State of Media Today: Key Takeaways from Cision and Muck Rack

Journalists taking notes
Photo courtesy of Unsplash

By: Robin Carr

When all goes well, the working relationship between a public relations professional and a journalist is something to be admired. It helps to know what the other party is up against, including the challenges, expectations, limitations and objectives that make up the business experience.

Cision and Muck Rack recently conducted exhaustive surveys of journalists on the state of their business, affording us a welcome and rare opportunity to better get to know the folks we’re dealing with daily. The more we understand journalists and relate to them, the better it is for them and us.

Muck Rack surveyed some 2,547 journalists in the study, just over half of them in the U.S. Cision collected responses from 3,890 in 17 markets across the globe.

Looking at the answers, the best place to begin is to understand what’s changing for journalists. The profession is under ever-increasing pressure to understand how its work will attract an audience and drive engagement under a burgeoning workload.

The average journalist covers four beats. About 30 percent of journalists file ten or more stories weekly, and many more file from four to nine stories weekly.

An even 60 percent of journalists who responded said their relationship with PR pros is mutually beneficial. Few expressed the relationship as “antagonistic,” and even fewer said the relationship is “a necessary evil.”

Pitching remains a topic that fosters some strong reactions among the journalists in the survey. Pitches that are poorly timed, impersonal,  confusing or lengthy will continue to be ignored. The studies showed that emails that are one-to-one are still the best pitches, but the popularity of pitching by phone rose in this year’s study over last year’s numbers.

We should note that half of the journalists surveyed receive up to five pitches daily – or as many as 25 a week. Also, most journalists prefer to receive pitches early in the workday, at least by noon.

And shorter is better. Nearly 70 percent of journalists prefer pitches of less than 200 words. Almost all the journalists surveyed said at least one follow-up email is acceptable, and follow-ups are OK within a week of the initial email.

Almost 80 percent of the journalists surveyed said they are more likely to cover a story if it’s exclusive to them.

The numbers also indicated that CEOs and company representatives are less credible sources for reporting than they were a year ago.

Taking note of the many and varied queries and responses in the Cision and Muck Rack studies, a great deal of ground was covered.

Here are samples of some of the rest of the highlights that stood out in the surveys:

  • The fight against “fake news” was the biggest challenge for journalism in the last year.
  • Over the last year, more than half of the journalists felt the public had lost trust in the media – an increase of four percent from last year.
  • Cision respondents said Facebook is the most used platform for professional reasons, followed by Twitter. Muck Rack’s study said the most valuable social network for journalists was Twitter, then Facebook.
  • What makes a story shareable is a subject connected to a trending story and/or contains an image or an infographic.
  • Sports and food & dining journalists are less likely to cover a virtual event. And 64 percent of journalists prefer Zoom for virtual events.
  • The biggest stressors related to work: one respondent said: “Maintaining personal morale/energy.”
  • Press releases are still one of the most powerful ways to get your message in front of the right journalists.
  • The top answer to “what can PR pros do to make the journalist’s job easier?”: Understand my target audience and what I find relevant. The worst thing a PR pro can do is spam with irrelevant pitches and pitches that sound like marketing brochures.
  • Among the Top 10 events journalists plan to cover in 2022, No. 1 was COP26, the climate change conference. Comic-Con was No. 5.
  • Almost 60 percent of the respondents were optimistic about their profession – the third consecutive yearly increase.

Related Sources:

PEW Research Center

Full Cision Report

Muck Rack State of Journalism Report