Is Digital Media Changing PR’s Role in News-Gathering?

August 18th, 2010
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The Oriella PR Network issued their 2010 Digital Journalism Study recently. The survey consisted of 770 journalists across 15 countries, and is used to find out how digital media has changed the nature of news-gathering. In reviewing this study, I naturally paid the most attention to those items that directly affect public relations and media relations practitioners. 

For example, according to the report, “interest in traditional news content remains healthy.”  Results showed:

  • 75 percent of journalists surveyed indicated they like to receive emailed press releases, and
  • 52 percent want to receive still photography.

Interestingly, demand for social media news releases (SMNRs), chosen by 19 percent of journalists in 2008’s survey, and 15 percent in 2009, has leveled off at 16 percent in 2010.  

  • Video content has fallen to 27.5 percent from 35 percent.
  • Audio / podcasts have fallen to 15 percent from 19 percent.

The report notes it is possible that these declines may be due to the fact that publications have the capabilities to produce their own multi-media content now. Previously they were more reliant on content from third parties.

Considering the international reach of this survey, I was curious if our own U.S.-based media followed suit. I set-up a (very un-scientific) three-question survey on PollDaddy and asked my Twitter and LinkedIn journalist connections to respond. There were only a handful of responses, but the poll answered my question.

  • 85 percent of journalists who responded to my survey indicated they prefer to be contacted via email. 
  • 44 percent said it was okay to contact via Twitter, but keep in mind that I posted the survey on Twitter and LinkedIn so the journos that responded are those that are on social networking sites – be wary of assuming this is true across the board.
  • 67 percent want to receive hi-res photos with press releases.
  • 55 percent would like to see supporting documents (such as backgrounders, bios, fact sheets, etc.) and/or attributable quotes. 

When I asked for additional comments, one respondent replied, “I wish press releases had original quotes instead of marketing-speak.”  Another responded, “Short, sweet and to the point. Make it catchy. Make it actually newsworthy. Make it interesting. And don’t send something that’s happening that day. Timing is EVERYTHING.”

Jessica Pupillo, freelance writer and editorial director for St. Louis Sprout & About, opined: “Put the news release headline in the subject line of an e-mail. Also put the text of the release in the body of the e-mail, and ALWAYS include copies of the release and access to photos on your online press room. Include a phone number where you can be reached during reasonable hours (7 a.m. to 9 p.m.). If you don’t answer your phone when I call, I may just skip your news.”

The author of the Digital Journalism Study results report surmised, “Time pressures remain – it is down [sic] to the PR community to facilitate access to relevant stories so they can turn it into a compelling story as efficiently as possible.” And, goes so far as to state, “While the communications landscape has become increasingly complex, journalists continue to rely on PR professionals to address the basics of news gathering in the content they produce. Communicators that overlook this essential need do so at their peril.”

If you’re a media professional, do you agree with the survey findings published in the Digital Journalism study or from my poll? What do you wish public relations professionals would do better? If you’re in PR or media relations, how are you tailoring your strategy to meet the changing needs of journalists? Please share your thoughts with me and the readers of BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas.

8 Responses to “Is Digital Media Changing PR’s Role in News-Gathering?”

  1. Marlene Franklin says:

    Interesting article and survey.

  2. Yes, I think what’s interesting is comparing year-to-year and the changes that occur. If you’re interested in reviewing the entire survey, it’s available for download at Oriella PR’s website.

  3. I’m somewhat surprised that interest in social media press releases and video content has dropped. However, thinking about it for a moment, perhaps that’s because traditional newsroom journalists still just want the basic facts. If the story isn’t in the headline or first few sentences of your pitch/release, then you’re not going to convince them via other bells & whistles. That said, I think it’s still tremendously important for PR pros to consider producing online-friendly content for some news. It seems to be more conducive encourage sharing online and is a good resource to point bloggers or other audiences back to if your organization doesn’t have a robust online news room.

  4. Carrie says:


    Thanks for doing this! It kind of confirmed what I suspected, so it’s really nice to know I was on the right track (or maybe I was slow to catch up and now it’s all finally calming down a little and we’re coming to an even playing field).


  5. Kellie, I think you may be onto something. Traditional journalists are accustomed to looking at an AP-style news release – they know where to quickly look to see if the story interests them or ties into something they are working on. I completely agree with you that PR pros are producing content not just for the press anymore, but also to a wider audience, and must take this into consideration. Thanks for reading and taking the time to share your thoughts!

  6. Carrie, with the rapidly shifting media landscape, I think we’re all “playing it by ear”! 🙂

  7. Ly Syin says:

    I found this interesting and I will keep it in mind when submitting press releases to journalist.

  8. Ly, thanks for taking the time to comment. I just checked out some of the tips on your site and am now following you on Twitter.

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