A 2021 survey of nearly 2,500 reporters shared their preferences for working with PR pros.  The average reporter covers three or more beats and nearly two-thirds (60%) have been journalists for 10 or more years.

Pitch Preferences

When asked about working with PR people:

  • 91% want pitches of less than 200 words
  • Monday is their favorite day to receive them
  • 86% are OK with a follow-up email within one week

Respondents to the MuckRack survey included 62% who were fulltime editorial writers or bloggers and 19% who were freelancers. The largest group (42%) wrote for online-only, 30% primarily report in print; 10% TV, 8% radio, 2% newsletter and 1% podcast.

These journalists are productive: 50% write five or more stories a week, while 31% write two to four stories/week. On the plus side, more than 60 percent reported writing 25% of their stories from pitches.

Reasons for Rejection

Their biggest reasons for rejecting “otherwise relevant” pitches in 2020 were:

  • Bad timing
  • Lack of personalization
  • Other

Those saying “other” wrote in comments including “irrelevant”, random and not localized, “which could be considered sub-sets of “Lack of Personalization,” the study authors wrote.

Two-thirds of respondents preferred to receive pitches between 5 am and 12 noon Eastern Time (34% from 5am to 9 am and 34% from 9 am to noon). Of course, Colorado journalists would be working in Mountain Time zone.

Sources of Information

More than half of journalists get their news from online newspapers or magazines, while 16% get their news from Twitter (down from 22% in last year’s survey.) A majority of respondents (58%) consult company’s social media:

  • Usually 45%
  • Always 13%
  • Sometimes 28%
  • Rarely 8%
  • Never 6%

Social Shares of Stories

It is clear journalists are under the gun to produce clicks, with many working online and others needing to show engagement: 62% track how many times their stories are shared on social media.

When asked, “what makes a story more shareable – select all that apply”:

  • 70% subject connects to a trending story
  • 64% contains an image or infographic
  • 59% exclusive and/or surprising data
  • 54% easily localized/made relevant to your target audience
  • 24% contains a video
  • 20% brevity
  • 9 % quotes from a company spokesperson

Credible Sources of Information

Journalists consider academics the most credible source of information, followed by CEOs. Considerably more reporters consider PR people working for a company (55%) to be credible than those working for PR firms (34%), presumably because the in-house pros are closer to the information.

The number of pitches the journalists received seemed small to me, compared to my experience with TV news assignment desks. In a communications audit I conducted in the 90s for a client, TV assignment editors reported receiving 150 pitches a day! These primarily print and online journalists reported receiving 1-5 pitches a day (43%) which equates to 5 to 25 pitches a week. Many probably work for trade or business publications which generally do not receive as many pitches, in my experience.

Encouragingly, 59% of these seasoned journalists reported their relationship to PR teams and PR agencies as  “mutually beneficial, not quite a partnership,” 18% described as “antagonistic, but not bad” and 17% considered PR pros a “necessary evil.”

To download the report: “The State of Journalism 2021: Reporting, Social Media Habits and Preferences for Working with PR in the Year of Covid-19,” visit https://muckrack.com/research and register.