Mission Impossible? Fewer Than 8 Percent of Pitches Become Stories

newspapers lined up

No matter how many surveys we see about media relations trends, something always seems to attract our attention. For example, a new survey estimates that fewer than 8 percent of pitches hit pay dirt, resulting in a published article.

Propel's survey of some 1.2 million pitches sent during the past 12 months pegs the 8 percent mark to pitches from a trio of top PR agencies. So, these top performers are achieving success about 8 percent of the time. The success rate for pitches from all media relations pros is "likely much lower," a Propel executive tells us.

Another uncomfortable statistic: Propel found journalists respond to just a bit more than 3 percent of pitches. So, on average, it takes about 30 pitches to journalists to result in a response.

Still, there are ways to connect pitches with journalists. For example, the survey shows the witching hour is 11 a.m. local time, since the largest percentage of pitches are opened at that time.

And some good news: 35 percent of journalists open pitches within one minute of receiving them. And most open pitches within the first 30 minutes.

The survey shows reporters open the most media pitches between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. In addition, they open more pitches in the afternoon than early in the morning. And some 82 percent of opens occur within the first four hours of the pitch being sent. (There are some great charts illustrating all this included in the survey, by the way).

Some Good News for PR Pros

The good news for media relations pros is that they’re basically on target with pitching times. They’re sending the majority of their pitches at 9 a.m. local time, which means they’re available during the peak open-rate of 10 a.m.-11 a.m. On the other hand, knowing that, perhaps wait till after 9 to send a pitch, lest it gets buried at the bottom of the email pile.

Zoom in for Your Interview

Should one of your pitches connect with a local TV journalist, don’t fret if you can't produce an in-studio interview with your company's spokesperson or thought leader . Zoom or other virtual platforms will do fine, a survey from D S Simon Media shows.

Nearly all (85 percent) of local TV news producers plan to continue using Zoom for interviews, the survey says. Actually, they prefer spokespeople not come to the studio. The survey shows 93 percent of local TV producers are open to interviews from homes, offices or on location.

And once you've secured the interview, there's likely plenty to discuss, especially when it comes to crisis. The Institute for Crisis Management’s (ICM) new survey, which tracks news stories about a variety of crises, found volume in 2020 jumped by more than 1 million stories vs 2019. It tracked a record 1.7 million crisis stories in 2020. The pandemic accounted for 615,000 of them.

Crisis stories related to discrimination nearly doubled in 2020, mostly owing to the murder of George Floyd. Whistleblower stories were up three-fold vs 2019. Mismanagement stories fell to a 30-year low. With so many people WFH, workplace sexual harassment stories dropped four percent vs. 2020.

Staking Out Stakeholders

Loyal readers of this site know we appreciate surveys that dig into common-sense thinking. For example, we hear much about the importance of stakeholders. ‘Communicators need to keep stakeholders in mind when crafting messages and strategy.’ But go deeper. Are all of a company's stakeholders equal? What if the company is a multinational? Are stakeholders from some countries more important than from others? Hold that thought.

Another phrase we hear a lot: ‘Companies need to consider more than their bottom lines. They should be good citizens.’ OK, does that mean companies sometimes should sacrifice profits for the good of society, for example?

A new survey from Weber Shandwick’s Geopolitical Strategy & Risk Group and KRC Research of 1,217 multinational executives from 12 countries seems to confirm the home field advantage still exists.

For example, a small majority (58 percent) says a company’s home country is a “very” important stakeholder. Only customers (63 percent) and shareholders (also 63 percent) rate higher.

The home country is no longer “an unspoken stakeholder,” Michelle Giuda, a Weber Shandwick EVP, says in the study.

Globalism vs Nationalism

Now, to questions about stakeholder capitalism and doing good and profits. Fifty-six percent say national security is “very” important in decision-making. In fact, it’s more important than doing good. For example, it tops diversity & inclusion, protecting human rights and climate change. And, 88 percent say governments and citizens in their home countries “expect them to take the national interest into account in their business decisions,” Guida tells Fortune’s Alan Murray.

On the other hand, there’s wiggle room. A large majority, 82 percent, say the home country’s national security sometimes is more important than company profits. Yet 82 percent also say companies must consider their own interests regardless of national concerns.

These are not theoretical concerns. Nearly 90 percent agree, and 44 percent agree “strongly,” that companies should prepare to take public stands on global issues during the next five years.

Overcoming Survey Fatigue

Finally, surveys are proliferating during the pandemic. One reason is that companies are attempting to connect more with employees, so internal surveys abound. Employees, though, may contract survey fatigue when asked to complete yet another questionnaire from HR. Maybe not.

McKinsey found when employees have reasonable hope that their employer will act on survey results, they’re glad to participate.

An important note for PR pros is the role of communication. When staff “had not seen any communications or action as a result of previous surveys,” they were more likely to experience survey fatigue, McKinsey says.

Fortunately, the opposite holds. When organizations communicate about survey results and how they're acting on them, "research suggested that employees were much more likely to participate in future surveys—and even respond more favorably.”

Seth Arenstein is editor of PRNEWS and Crisis Insider. Follow him: @skarenstein