3 vital takeaways about the news media in the epoch of distrust

Cision surveyed 1,500 journalists for its latest State of the Media report. Here’s what came out of an industry struggling to survive a torrent of deliberate disinformation from outside sources.

These are strange times for those in the news business, as public trust and confidence in the news media have eroded.

By a measure of their own assessment, “journalists perceive they are now struggling to maintain the public’s trust.” Moreover, “91 percent of journalists believe that the media is somewhat or much less trusted than they were three years ago.”

That’s according to the 2017 State of the Media Report by Cision, which surveyed some 1,500 journalists in the U.S. and Canada. This report is an annual event, and the vast majority of respondents were affiliated with traditional media outlets.

The Cision report says the findings align with the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer. That study found “the general population’s trust in all four key institutions—business, government, NGOs, and media—has declined broadly.”

In reviewing the State of the Media report, we noted several key factors for PR and corporate communications, including the following:

1. Getting it right matters more than getting it first.

For a long time being the first outlet to report a story mattered more than anything else. Today that’s just not the case, as 92 percent of respondents said getting the facts right mattered most.

Few, if any, news outlets can compete with the instantaneity of Twitter for breaking news, and the risk of spreading misinformation is far too great to try to keep up. PR pros, to the extent that credible internal experts can help a reporter and their audience, can break down and process an emerging issue. This affords you time for a more thoughtful response.

A pitch is certainly one way of getting the word out, but email inboxes are crowded. Owned media channels, such as corporate blogging, are excellent alternatives. Good content earns your company a spot in the search index, which reporters do check for sources. In addition, the public nature of blogging means your organization stands behind those words, which matters in attributing sources.

2. Email is still the preferred pitching channel.

Most reporters prefer that PR pitching or outreach is conducted by email, rather than by phone or through social media. The Cision survey found that “92 percent of journalists and influencers prefer email pitches.”

Free download: Harness the Power of Email in Internal Communications

Reporters have preferred email for many years because phone calls often disrupt their workflow. However, you can and should pick up the phone when you have something urgent or specific, but be considerate; the journalist you’re phoning could be on deadline.

Think about using highly targeted paid social media posts for earned media purposes. Reporters are busy, and paid social media posts can suggest a story without interrupting them.

Remember though: Good ideas usually supersede the means of conveyance.

3. A good reputation helps sell a story.

According to the survey, “more than half of respondents said displaying knowledge of past work, interests and beats is what drove an influencer or journalist to pursue a story.” Often this means that a reporter wants evidence of previous media citations or historical body of work.

In other words, journalists want credible sources with a proven record of public trust. This is a good case for contributing content to reputable trade publications or helping an expert build a body of work on the corporate blog or another owned media channel.

The work has to be solid, which requires proper and diligent attribution of research statistics and clear disclosure of conflicts.

As the saying goes, nobody watches the media like the media.

A version of this post first appeared on Sword and the Script.

Topics: PR


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