Where Reporters Find Stories

Hint: it’s not always in a press release.

According to a recent Muck Rack survey, 53% of U.S. based journalists do not rely on a press releases at all to find new stories, with just 3% of journalists worldwide reporting that they did. To any sentient PR person who’s been awake these past oh, ten years, this is not news.

You will occasionally find a friendly reporter who will eagerly glom onto your press release and flatter your sterling prose by filing a story that uses 90% of it (thanks!). But as pr professionals we know not to bank on a press release turning into — or even sparking — a story. It happens, but it’s a distinct outlier.

When it comes to how most reporters find stories, the Muck Rack survey has it backwards: A creative, timely, succinct, not to mention counter-intuitive and/or provocative pitch remains the best way to aid reporters in their ongoing quest to discover stories. A press release is what supports the pitch — we typically use a client’s most recent press release to anchor our pitch. The press release implicitly announces that the pitch is from someone “in the arena,” versus someone opining from the outer-reaches of the Intertubes.

What you’re realistically looking to accomplish with a press release is as follows:

- Increase visibility

- Demonstrate you’re a company “on the march.”

- Give people visiting your website a “tick tock” of your company’s “narrative” over the course of its history.

Earlier this year, Cision released their 2018 Global State of the Media Report, which found that “for the third year in a row, media professionals ranked press releases and news announcements as the most valuable type content they receive from their PR contacts. They’ve also once again chosen the press release as their most trusted brand source.” At first blush this would seem to contradict the Muck Rack findings, but the key difference is that the MR survey asked journalists to what degree they relied on press releases to find stories. It is not surprising that, per the Cision survey, journalists indicated how much value they place on press releases as brand or company validation. This is consistent with what I’ve said above — pitches are what spark stories, press releases are what journalists rely on to get a sense of the background, relevance, authority and reliability of the pitch source.

Charles Epstein is President of BackBone, Inc., a pr and marketing firm specializing in technology, healthcare and workforce management. For more, visit www.backboneinc.com.

Tech, Workforce and Healthcare PR, marketing communications, bus development.

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