5 journalist personas and how to engage them

Reporters, editors and news producers take different approaches to social media. Identifying these tendencies is vital to landing your pitch.

Communications professionals know journalists are busy, but just how busy are they?

Some report receiving up to 100 pitches per day, and that’s just via email. What about the countless pitches they field via telephone or social media? The role of journalists is changing, and as social media continues to affect their work, many have become key online influencers.

In today’s post-silo world of communication, it’s important for all communicators to understand the role journalists play online, and to know exactly how to cut through the clutter to insert your brand or client into the conversation.

The key to working with influencers is to understand their habits and interests. According to the 2016 Global Social Journalism Study, journalists in the United States fall into five categories based on their social media habits and views of PR professionals: architects, promoters, hunters, observers and skeptics.

Understanding these categories and how to work with various types of journalists is vital to connecting with this increasingly influential online audience. Through identifying the right journalists on social media, and by learning their true behaviors and preferences, I’ve been able to build valuable relationships.


Architects are the fearless trailblazers of social media, with 83 percent working in online journalism and saying they could not carry out their work without it. Fifty-eight percent of architects are 45 or younger, and this is the only group that does not include journalists over 65. Architects have the most positive attitude toward social media, are most likely to say it has enhanced journalism and that they regularly include user-generated content in their work.

Your takeaway: Architects are also very open to PR professionals, with 63 percent claiming PR sources and press releases improve the quality of their work, so get connected.

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In the U.S., most journalists are considered promoters. Ninety-seven percent use social media to publish and promote their own content, repost content of those they follow, interact with their audience, network and monitor online chatter and industry trends. Over half of promoters are under age 45 and call themselves online journalists.

Promoters are the only type of social media persona to cite press releases as their main source of information and are the most receptive to PR professionals. Nearly 80 percent of promoters spend at least an hour a day using social media for work, and 52 percent are more likely to use social media to communicate with PR pros than any other communication method.

Your takeaway: Use their social savvy to your advantage by engaging in discussion and sharing their content online to start building a relationship.


In terms of activity, hunters fall somewhere in the middle. More active than skeptics and observers but less active than promoters and architects, nearly half of hunters rate their competence with social media as “high” or “exceptional.”

Although 79 percent of hunters say they have a good relationship with PR pros, only 34 percent see them as a reliable source of stories. They prefer to get information from experts, industry representatives and professional contacts. Sixty-eight percent think social media is undermining traditional journalistic values, viewing it as a necessity rather than a choice.

Your takeaway : When reaching out to hunters, play up the experts and industry leaders you’re offering to give your pitch an added layer of credibility.


Observers are likely to minimize their visible presence on social media and the least likely to regularly use user-generated content in their work. Over 40 percent are print journalists, while half regularly write features. They use social media daily to read posts of people they follow, and they monitor discussions about their own content. Although 61 percent of observers rate their social media competence as reasonable, only 27 percent say social media has improved journalism.

Your takeaway: Pitch observers traditionally, but continue to engage with their social media posts to stay on their radar.


Skeptics represent the least active social media users and the most likely to doubt its benefit. Forty percent of skeptics are print journalists, 72 percent are under age 45 and half use social media less than daily. They have decidedly negative views about the impact of social media, and half rate their social media competence as low or non-existent.

Skeptics prefer to be contacted via traditional channels such as email or telephone, but they are least likely to see PR professionals as a reliable source of information, so be clear on the experts and industry leaders you’re offering. Of note, the percentage of skeptics has steadily declined over the past few years as more journalists are embracing social media’s role in their work.

Your takeaway: We’re running out of skeptics, which serves as increasing proof that there is no more “print only” communication. Embrace online outreach strategies to align your efforts with the disruption that’s occurring in our industry.

Knowing your audience

Although journalists can be categorized as architects, promoters, hunters, observers and skeptics in the post-silo world, they don’t wear labels. The way to identify their respective personas is to get to know them, understand and respect their preferences and build a relationship over time.

So although architects and promoters are open to receiving pitches through social media and observers and skeptics prefer a more traditional approach, taking time to build relationships with journalists in your industry will maximize your coverage.

Stacey Miller is director of communications at Cision. A version of this article originally appeared on SmartBrief.

Topics: PR


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