Social media, source credibility and sharable stories – how the journalism industry is evolving

As PR pros, a lot of our job relies heavily on our ability to understand the journalist’s mind, their objectives, and how to get their attention – the essential ingredients to translate outreach into coverage for client PR and marketing campaigns.

In Muck Rack’s The State of Journalism 2022 report, over 2,000 journalists were surveyed to find out what is changing on the ground in journalism, and we are starting to see some trends that could impact how PR pros and journalists work together in the future.

Here’s a breakdown of the top journalism trends to look out for in your media strategies.

COVID? Who’s she?!

When asked about the current impact of COVID-19 in their work, there was a decline in the number of journalists reporting an impact compared to one year ago. The number of journalists covering more stories about the pandemic and health-related issues has decreased, suggesting that the media is finally getting tired of the same-old COVID stories.

Even at the beginning of this year, I personally received a comment from a journalist asking for no more COVID-related stories! This is the beginning of the end for the pandemic’s reign over our news – journalists have spoken and it’s time for PR and marketing pros to find a fresh news hook to entice them with.

Social media on the upward curve, but maybe not in the way you think!

Journalists value social media platforms, including Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Reddit and TikTok more – and they plan to spend more time on LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube. What you put out there on social media counts and journalists will be taking note. So, what do they use these platforms for?

The survey uncovered many different ways social media influence is growing within the journalism industry. Some 60% of journalists consult a company’s social media in their reporting – a marginal increase from 58% last year but an increase is not to be ignored, so make sure your company is up to date and performing well on social media across the channels – we recently wrote a piece here on the growing value of TikTok.

Social media is starting to find a new role within the journalism industry as a research tool. Online news sources are still the primary source of news gathering for journalists with 57% using it as their go to source, but Muck Rack found that Twitter is now the second most popular place for journalists to go for news. The number of journalists who turn to Twitter for news updates is still low but increased from 16% last year to 18% this year. This suggests that the credibility versus the convenience of Twitter as either a source or early warning on breaking stories is on the rise but has some way to go to achieve the status of online news sources.

Social channels can be a great place to get key information to relevant journalists – but proceed with caution. As covered in our recent breakdown of Cision’s Global State of the Media Report, it’s tempting to network with active journalist on social media but traditional outreach rules still remain – 20% of journalists use social media to publish/promote content but only 5% use it to receive pitches. PR pros will have better success using social platforms to provide clues on key topics journalists are covering. With a better gauge of a journalist’s likes and dislikes, communication pros can take the next step to create targeted pitches.

Relatability vs credibility: Who do journalists trust as a good source – CEOs take note!

So, who do journalists view as a credible source? This year, less journalists reported viewing CEOs and PR pros as credible sources compared to last year, from 74% to 66% and 55% to 50% respectively. Balance this with the fact that there has been an increase in journalists who find social media personalities and celebrity spokespeople credible, suggesting their relatability and appeal to target audiences is starting to win journalists over.

Celebrities may have their appeal, but academic subject matter experts still remain the most trusted source for journalists – they top the list with 84% – and it’s not all over for industry experts too! Remember, journalists write about companies they trust, and within the realms of B2B PR, industry experts with a deep level of knowledge and experience can win over the highest level of journalist trust and approval. Our recent outreach is proof of this! Just last month, we fielded two requests from top tier trade and tech journalists asking whether our established industry experts could provide comments on production challenges and how new legislative action would impact the manufacturing industry.

Shifting tides in journalist workloads and workflows

One of the leading reasons for journalists to reject pitches was due to lack of personalization and irrelevant and off-topic content. Journalists are now covering more beats and are publishing more articles this year than ever before. The frequency and breadth of journalist work has increased workloads, decreased lead times, and ramped up the pressure. They are increasingly stretched over a broader range of topics, so there is a greater need for more concise, precise, and specialist sources for their content.

PR pros should focus on targeted content in their pitching efforts to provide journalists with the most relevant and easy to use content – which will give PR pros and their clients the best chance to be published.

This is just the beginning…

The trends covered may seem like small changes over the span of a year, but they are just the start of larger trends that will play out in the long-run. The direction of the journalism industry is undergoing a dramatic change and we are only just starting to see the impact of these shifts. PR pros and marketing managers need to ensure they stay on top of these changes and adapt their strategies accordingly to make the most out of their media relations.

Elizabeth Quinlan is PR Executive at IBA International.

Leave a comment