Lifting the lid on this year’s State of the Media Report with content credibility, data visualization, and social media (with care)

We’re no stranger to Cision’s State of the Media reports – 2021 and 2022 refreshers here if anyone’s curious. But why do we revisit these year-on-year you ask? The Cision reports are a key PR and Marketing bellwether for industry changes and at IBA we always like to do our research and see how our experiences compare. We can then see if we need to adapt our strategies to the latest media demands.

So are there any insights in this year’s report?

Cision’s 14th annual State of the Media Report asked more than 3,000 journalists about their biggest challenges, how they see the industry evolving amid technological and societal shifts (hello, AI), and what it means for PR and comms professionals.

With our trusty fine-tooth comb at the ready, we pored over the annual report and here are our four key takeaways:

  1. Maintain the ring of truth to uphold content credibility

It comes as no surprise that maintaining credibility as a trusted news source/combating accusations of “fake news” is listed as the number one challenge facing journalists (27%) in 2023. We’ve all seen the impact that bogus news stories, deepfake videos, and AI-generated voice clones can have on media perceptions and the ripple effect on public trust in the media. For journalists, a commitment to accuracy in reporting will be a top priority with no excuses.

A lot of damage has been done to truthful reporting with ‘my truth’ often pitted against ‘the truth’. We all know that when it comes down to accurate reporting, you’re only as good as your source – and for this year’s journalists, newswires took the top spot (27%) as being the source most considered trustworthy for gathering or validating information. This was followed closely by industry experts (23%) and press releases (20%).

So, what key takeaway can PR and Marketing pros gain from this insight?

It’s up to PR and Marketing pros to build trust with journalist through strategic press releases and thought-leadership articles – and this all comes down to having credible SMEs and setting them up as reliable sources. If you can successfully set your client up as the go-to source for journalists, it can reap long-lasting rewards, especially when it comes to first picks for feature opportunities.

  1. “I see the numbers but what do they mean?” Data visualization matters!

Audience attention spans are shortening. It’s a trend we’ve seen across social media as shorter content and video clips become more popular – and journalists are having to navigate this need. Readers want to be presented with the facts quickly without having to troll through endless analysis – enter data visualization.

Almost 50% of journalists rely more on data this year to inform their editorial strategies. And guess what? The majority of journalists (68%) rely on the PR pros they partner with to provide data in the form of original research such as trends and market data. In fact, 37% of journalists said they won’t even consider covering a product unless the pitch includes data showing trends and problems the product is solving for their readers.

The State of the Media Report found that 43% of journalists have used data visualization in their work in the last year. Interestingly, the report also found that 34% of journalists included web polls or surveys in their content this past year – more than twice the number who said the same the year before (16%). It’s clear that more journalists seek to break down complicated data sets into digestible reports and are keen to turn research into content for their readers.

  1. Redefining ‘Social Journalism’

Last year’s report revealed that more journalists were jumping on the social media bandwagon but at IBA we were skeptical. We cautioned that social media platforms weren’t necessarily suitable channels for networking directly with those media contacts. We made the point that PR and Marketing pros will have better success using socials to signpost the key topics that journalists are covering – and surprise, surprise we’ve been proved right!

We’re now seeing social journalism trending but take care what it actually means for a journalist! A staggering 96% of journalists now use social media for work-related reasons but only 4% want to receive pitches on social media.

This year more journalists plan to increase their usage on LinkedIn and TikTok for content promotion (70%) and audience interaction in order to learn about new trends and topics (44%). LinkedIn has become the leading social media platform on which journalists plan to increase their usage the most in the coming year, with 20% planning to be more active and only 14% looking to reduce activity on the platform.

  1. A technology-first mindset is embraced with open arms but don’t overlook the human element

When asked what skills future journalists will need for success, many focused on the evolving technology of the industry – whether it’s AI, social media, or the data journalism we described above – and the importance of adjusting to and working with it.

You’re probably fed up with all the chat (pardon the pun) about the impact of AI, particular in the form of ChatGPT but there truly is no shying away from its widespread impact – the good, the bad, and the ugly! So PR and Marketing pros need to focus on what matters – the areas where AI technologies will never be able to compete: human creativity and connection.

Hyper-personalization is humanizing smart tech and it will be the saving grace of the AI charge in PR and Marketing – and it seems our journalists agree! When asked to complete the sentence “The next generation of journalists need to be …” a common response talked about the importance of the human touch. One response in particular noted that it’s time to focus “on finding original data and original perspectives. As AI does more of the actual writing, the journalists who succeed will be the ones who can do the human kinds of things like telling personal stories and finding original conclusions in data sets and data trends well”. Three cheers to that!

It pays off to put in the time and effort with media relationships

Yes, a pitch or press release can be well-crafted, backed up with reliable data but ultimately, the journalist, editor, or media outlet has the final say on if and how your client’s brand is presented, so it’s a relationship you want to protect at all costs!

Those PR and Marketing pros who have taken the time to invest in their relationships with the media and deliver on their individual needs will reap the biggest professional rewards.

Hannah Watson is a PR Account Executive at IBA International.

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