As we continue to navigate a COVID-impacted economy every industry has experienced radical shifts in how business gets done, and journalism is no different.  If you haven’t retooled your approach to media relations in 2021 you may find that old strategies aren’t paying off.

Our media analytics partner, Muck Rack, does an annual State of PR survey of PR professionals and a State of Journalism survey of journalists. This year’s results, including insights from more than 1,600 PR professionals and 2,400 journalists, had some findings that we certainly relate to, as well as actionable insights. The full findings are available from Muck Rack, and here are four key points that are currently informing our work.

Media focus has radically shifted

Eighty-four percent of journalists said some or all of their reporting has pivoted to angles related to COVID-19. Not surprisingly, PR professionals report that the top challenge during the pandemic has been getting coverage in the news cycle and finding relevant pitch angles. We have witnessed the same and made it a top priority to pivot our media strategies and counsel clients on how to stay relevant to journalists.

We’re proud that many of our clients have emerged as helpful thought leaders discussing trends or valuable paths forward post-Covid in their respective industries. (For instance, our client Blackhawk Network spoke with CNBC about how gift cards could help retailers through a mid-pandemic holiday season; our client Meta Payments spoke with Digital Transactions about how fintechs could boost their apps during Covid; and we swept a Tearsheet trend article on post-Covid 2021 predictions for payments with thought leadership from an impressive lineup of our clients including Netspend, Galileo and Arroweye.)

Competition for media attention is fierce, but journalists also rely on PR pros

Journalists surveyed by Muck Rack say they currently receive 5-25 pitches per week. (Anecdotally, we’ve heard the numbers are much higher for the media segments that we work with most frequently.) They also report that the main reasons they reject pitches are lack of personalization and bad timing. (We also know this to be true; long gone are the days of generic pitch emails. Media pitching requires a careful, personalized touch.)

And even though not every pitch gets used, the good news is that most journalists report relying on PR professionals to inform their stories. In fact, only 19% of media responded that none of their stories originate from PR pitches. We have found that the partnership between journalists and PR teams is one based on mutual respect. When we show up with helpful, personalized, newsworthy information and thought leaders – versus blindly pitching stories that sound like advertisements – we are able to build fruitful, long-lasting relationships with the press.

The influence of social media continues to rise

It has never been more critical for brands to show up thoughtfully on social media. An amazing 86% of journalists reported that they consult a company’s social media when reporting on it. Twitter remains the most valuable social media platform to media, and the one they expect to use more this year. And aside from PR pros pitching and engaging with reporters on social media, it can also be beneficial to media relations efforts to share earned media on your brand’s social pages. More than half of journalists (62%) report checking how many times their stories are shared on social.

Media outlets continue to diversify

According to PR pros surveyed, the most common types of media to pitch are online, newspapers, magazines, and TV – but podcasts and newsletters are on the rise. The evolution of the media landscape is something we constantly keep a finger on. We’ve found the rise of podcasts and newsletters to provide exciting new avenues for reaching desired audiences, and podcasts in particular allow for lengthier, deeper conversations. In the last year we have enjoyed working with a number of podcasts and newsletters, including the Digiday Podcast, the Tearsheet Podcast and the Fintech Focus and Payments Dive newsletters. (We have also published thoughts on how to successfully create your own newsletter.)

If there’s one constant in PR and media, it’s change. And the last year brought more rapid change than any of us have seen before. However, Muck Rack’s surveys identify the many strong synergies between the media and PR pros today. Here at The Fletcher Group, we’ve never been more invigorated for what lies ahead, and the meaningful, valuable effects that strong media relations can have on our clients’ business objectives.

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