How the buzzwords media outlets use can inform your pitch

What does it mean to PR pros that news outlets love the word “new”? Or that ABC News has the most negative tone, while it’s all sunshine and unicorns at POPSUGAR?

Media buzzwords

Trying to figure out how best to pitch a major publication?

A new analysis may provide PR pros hints on how to slant your approach by offering glimpses of how buzzwords are used at different news outlets.

The soon-to-be released report from Brightspot—which was done in early December—tracks at the most common words in various publications, revealing priorities in their coverage.

According to Josh Rice, a member of Brightspot’s marketing team, the study reveals:

  • “New” is the most common word used by business, lifestyle and tech publications, while the top word for general news outlets was “president.” For sports, the most widely used word was “season.”
  • General news publications are most likely to run negative stories (36 percent), followed by business (30 percent), tech (21 percent), sports (19 percent), and lifestyle (16percent).
  • Sports stories have the lowest reading level on average (around ninth grade), while business and tech have the highest average (around eleventh grade). Are your sentences over-tangled thickets of clauses?

The analysis from Brightspot’s data team indicates what news outlets prioritize in their reporting based on their readership, says Rice. The commonness of the word “new” indicates how news readers seek out the most recent and updated information, which publications must cater to by making the latest developments the focus of their copy.

“PR professionals and communicators should make sure their communications reflect the language and priorities of the publication they’re contacting, which is informed by their readers’ priorities,” Rice says.

“Additionally, having a solid grasp of the topics sites are covering and the site’s tone is extremely important for PR types. PR is a unique field where you need to not only understand your audience (journalists/news professionals), but also your audience’s audience (news readers).”

News of the week shapes study.

The data team at Brightspot carried out the analysis in Dec. 3-7, meaning the funeral of former President George H.W. Bush and other immediate stories of that week shaped the results. “Bush” was among the most common words that week, something that likely would not occur if the study were done today.

Sometimes it can seem like the same verbiage and even nearly identical articles will appear across media platforms, Rice says. To discover which media buzzwords are most frequently used, and if there’s a notable difference among news beats, the data team at Brightspot put together its analysis across publications.

The study also breaks down the positive and negative sentiment of articles across major publications, and indicates their reading level. ABC News had the most negative tone, followed by Yahoo News and HuffPost.

The most upbeat coverage came from the gamer site Nerdist, the fashion webzine Brit + co. and the gossip mavens at POPSUGAR.

“News, business and tech publications tend to have more articles with a negative or neutral tone, but also typically present a higher reading level in their copy,” Rice says. “Lifestyle and sports publications tend to have more of a positive tone in their articles as well as a lower reading level.”

Tone can be revealing for those angling a media pitch.

“This, again, gets back to PR professionals needing to understand who they’re pitching, and who those people are writing for,” Rice says. “Something that’d appeal to a lifestyle writer wouldn’t necessarily appeal to a business writer, and not just because of topic.”

To view a visualization of the study, click here.

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