle Garrett: I think we would love to get a response. And I understand if you get hundreds of pitches each week, there’s no way that’s going to happen. But I think even a ‘no’ is better than nothing. I know of situations where journalists will keep pitches on file for months and you might hear back from them six months, or even a year later sometimes. So, it would be great to get a yes or no, or some feedback for those of us who take the time to send a well-crafted, intentional pitch.
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