29 January 2009
Annual Media Relations Practices Survey Reveals New Insight into Journalists' Jobs, Top Media Concerns, Colorful Comments about PR
When asked how the Internet has mostly impacted their work, over 2,300 editorial staffers responded. They willingly filled out multiple choice selections of the Journalist Survey on Media Relations Practices by Bulldog Reporter and TEKgroup International, Inc. They also disclosed a few opinions—both positive and negative.

I enjoy reading these sometimes colorful comments—after all, the respondents are writers. I also believe that heeding reporter frustrations is a wise exercise for all public relations professionals. After noting my naturally favorite comment—"more online newsrooms, please"—I found myself amazed at one that stated, "PR women talk in high pitched voices and speak way too fast!" I can only imagine the incident that spurred that expression. I'm sure there's a good story behind it.

The rest of the comments weren't as humorous, or offensive, depending upon your perspective. However, they did relay concerns about convenience, contacts and content.

Concern #1: Convenience

So far, nothing beats the convenience that research can be done around the clock. This remains the greatest change affecting journalistic exploration. Different deadlines mean different work schedules. While some are happy that they can now "research any topic 24/7" or have a "24-hour news cycle in terms of filing stories," others squawk that "I now must be on deadline 24 hours a day," or "deadlines have been abolished" because "[they] now are every minute, not once a day."

The availability of the Internet also plays into location, resulting in those who "can now work from home" or "3000 miles from my office," and "search the Internet via my phone." Others simply enjoy a better environment since "my desk is MUCH cleaner!"

Timing and "competition for readers from the Web" are factors, due to the need for "much more immediacy" and "availability of news and information." "It is now very important for us to post our stories online first, and then in print," and "I reach a wider audience using my own blog and digital edition."

"Ill-timed calls" are still something "PR people have not figured out yet and it is very frustrating." "I don't mind the calls but not when I'm on deadline," and don't "call me too late . . . understand that when something is available to the public online, that is when it is news."

Concern #2: Contact

Almost as important as convenience is ease of contact access and exchange, whether it pertains to a journalist connecting with the public relations professional or vice versa. Some journalists "can reach anyone any time," while others can "conduct interviews online (email, etc.)," getting "full answers to questions in writing quickly."

As usual, quality over quantity is desired as some journalists believe "[public relations professionals] send too much irrelevant email" or "send pitches that have nothing to do with my beat." One journalist states, "I do my research. Why don't PR folks do theirs?" "I work in Columbus, Ga. I cannot tell you how often I get calls from PR people who just assume the only Columbus in the U.S. is in Ohio."

Presentation is also important. "Long, poorly written emails and releases" are unwelcome. Public relations professionals should "be succinct in email subjects and "put the news at the very top of the email so I can see it quickly and decide if it is something I can use," one journalist asserts.

Concern #3: Content

As is said by many, content is king. Journalists delight that they have "greater access to sundry information" such as "graphics, pdfs, jpgs, etc." One journalist "can often get photos to illustrate a story from corporate web sites, which is days more efficient than calling someone. I also don't need to rely on phone calls and paper press kits to check names, locations, and spellings." Unfortunately, "I'm [now] much more responsible for the editorial process (finding art, copyediting, etc.)" and "some do not understand the meaning of high-resolution photographs. I have spent countless hours trying to explain to PR people why I can't reproduce a 72KB photograph grabbed from a web page."

Specific material such as "background research," "team and league logos" and "government records online" including "access to court records and dockets" is "a lot easier to get," and "because of Google, I can now find information through my own enterprise, without having to rely on PR people. That includes information from customers, via blogs and message boards." On the downside, "I have to read blogs all the time to keep up with what is going on."

Along with enhancing search engine optimization, "hyperlinks help show context. I know it sounds simple, but it adds a new dimension to stories. In print media we had to either explain everything or take things for granted." Other implications of the Internet on research encompass the "difference between underemployment at a daily newspaper and a full-time job."

So, heed the voice of your audience. The Journalist Survey on Media Relations Practices Executive Summary illustrates how the Internet has influenced reporting investigation and analysis. It is available on www.tekgroup.com.


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