The Secret to Winning Media Coverage: Give Journalists What They Want: Insights from Cision’s 2024 Media Report

Jun 13, 2024

5 min

Peter Evans

The 2024 Cision State of the Media Report is jam-packed with all sorts of detailed PR info which can be somewhat overwhelming. But there's an important theme to be found in the data. Kudos to the team at Cision for running this survey that polled over 3,000 staff journalists and freelancers, which is now in its 15th year.

The big takeaway for me? Give journalists what they want. Sounds simple enough. Yet, with so many organizations competing for media attention amidst a sea of new AI-enabled platform hacks, many need to focus on the fundamentals of media relations, which this report nicely captures.

The media is inundated with pitches. So, the secret to success lies in understanding what jobs journalists have to do and giving them what they need to file their stories…fast.

According to the Cision 2024 survey, at the top of the journalists' wish list are:

  • Topical Relevance (68%): Understanding the target audience and what they find relevant.
  • Access to Experts (52%): Connecting journalists with experts and setting up interviews.
  • Credible Data and Research (48%): Providing data and key research.
  • Speed of Response (47%): Responding quickly to inquiries and respecting journalists’ deadlines.

In short, journalists want relevant pitches, expert connections, and credible data, and they want it ASAP so they can meet their deadlines. While the Cision report outlines many other best practices that will undoubtedly improve your coverage rate (such as helping journalists quickly source multimedia assets like images), I want to focus on the importance of nailing these first four rules.

Rule #1: Pitch Relevant Topics to Journalists

Irrelevant pitches not only waste a journalist's time but also damage your credibility. In fact, 77% of journalists in the Cision study cited being spammed with irrelevant pitches as a reason to block a PR professional or put them on the "do not call" list. The study also reported that journalists are "fed up" with follow-ups to unsolicited pitches. Now, only 8% of journalists think it's okay to follow up more than once to check on a story they have pitched.

Rule #2: Get Your Experts in Front of Journalists

Connecting with credible expert sources is time-consuming. Joint research conducted by ExpertFile and the Associated Press revealed it takes on average, over 2 hours for journalists to secure an expert source for an interview. We can do better than that. As a PR/Media Relations pro, one of your "superpowers" needs to be the ability to spot a story opportunity and get your subject matter experts lined up for the media interview. This is an area where journalists see comms and media pros playing a vital role inside the organization. But if your pitch "sounds like a marketing brochure" the Cision survey shows that 55% of journalists would add you to their naughty list. One of the best ways to avoid this trap and enrich your story is to bring experts and their unique, specialized knowledge to the interview. That means ensuring you are attributing the source of your blog posts to experts in your organization and including links to their expert profile in your pitch. Enclosing a link to an outdated, boring biography on your website or a LinkedIn profile that hasn't been updated since the Yankees last won the World Series (2009), won't score points with journalists.

Rule 3: Provide Journalists with Credible Data and Key Research

Providing this information not only supports your story but also builds trust. Ensure that your pitches include the latest research findings, statistics, and data from reputable sources within your institution. This evidence-based approach enhances the credibility of your pitches and increases the likelihood of them being picked up by the media. While primary data is best, if you are curating data from other sources, it's critical to cite sources and, ideally, create derivative insights that help the journalist look at the information in a fresh way. For example we have many economists on our ExpertFile network that provide insights regularly on data they didn't gather. But their ability to critically analyze economic data from trusted sources such as the US Census Bureau or the European Union and generate unique, often counterintuitive or provocative insights is what sets them apart from other experts.

Rule #4: Help Meet the Journalist's Deadline

Journalists often work under tight deadlines and timely responses from PR professionals. Our software has helped organizations handle thousands of media requests every year and if there is one thing we've learned, media is all about speed. If you are a "serious player" you need protocols and processes to quickly respond to media inquiries and get your expert sources lined up to provide the necessary information and insights to meet same-day deadlines. This shows journalists you respect their time and are a reliable source and you will be on speed dial for future stories.

Are You Pitching Effectively?

Here’s a few tough questions.  Answer truthfully.

Are You Personally Wasting Time Pitching? How much time do you spend pitching the media vs. responding to inbound media opportunities? Data from Propel Media shows 97% of media pitches fail. While journalists open approximately half of the pitches they receive they only respond to an average of 2.99% of the pitches. Yet the Cision data shows that it's not always your fault. Why? Well, unless you're a gifted psychic, you simply can't know for sure how a journalist is going to react to your pitch. That's why more media departments and their PR agencies are cutting back on spammy pitch activities and moving to more strategic activities that get more traction. With the extra time they save, they can focus on promoting their experts online where journalists are actively searching for credible sources. The result is more qualified inbound inquiries from journalists genuinely interested in interviewing your experts. And that means a lot less anxiety about meeting your media coverage targets.

Are You Wasting Journalists' Time? Is your newsroom or media relations page set up to allow journalists to quickly serve themselves 24x7? Can they easily search by specific topics to find an expert within seconds to help meet their deadlines? Or are you expecting them to email or call you for help. (hint: journalists don't have time for that kind of friction). Here's a nice example of how US-based health system, ChristianaCare makes their medical experts available to journalists round the clock while saving hundreds of hours a year for their Comms and Digital team.

I'd love to hear more about how you are helping journalists and how that's paying off with increased media coverage. Let me know in the comments below or connect/follow me on LinkedIn or on ExpertFile.

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Peter Evans

Peter Evans

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