Earlier this year, mononews commissioned an infographic outlining key findings about the use of press releases among journalists. As this information was primarily based on U.S. data, we decided there was a need to poll our own Canadian journalists to understand what, if any, differences there might be.
So, mononews, PR in Canada and the Canadian Journalists Association, sent a questionnaire to more than 7,000 journalists to acquire an up-to-date understanding of their habits and preferences around press releases/pitches and their on-line activity. We learned that while there was a consistency with the U.S. findings, the actual results were generally more definitive in Canada compared to those reported for the U.S. journalists.
Journalists are overall satisfied with, and appear to be well served by, communications activity in Canada in terms of the “how”, “when” and “where”, they receive news, pitches and press releases. The issue seems to be more with the “what” and “why”.
In summary, the survey results indicated that 66% of the participating reporters use press releases at least once a week. Specifically, 42% use releases “Very Often” (more than twice a week) and 24 % use them “Often” (at least once a week).
95% of the respondents indicated their preference is to receive pitches and press releases by e-mail. This, compared to the 84% of their American colleagues reported in the State of Journalism in 2011 Oriella PR Network Digital Journalism Study, is a significant difference.
Reporters attributed their preference to receive news or pitches by e-mail to the following reasons: 1. e-mails are time-saving, efficient, convenient; 2. e-mail allows for easy filtering of information; and, 3. receiving news releases or pitches by e-mail permits organization or filing of information.
The majority of Canadian journalists confirm that having access to background information (84%) and images (74%) is important/very important – making it good practice to include both when sending a press release.
On the plus side
There is general satisfaction with the ease of reaching the PR contact for additional information (77 % – Always easy/Usually Easy). Journalists also report being happy with the response time to get back to them when questions or information have been asked of the media contact (86% – Immediately to Within 24 hours).
The Main Reasons Your Press Release Won’t Get Picked Up
Canadian journalists responded that their biggest pet peeves with news stories and pitches they received are content-related.
1. A quarter (24%) of participating journalists say that their biggest pet peeve is that the information they receive is not relevant to their field.
With reporters handling ever-increasing workloads (78% of US journalists – 58% in Canada – state their workload has increased versus year ago, PR Week Media Survey 2010), they don’t have time to waste sifting through all the press releases and pitches received to find the ones that are appropriate for their readership. It’s just not productive.
The solution to making sure journalists receive the news that is relevant to them is to ensure press releases and pitches are well targeted according to subject matter. This can by done by organizing the reporters and editors on your media lists according to the category of news each individual covers and being selective in your distribution. The alternative is to engage a service that can create customized media lists by topic
2. One-fifth (20%) of survey participants responded the information they receive is too self-serving.
Press releases, like any content, must have value for the target audience. If the information contained in the news release conveys information that the company/organization/brand/product wants to share without establishing a clear understanding of how this information is necessary, helpful, useful or beneficial for the ultimate reader (the consumer), then the press release is satisfying internal needs, while missing those of the public the company is trying to reach.
Write your press release from the perspective of “what’s in it for our customer”. Answer the needs or requirements of your user franchise by providing educational information that can help them use your product or services, better, more often, longer or just simplify how they use it. Add value, make it about them.
3. 18% indicated there is no obvious hook for my readers.
Not only do you need to communicate what is compelling about your news for your target audience, you must be obvious about connecting the dots in order for them to get it. You need to couch your principal point in terms that are meaningful for the ultimate reader so that your main idea is easily understood.
Determine how your news most meaningfully corresponds to the needs and requirements of your users and focus on this. Does it solve a simple problem? Save time? Increase convenience? This is your key communication point – your hook. Build your release around this idea.
4. 11% answered, “The press release is not well written”.
Typos, spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, style issues or poor translations reduce the chance that your press release or pitch will be read all the way through, never mind used.
If you’re going to invest the time (and expense) to send out a news release, don’t neglect the basics. Have someone with good writing skills write, or at the very least edit, your text. Spell check and grammar check will not catch homophones (words that sound the same but are spelled differently), or telling mistakes like “your” versus “you’re”.
It’s obvious from the survey results that press releases and pitches are a valuable and well-used resource for Canadian journalists. In turn, we’ve been provided with valuable feedback on how to maximize and optimize this important tool.
Let’s give the journalists what they want! It’s the best interests of all.