'PR pros don't understand what a story is', say majority of journalists

The biggest gripes journalists have with PR professionals have been revealed in a new piece of research by broadcast specialist agency ON-Broadcast.

The agency conducted a qualitative survey of journalists working for broadcast outlets, national daily and Sunday newspapers, including BBC News, ITV News and Sky News.

It found nearly two thirds (64 per cent) of journalists think that PR professionals ‘don’t understand what a story is’.

Other complaints include: PR professionals who ‘don’t understand my media title' (62 per cent)’, ‘they try to tell me what a story is' (54 per cent), ‘they don’t provide full contact details including phone number’ (48 per cent), and ‘they put unnecessary embargoes on stories' (44 per cent).

Hacks were also asked where they found stories in 2019. About four in five journalists (78 per cent) said found stories on social media, followed by personal contacts (68 per cent), press releases (60 per cent), other media (50 per cent) and ring-ins from the public (42 per cent).

In addition, most journalists (94 per cent) agreed the press release is still a recognised source for stories, although the ideal length should be on average 18 paragraphs long.

Charlotte McConkey, director at ON-Broadcast, said: "The challenge for PRs is to recognise how vital social media platforms are when it comes to generating stories, news and content for traditional media, and understand the relationship between both in terms of the news cycle.

"A similar challenge, which also goes to the heart of PR, is selling-in stories to media. While three quarters of journalists say they prefer email contact, there is still no magic sell-in formula – and the best PRs know they need to adopt various approaches to land that all-important branded client coverage," she said.

Exactly half of those quizzed say it is either important or very important to receive video/b-roll content as part of a package pitched by PR professionals.

Celebrity endorsement as part of a PR campaign remains popular, with 40 per cent saying they are more likely to use video content pitched to their news organisation if it involves a famous face.

When considering an interview with an opinion leader, one in five said they prefer a female spokesperson, with the preference for female guests particularly strong among radio journalists.

McConkey added: "The more you can give journalists what they want, the better your chances of that all-important coverage."

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