Opinion

‘Don’t call us’: Why PRs should stop calling editors and journalists

The media has been forced to change in recent years, but businesses have been slower to see that the way they communicated just two years ago isn't going to fly in today's landscape. Media Stable's Nic Hayes explains why you need to put down the phone if you want your message to reach the media.

The media has gone through significant change in the past 12 months, across print, radio, television and online. Cutbacks both in financial resources and human personnel have taken a toll on the industry and changed the way they broadcast and publish. A lower head count affects the way media sources content and stories. I am afraid to say that this isn’t the end of the cull that is going on in the media sector. There will be more to come.

Producers, journalists, editors and presenters have changed their practices to adapt to this new environment. The real question though is this: have businesses and brands changed the way they approach the media in this new environment? Media hasn’t had a choice but to change, but business has been slower to see that the way they communicated to media just two years ago, isn’t going to fly in today’s landscape.

A recent Media Stable survey of over 130 journalists across the country asked those in print, radio, television and online how they liked to receive content and story pitches.

Less than 1% of media prefer a phone call as their first point of contact for a story pitch. They are emphatic – they do not want you to call them in the first instance. 27% of the media surveyed were satisfied with the humble one-page media release – which has dropped in popularity in recent years. But the day of the media release is not over yet. 41% of media want a short but direct email with concise details of the interviewee plus a follow-up call. And 23% of media surveyed liked their pitch to come from a trusted source who knows their audience and what they are looking for.

64% of media like a targeted pitch from a trusted source, which is not surprising in this chaotic and busy world. There is very little tolerance for irrelevant content sent through to media outlets en masse. 36% of journalists surveyed stated their greatest frustration around media releases is that the story or pitch is completely irrelevant to their audience. Another 18% are frustrated around the impersonal aspects of the releases and 18% are frustrated with the failure of media releases to quickly get to the point.

It is clear from the survey that journalists value the source of their content. Was it from a trusted source? Was it quality content? Did they deliver consistently? A quality yarn and story won out over a trusted content source by a slim margin, 36% and 34% respectively. Consistently delivering high-quality content rated highly with journalists and media (22% value this), proving that once you have delivered a couple of quality stories to media, you can become their go-to person for yarns.

You could be forgiven for thinking things were looking a little miserable for the media release at this point, but actually it isn’t time to ring the death knell just yet. When the media was asked how they rated the usefulness and effectiveness of media releases, over 80% of media surveyed rate them useful. Of that 80%, 30% rate media releases very useful and access them daily and the other 50% use media releases frequently through the week. 13% don’t find them useful but occasionally use them and a stoic 7% claim they have never used a media release.

The key message from media to all business is to be strategic and make sure your approach and your pitch is properly targeted. If you don’t have the opportunity or the time to become a trusted source for the media, find someone that can help you. A good PR today is worth their weight in GOLD a poor one can be devastating to the brand.

This survey highlights the pressure media is under and illustrates some of their frustrations, and it presents opportunities for people trying to get their message to cut through, but only if you deliver content the way the media wants it. The media release is not dead, the means and method of distribution though is heavily scrutinised. The media across all platforms want your content and they are telling us that they want the content delivered differently and uniquely to their requirements.

The media environment has changed and in response to that our processes, priorities, and methods of contact need to be adjusted. The media has always wanted quality, trusted content but now more than ever, the media want this above all else.

Nic Hayes is the managing director of Media Stable

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