We all remember when Donald Trump called out journalist Jim Acosta in the middle of a press conference due to the tough questions he was presenting. The president called Acosta a “rude, terrible person,” much to the dismay of those around him. It’s no secret, communication with journalists often receive a bad rap, but it doesn’t have to. In fact, according to a study by Muck Rack, 63% of journalists surveyed believed that a journalists relationship to PR representatives was not quite a partnership, but still mutually beneficial. That’s a pretty good statistic for individuals seeking teamwork to get the job done.

Just like PR representatives, police officers, and presidents, journalists have a job to do, and have learned tricks and trends that make their job easier (and what trends do not benefit their end goals- providing an accurate and fact checked source of news.) Muck Rack’s “State of Journalism 2019” delves into best practices and preferences of journalists, including how journalists use social media, the best way to pitch journalists, and overall outlook on the industry. Understanding how a journalist thinks, could not only make your job easier, but also lead to less interactions with “rude, terrible people” and more interactions with creative, fact seeking individuals who know how to tell your story.

 How are journalists using social media?

Social media is quickly shifting from a personal platform into a professional way to make (and keep!) connections. So how, exactly, are journalists using social media? The first question we must ask is where journalists go to first for news. According to the State of Journalism Report, 59% of journalists go to online news or magazine in order to get their daily updates, while 22% of journalists head to Twitter first for their news updates.

When asked which social media platform was most valuable (multiple answers were allowed), the crowd favorite was overwhelmingly evident: 83% said Twitter was one of the most valuable social media platforms. This was followed by Facebook, which 40% of people ranked as the most valuable, and following in third place was LinkedIn at 26%. It is important to note that while LinkedIn ranks third, it is made a substantial increase (up 5%!) from last year.

Using social media in a professional capacity got an overwhelmingly positive result from journalists surveyed. 78% said they like it when PR professionals follow them on social media, and 61% claim they often or usually consult a client’s social media page prior to reporting on the company.

The next social media question answered was what makes a story more shareable. The top two answers listed? A story is significantly more shareable if it contains an image, or if the subject could be connected to a trending story.

What is the best way to pitch journalists?

We have all had the internal debate: when should I make my ask with the highest chance that it will be positively received? According to the study, the best time of day to pitch journalists is in the morning. In fact, 65% of journalists surveyed say that they would prefer to be pitched between 6am-11am in the morning. 

When asked how they would prefer to be pitched, the trend is once again evident: 93% of those surveyed have said prefer they would be pitched 1:1 via email. The ways not to pitch a journalist? An overwhelming 69% have stated they dislike being pitched on the phone and a strong 53% said they disliked being pitched on social media.

Furthermore, when asked about pitch length, the trend leans toward the shorter the better. Of those surveyed, the vast majority preferred a pitch that was only 2-3 paragraphs in length. Lack of personalization is the number one reason that relevant pitches get turned down. So when you are pitching a journalist: keep it short and sweet, keep it to a personal email, and add a personal touch as to why this topic would be ideal for the journalist you are pitching.

Once you have got the pitch out of the door, 73% of journalists say that following up on your email is just fine (so long as you are only following up one time.) And in terms of offering an exclusive, the study says its worth it. Over 75% of those surveyed say they are more likely to do a story if it offered to them exclusively. The long and short of it? Journalists want to write you story; so long as they are pitched correctly and you have the facts to back it up.

What is a journalist’s outlook on the industry?

In the current state of affairs, with the constant mention of fake news and feeling inundated by the unrelenting supply of headlines, journalism as an industry has received some negative attention in recent years. However, the survey indicated that 57% of journalist felt optimistic about the industry looking forward. That’s a statistic we can all take comfort in. Furthermore, 63% of journalists reported that the medium they usually reported in was an online medium.

Journalism is an industry ingrained into the very fabric of our society. As we watch the news reach a more global and digital population, we can ensure our practices align with those of a modern world: social media for professional purposes, online content, and email pitching. However, despite the changes, we cannot forget things that will always remain true: personalized messages that show the journalist you care about them and their work and how your story would be best suited in their hands, along with true and fact checked work? That is a practice that is timeless.