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PR trends for 2020

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By Laura Merritt, AOE Special Projects Manager

After having worked in the communications field for more than 20 years, I thought I had seen just about everything. No level of experience has prepared any of us for what we are currently facing with COVID-19. This includes our friends in the media.

Considering just how much our world has changed over the last few months, Cision’s 2020 report on the State of the Media could not come at a better time.

We cannot turn on network TV, check our social media accounts or open our email without seeing the latest news and information (and sometimes misinformation) about the pandemic. COVID-19 has certainly dominated much of the content coming from media. It has also significantly impacted journalists who were already facing numerous challenges.

Cision’s report, based on a survey of more than 3,000 media professionals around the world, provides a window into the media landscape—how it continues to change, and the challenges journalists encounter. It also provides insights into how communicators can adjust their approach to media to ensure they are being heard above all the noise.

The changing landscape

Over the last few months much of the media focus has been, as one would expect, on the coronavirus. The public is looking to their trusted media sources for clear and factual information as they try to navigate the uncertainties brought on by the pandemic.

In addition to the new challenges related to the coronavirus—a constant barrage of new information, isolation and technology constraints—media professionals are also dealing with staff reductions, an increased workload, attacks on freedom of the press and less access to resources. By understanding the current media landscape and adapting PR strategies accordingly, communications professionals can develop stronger relationships with journalists and achieve greater results.

Getting to know them

The journalists surveyed offered some tips to increase the likelihood they will cover your story. Their first tip is to do your research. Get to know them, their outlets and their audience. Know their schedules including how many articles they publish each week and when they prefer to receive pitches; read their stories’ comment sections; look at their social media platforms; and note who is sharing their content. Getting to know them will help PR professionals create more thoughtful and relevant pitches that have a greater chance of being read.

Grabbing their attention

Timing can be everything. Reporters receive more pitches on Mondays than any other day of the week. So, you should avoid Mondays when pitching stories, right? Not necessarily. Those surveyed said they actually prefer to hear from us on Monday. They would also like to see more pitches on Fridays—a day PR professionals typically avoid.

Understanding the reporter’s timing preferences can increase the odds you will get his or her attention. Yet, according to the report, more than half of those surveyed said they get up to 50 pitches each week and 25 percent get between 51 and 100. How do you ensure your pitch will rise to the top? Here are some of their suggestions:

  • Make your email personal—address the recipient by name and, if possible, reference a recent story she or he published.
  • Ensure your recipients can see what the email is about before opening it. The subject line is crucial and can determine whether they open it or hit delete.
  • Assume they will write the story without further communication with you. Have you provided everything they need including images, links and the press release?
  • The pitch should be concise while including data and resources to give the recipients the ability to dig in for context and find a unique angle they can use.
  • Avoid coming across in the pitch as self-serving for the brand. Can your story idea link to a current trend or something the reporter may be writing about?

As one journalist offered, relate to journalists as people not as “receptacles.” Getting to know them, understanding their challenges and preferences, and communicating clearly and concisely leads to collaborative and mutually beneficial relationships. By working together journalists and communications professionals are creating content that benefits the journalists’ audiences, drives views and supports everyone’s objectives.

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