Charting The Industry: Press Values PR – With a Few Caveats

Digital media's ongoing emergence may be rewriting the rules of traditional media relations, but PR pitches still drive coverage in a big way. Submissions from PR professionals are used by more than 94% of editors/journalists, ranking second to Web sites out of the nine sources examined in a recently released study looking at how editors and journalists use and value PR.

The national survey of media professionals, conducted by Cision and The George Washington University Master's Degree Program in Strategic Public Relations, hit upon many aspects of the interplay between media and PR professionals, especially in the context of digital platforms' influence on their relationship. Beyond the finding that media relations efforts are still bringing home the bacon, additional areas of interest for communications professionals seeking insight into journalists' preferences include:

  • For monitoring responses to stories, only Web sites and blogs were considered important; conferences, trade journals, industry newswires, social networking sites and podcasts were rated as unimportant.

  • With few exceptions, editors/journalists across the board agreed that e-mail pitches should be more relevant to their beat/area of interest, be less promotional, state benefits for their audiences, have stronger story ideas, cover the five W's in leads, and be better written, with less boilerplate information.

  • More than 50% of respondents want to receive unsolicited e-mail pitches from PR execs as simple text only, as opposed to those with hyperlinks, video and audio files.

In addition to the statistical results, verbatim responses offer a number of best practices for communications professionals to improve their relationships with their media counterparts. Consider the following recommendations, quoted verbatim from responding journalists:

  • "Keep file size small. Large attachments mean the entire e-mail gets dumped because of my inbox restrictions. Approach me before the product (if it's a product) comes to market."

  • "Avoid unqualified superlatives such as 'the industry's leading' or 'best in class.' Save all TM, SM, R, superscripts for an all-encompassing statement at the end. Follow AP Style. Do not use all-caps in headlines; make all copy flush left."

  • "Better subject lines, no attachments, signature with contact information, no follow-up phone calls."

  • "More and more diverse quotes; analyst or other third-party comments in press releases. Info on primary customers or users of the product, so features and benefits are put in context."

In addition to these best practices, turn to page 10 to read more about the findings' implications in a column written by Larry Parnell, director/associate professor of the Masters in Strategic Public Relations Program at The George Washington University.