Pepper5: Trends in the Newsroom

There’s always been tension between PR pros and journalists. But take it from someone who’s been on both sides and can tell you that doesn’t have to be the case. As PR pros, we’re supposed to be the experts on relations (heck, it’s in the title!) so how come what ideally should be a partnership often becomes just the opposite?

How about taking a cue from Atticus Finch and considering things from the journalists’ point of view.

That’s right, as is the case in most relationships, a little bit of empathy can go a long way. So whip out your reporter’s notebook and jot down some notes on these five things journalists face every single day.

  1. Information that Sounds the Same. In 2005, there were two PR pros for every journalist. In 2015, that ratio ballooned to FOUR-to-one. Chances are, it’s even higher now. So not only are journalists weeding through hundreds of emails a day, but they’re inundated by a towering slew of pitches that all more or less sound the same—they get bored, and we can’t blame them. So, at the end of the day, every PR pro needs to stop and ask themselves, “Does this pitch have real news value?” – and if the answer is no, don’t pitch.
  2. Dropping the Beat. That four-to-one stat above offers numerical proof that journalists must do more with less. Caught between the crosshairs of ever-shrinking newsrooms and ever-increasing demand for differentiated content, the beats journalists cover are growing ever more fluid and borderless. For PR pros that pride themselves on the smartly targeted pitch, it means keeping closer tabs on a journalist’s body of work. Sounds like more grunt work, sure, but the extra research can help you tap more deeply into a reporter’s particular, and ever-expanding, set of interests.
  3. A Star is Born. Social media has allowed journalists to step out from under the aegis of their vaunted mastheads and become shining brand personalities in their own right. In fact, with so much of the industry in flux, some think this is crucial. What they get out of it is more chances for self-promotion and more chances to connect with readers, or find new ones. What you get is more channels to find and target the right journalist for your pitch.
  4. Do Your Research. Gone are the days of the stoic, objective-to-a-fault, “just the facts, ma’am” reporter. The rise of social has also given journalists the freedom to let their hair down a little—a magnetic personality is, after all, key to a great personal brand. Sharing personal opinions, insights, and even flights of humor is no longer necessarily taboo, just ask Dan Rather. For PR pros and their clients, now it’s much easier to get to know the person behind the byline, and that can only lead to building more meaningful relationships.
  5. Teamwork Makes the Dream Work. With journalists asked to do more with less, timing couldn’t be more important. Journalists are always more likely to jump on a story that tie into a broader conversation, and as PR pros will tell you, it’s always been a challenge. But just when we all thought the news cycle couldn’t get any more relentless, in came Nov. 8, 2016, with 2017 soon to follow. Now, more than ever, journalists and PR pros need each other to make sense of the madness and source the stories that will drive consumption and engagement.


This month’s Pepper5 trends were provided by Joe Checkler, Director of Media Relations. Joe is a former reporter at The Wall Street Journal.



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