How Journalists Pick And Choose

According to a media survey by Wasabi Publicity and Dr. Jeanne Hurlbert, with the goal of better understanding what journalists are looking for when it comes to picking and choosing who and what to cover, 28.6% of respondents reported that they do not receive any phone call pitches on an average day, while 58% said that they receive between one and four. In the realm of client results, this translates to a personal touch such as a phone call pitch can put clients front and center for the media.

Traditional assumptions touted by many PR firms, such as the importance of having a book or the reliance on press releases, were put to the test with actual feedback from media members, with some surprising results.

Examining how much email journalists receive in a day, 47.5% were in the range of 100, 35.7% received 200, and 13.7% reported receiving 250 to 499 work related emails each day. With so much coming through their inboxes, how then do members of the media determine which leads to follow, asks the study.

When it comes to how journalists discover sources, social media and press releases were notably lower on their lists. Google came in as the top-ranking discovery choice at 20%, confirming that Google searches are considered by the media as a valid way to research and attain information.

  • A close second, pitches from sources came in at 18%, a highlight worth noting for PR teams that practice effective pitching strategies
  • Breaking news was third on the list
  • Followed by social media and finally press releases, which only 10.6% of respondents reported as a typical sourcing tool

Evaluating which sources are best for coverage, 77% of survey respondents specifically look for a source to be a recognized expert in their field. Traditional thought was that having written a book is a major determining factor here, says the report, but the journalists who responded to the survey reported that only 8.6% of them look for book authorship when evaluating a source.

Original research came second after the source being a recognized expert, by 49.4% of the respondents, and 34.5% said they look for sources to have well-developed media materials such as an online press kit. With approximately one in seven media members looking for a source with a press kit, the importance in the overall development of media materials should not be understated, opines the report.

The report concedes that, though the survey has some potential weaknesses (more than two thirds of the respondents were female, and 50% were between the ages of 45 and 64, notably missing a large representation by millennials) it is an interesting peek under the hood of what goes into finding and vetting sources for media coverage. The value of personal connection when it comes to pitching stands out as a marked result, as does the need to be viewed as a recognized expert in terms of source credibility.

Social media ranked as slightly important overall, contributing to the overall picture of what media members are examining, but it will come as a surprise to many that neither social media nor book authorship nor press releases are as prioritized as traditional PR. Concluding, the report suggests that for those seeking results-driven engagement with the media, the survey provides an excellent starting point for considering best processes moving forward.

For access to the PDF file from Wasabi, please visit here.


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