Journalists urge PRs to 'stop relentless chasing' amid COVID-19 crunch, study finds

Stretched journalists value good PR but have no time to respond to press releases and pitches they will not write about. They have urged PR practitioners to avoid follow-ups as the pandemic decimates newsrooms.

Under-resourced journalists say they are under greater pressure due to COVID-19 (Photo: Getty Images)
Under-resourced journalists say they are under greater pressure due to COVID-19 (Photo: Getty Images)

Nearly half (47 per cent) of journalists say they are “under more pressure than ever before” due to job cuts and publication closures during the pandemic.

A new study by Perspectus Global that polled 120 journalists in the UK found 54 per cent will not reply to emails that are not useful, and a similar proportion (52 per cent) warn against being “relentlessly chased” by PR pros. About half of reporters do not want to receive phone calls from a PR practitioner unless they have previously established a working relationship.

These results underline the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic on newsrooms across the country. Nearly a third (31 per cent) of UK journalists admit they are sourcing more stories from social media due to being understaffed and 38 per cent claim they are under more pressure to hit internal audience and engagement targets.

This means that good PR is still valued. Fifty per cent of respondents said PR-sourced content had become more useful during the pandemic, compared to 26 per cent who said it was less.

For those who said it was more helpful, 72 per cent admit to being so short-staffed that interesting, copy-ready PR stories are a huge help, while nearly half (48 per cent) claim that an editorially sound piece of content – whether it is consumer research, an expert, a brand partnership or exciting NPD – would help them hit editorial targets.

In terms of the content journalists are looking for, 41 per cent said the domination of news on the pandemic has led to virus fatigue from news consumers; 48 per cent said content that puts a smile on someone’s face, such as ‘and finally’ stories, are desirable PR content.

Nearly a third (31 per cent) of journalists believe there has been a backlash to stories based on science or experts.

However, four in 10 warned against ‘cynical attempts’ by brands to link content to the pandemic.

Perspectus Global associate director Ellie Glason said: “We wanted to find out how the pandemic had changed what news editors and writers are looking for in terms of content, and how PRs can be the most helpful during these challenging times.

"The results are clear: send relevant, copy-ready content to make journalists’ jobs easier – and help provide readers with sunny, light content, if appropriate, to cut through all the bad news.”

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