Love is in the air. Flowers, chocolates, heart-warming messages, you name it, and chances are, such expressions will absolutely make someone’s day. And in the spirit of a day dedicated to fostering special connections of all kinds, why leave out media relations and the coveted PR-journalist relationship?

First of all, are we… in a fight? The answer from most PR professionals and journalists is, unfortunately, yes. We are indeed in a fight and not a small one.

Previously explored by Gini Dietrich in October, the contentious relationship between PR Pros and journalists is hardly news today. Both groups of communications professionals have commonly learned a default state of distrust and discontentment toward the other unless proven otherwise.

Have Better Media Relations

The past year showed no signs of improvement on this matter, and a recent study of the media relations landscape by Public Relations Management (PRM) software company Propel actually showed a consistent deterioration. 

The study analyzed nearly 1.4 million pitches that PR people sent to journalists in 2021 to uncover major trends in PR-journalist communications from the year.

Over the course of 2021, the average journalist response rate to media pitches went from 5.21% to 3.53%, meaning it saw a staggering 32.25% reduction.

So, the vast majority of PR pitches are not resonating with the journalists receiving them. What do we make of this as PR professionals? What exactly needs to change? Why on earth do we keep getting left on ‘read?’

The answer is not an easy one—it always depends. But what we can do is use data to best inform strategy and avoid missing the mark as often as this study suggests people are when it comes to media relations. 

Play the Odds of a Friday Pitch

It’s tempting to concentrate media outreach at the beginning of the week when more people seem to be glued to their inboxes. And in the same sense, to perceive Friday as a wild card when it comes to responsiveness in general, and journalist responsiveness is no exception. But taking a look at the numbers for 2021, journalists opened the most pitches relative to the volume of pitches sent on Friday over any other weekday. 

With Friday also seeing the lowest volume of pitches sent during the week, this also means a Friday pitch faced the least amount of competition from other pitches. And even though Friday did not have the highest percentage of responses, this still leaves room for a response to trickle in on one of the following days.

Invest Time With Responsive Targets

Out of the top 10 most pitched media outlets in 2021, Forbes had the highest average journalist response rate at 4.67%. Out of the top 10 most pitched outlets, Forbes ranked number six. 

The Wall Street Journal had the highest average journalist open rate at 70.04% and the second-highest average response rate at 3.28%. As a PR pro, this alignment of a high open and response rate at a major outlet like The Wall Street Journal is quite the green flag and indicator that pitching to its journalists is absolutely worth the time and resources.

When to Secure Holiday Stories

December is home to more holidays than any other month of the year. And as you might imagine, the average pitch volume of PR pros was the lowest in December of 2021. This doesn’t mean you can’t secure coverage in December, it just means that more strategy must come into play to see the coverage results you’re after.

Taking a closer look, this study found that journalists were the least responsive during the third week of the month. Meaning, PR pros that pitched their stories early in the month, or at the very end of the month were more likely to hear back from journalists about their pitches.

Be Intentional

At the end of the day, always remember that whether on the journalist side or the PR side, the receiver is just another human behind another screen. We’re all people that demand that others respect our time and communicate thoughtfully and effectively to reach mutual goals. When’s the last time you made a journalist feel special? Like they’re the only person in the world you sent a pitch to? 

This study collectively shows that earned media pitches are losing their effectiveness at a concerning rate, and we can’t forget that personalization is always key in crafting pitches that resonate with journalists. The days of ‘spray-and-pray’ mass pitching tactics must officially retire because impersonal pitches are just as obvious to journalists like the ones backed by research and specific intentions.

Improve Media Relations By Applying Data

So, the next time you start to feel doomed by the state of PR, remember that with data, you have the power to correct its course. 

Consider the largely adopted PESO Model™, which was launched in 2013 and is now widely known to help communications professionals of all kinds build up their brands’ reputations. 

It replaces the overwhelming task of figuring out how to successfully integrate key media types to reach business goals, and adds structure, numbers, and a clear action plan. And most importantly, it challenges PR people to tie their efforts directly to business goals via the right tracking methods.

It is another great example of how exactly we need to continue adding measurement to PR. Doing so will make your life easier as a professional in the industry, along with journalist stakeholder groups on the receiving end of your efforts.

What to take away from this research review? You don’t have to guess or struggle to figure out what the right approach should be in your media strategy. 

You can use concrete guides like the PESO Model to structure your approach and findings like those in the Q1 2022 Media Barometer report to tailor it. Implementing research-based methodology will make the biggest difference for your unique PR goals, and help you put them to work via better-informed communications tactics.

Samantha Scribano

Samantha is the Head of Content at PR software company Propel PRM. She studied public relations at the University of Florida and now enjoys using her background knowledge, and personal experience within the industry to help other PR professionals best achieve their communications goals.

View all posts by Samantha Scribano