As published in Daily 'Dog, January 29, 2008
Bulldog Reporter and TEKgroup International recently collaborated to delve further into the effects of the Internet on journalists' research tactics. Born out of this partnership was the inaugural Journalist Survey on Media Relations Practices Executive Summary. Feedback from over 2,000 pressmen was released at the recent PRSA International conference and can be reviewed here.
While the standard multiple choice answers are a means to an end, my favorite part of reviewing survey results is reading the freely given remarks. These usually aren't included in the published version, but can provide enlightenment into the true mindset on a subject. Comments left in the Media Relations Practices survey suggest a mixed appreciation for Web technology. Here's a quick overview of the key trends we found and what they mean to people in PR:
• Immediate gratification: Based upon the survey results, immediate gratification continues to be a strong force of human nature. The ability to research corporate and other news 24 hours a day from any location was one of the more important points declared from the survey, except for the younger reporters who "can't work without email." They see no changes because "all of this has been available as long as I've been a working journalist."
Veterans, on the other hand, who "cut my teeth on pen, notepad and manual typewriter," exclaim that "Internet technology has made my job much more enjoyable." The ability to "report from the field more often" and have "research capabilities far greater than when I entered the business" show their appreciation for the business tool.
Quick access to company spokespeople is also favored, since journalists can "avoid telephone tag" and "conduct interviews via email," or "contact sources/PR professionals via their hand-held devices (Blackberry, etc.)." Some like to be able to "research around the PR contact," or access background information "without having to speak to someone on the phone." Others just don't want to "wait two weeks for a PR rep to call me back."
Another major point derived from the survey is that most journalists expect to receive their news via email alerts generated from the online newsroom. It's a more targeted, active and real-time process, and dramatically cuts the time journalists spend researching. According to one journalist, "email blasts to multiple sources make it a lot easier to get what I need quickly."
• Boundless deadlines: Although immediacy is welcomed, it creates strain. "I can publish breaking news any time to the Web. This is going to be our biggest change, and our biggest challenge," wrote one journalist. Deadline pressure is felt in the form of timing and duration since "stories are ‘old' after less than an hour." Some "must now make sure content is available online—and instantly."
With the constant accessibility of the Internet, sometimes a deadline never really ends. One journalist grumbles about how "PR people [are] trying to change what I'm writing 24 hours. It's as though there are no longer any deadlines past which change is impossible."
• Multiple tasks: Additional responsibilities are a concern with journalists who are "now working harder than ever before" with "blogging, writing, doing podcasts and videos," and who now have to "meet the daily needs of our website in addition to our weekly print publication." "Way more work!" asserted another journalist. "Keeping up with more information sources, [and] adding online content creation to my tasks."
• Social difference: Social media refers to online materials that engage the general public, interesting both consumer and journalist. When beneficial, an online newsroom should encompass social media tools and features such as a blog. Almost a third of journalists surveyed do not regularly read blogs for actual news, but nearly 70 percent do read one or more blogs, so we'll continue to see the use of blogs grow as a resource for journalists. One journalist, who understands the advantages of culling, uses the Internet to "navigate a large amount of information in order to come to the most logical and balanced assessment."
Social networking refers to sites that offer interactive chat, commenting and posting such as YouTube, Facebook and MySpace. If you think about how journalists are seeking relevant facts, you have to wonder if social networking sites produce a high percentage. Almost a third of journalists still do not use these sites. However, the subject matter that is being researched and how a source is actually used is what matters, especially for a journalist who states, "I cover colleges and universities and use Facebook and MySpace to contact students on a daily basis." Another journalist likes "using YouTube for non-copyrighted video."
Since over 60 percent of journalists surveyed do actually visit such social networking sites at least once a week, post your video and other multimedia if it is applicable. Make sure you also have it posted in, and linked to, your online newsroom. If it gets pulled from YouTube, journalists will still be able to access it, along with all of your other press materials. You'll increase the quantity and quality of your editorial coverage.
Above all, the Internet has indeed changed the way journalists research company news, from accessing basic background information to press release archives, high-resolution photographs, audio, video and crisis communications—all of which can be made available within your online newsroom.
Ibrey Woodall is the director of marketing/sales for TEKgroup International, Inc., providers of online newsrooms for the public relations industry. She is an active speaker at public relations conferences and contributor to public relations publications. She can be reached at 954-351-5554 x105 or Ibrey@tekgroup.com.