Study: public relations more important than ever in the new newsroom

TORONTO, April 1 /CNW/ - The reality of Canada's new newsrooms - shrinking staff and the increased importance of social media - means more journalists may be relying on public relations than ever before, according to results from the 2010 PR Week/PR Newswire Media Survey. Public relations professionals offer journalists story ideas, multimedia assets and access to subject matter experts with an end goal of promoting their clients through coverage in the news media.

Sponsored by PR Newswire and CNW (Canada Newswire), the study asked journalists, bloggers and PR professionals in the U.S. and Canada to provide insight into the changing landscape among media professionals.

Editorial coverage of the survey appears in the April issue of the U.S.-based PR Week magazine. Click here to see the article.

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While journalists are expected to develop timely and abundant content, PR professionals are finding a more receptive audience for their pitches - and more of these pitches are occurring through social media channels.

"Social media and convergence have fundamentally changed how the newsroom operates and the way content is created and delivered," says David Milliken, senior vice president, CNW Group. "The PR professionals finding the most success are adapting and tailoring their pitches so they are relevant to multiple channels. They are learning to serve the needs of an evolving media."

While journalists admit a slight increase in frequency of interaction with PR professionals, most report there is little change in the frequency of their reaching out to PR professionals for assistance. Contrary to this finding, just over one-third of PR professionals in both countries say they are receiving more proactive inquiries from journalists than in the past.

Work environment and industry outlook

Despite reported workload increases and staff and budget cuts, media outlet performance has shown stability and some improvement in the past year. Still, 58 per cent of Canadian journalists perceive their current workload as heavier than last year. Canadian journalists more often cite the "tightening of budgets" as affecting them the most. This is most prevalent at traditional media outlets where journalists report an increased expectation to contribute to online news sections as well as blogs.

Canadian journalists report filing an increased number of stories per day (ranging from one to three) and are expected to contribute to online news sites, blogs and Twitter feeds. Filing stories across mobile devices is not yet a requirement, as reported by 85 per cent of journalists in the study.

When asked to measure success, 20 per cent of respondents selected "Break news and chronicle events as they happen." This result was significantly greater than in 2009 (five per cent), which indicates a growing premium on being first with news. This is likely driven by the growth of online reporting and the 24/7 news cycle.

"Heavier workloads, shorter deadlines, and increased competition are causing journalists to seek out new sources of information to help them get their jobs done, including social networks," said Erica Iacono, executive editor of PRWeek. "Though these new tools offer a different way for journalists to interact with PR professionals and media consumers, there must still be a focus on the basic tenets of good journalism."

Bloggers & Social Media

The findings also show journalists are penning more blogs, and more bloggers are characterizing their work as journalism.

Consistent with the finding that building a personal brand is important to 60 per cent of Canadian journalists, the incidence of journalists with a social network profile, as well as the frequency in updating their profile, has significantly increased since 2009. Canadian journalists are most likely to use Facebook, followed by LinkedIn and Twitter. Personal updates are the most common type of content posted among all journalists.

About half of journalists use Twitter as part of their research, more so in the U.S. than in Canada. Most often used to track top issues of the day and to measure sentiment around a topic, one-in-three journalists report having quoted a Twitter post in a story.

Pitches received via social networks have also increased since 2009, specifically via Twitter. About six in ten U.S. journalists say they welcome pitches via social networks.

Pitches received through social networks have also significantly increased since 2009, specifically via Twitter. As many as 64 per cent of bloggers and 36 per cent of online reporters confirmed employing Twitter as a research tool, whereas Google search (82 per cent) and company websites (90 per cent) are most commonly used during the course of research for a story. Canadian journalists were more likely than U.S. media to get the most information from conversations at 77 per cent, six per cent higher than their U.S. counterparts.

Among those who research by means of blogs, 45 per cent have quoted a blog in a story. The most commonly reported purpose for blog research is to find what other publications are writing about an issue and, although employee and product blogs are cited as useful, most blog researchers find organization or company blogs not valuable.

The majority of bloggers, 52 per cent, now view themselves as journalists. This is a marked increase from 2009, when just one in three had the same opinion. Despite viewing themselves as professional, only 20 per cent derive the majority of their income from their blog work; a small increase from 2009's 16 per cent.

Media and PR

While both U.S. and Canadian PR practitioners report pitching bloggers and going directly to consumers more often than two years ago, U.S. practitioners are doing so at the expense of traditional media - whereas Canadian practitioners report a slight increase in pitching traditional media outlets, as well.

When it comes to pitching, journalists' preferred method of pitch communication is by email, although 46 per cent of Canadian journalists report that pitches do not always lead to stories. Sixty-three per cent of Canadian journalists rely upon news releases to find experts to quote.

Half of U.S. and Canadian journalists report that inclusion of video, photos or multimedia in pitches helps a pitch either by providing more usable elements for the online story; helping sell the story to an editor; or by providing better understanding of the story. At least half of PR practitioners in Canada include multimedia in their pitches, and they are much more likely than those in the U.S. to say the multimedia elements led to their story appearing on television or radio.

As seen in 2009, journalists report that very few of the pitches they receive are related to what they cover. This is true for both U.S. and Canadian journalists.

Canadian PR practitioners claim a higher rate than U.S. counterparts of unsolicited pitches resulting in a story, with 30 per cent reporting a story results from more than half their pitches.

Opt-in press releases from a virtual pressroom, company or personal blog are being used more frequently over the last year. U.S. and Canadian journalists often report acquiring information about a specific company via the company website. Bloggers are more likely than traditional journalists to use general and company blogs. Roughly one-quarter of PR practitioners are hosting CEO blogs, half of which are ghost written.

Both U.S. and Canadian PR professionals note an increase in pitching bloggers, as well as going directly to consumers over the past two years. More than one-third of practitioners in both countries report receiving more proactive inquiries from journalists. More than half of practitioners perceive editorial as being more influenced by advertising compared to a year ago: approximately four out of 10 claim to have received coverage as a result of an advertising spend.

Despite reported industry changes of increased workload and staff/budget cuts, media outlet performance has shown stability and some improvement in the past year. Concerns for the coming three years include a shift from print to digital and a reduction in full-time staff, although the level of concern appears softer than last year.

The shift from print to online reporting is seen as the primary industry driver for the next three years, with 57 per cent of magazine and newspaper journalists indicating that this trend will continue in earnest.

About the survey

The survey polled 2,174 traditional and non-traditional media, including newspaper and magazine journalists, television, radio and online reporters, and bloggers. Online surveys were conducted from January 4 to January 19, 2010.

About CNW

CNW is celebrating 50 years of connecting organizations to relevant news and information consumers. Established in 1960, CNW is more than just a newswire service, offering communications and disclosure services designed to help clients work more efficiently and meet their objectives.

About PRWeek

Launched in November 1998, PRWeek is the leading title for public relations in the US. News is updated each day online at, and distributed through the Daily Breakfast Briefing and Weekly Online edition. PRWeek publishes a monthly print edition, which includes in-depth features, opinion, special reports, and surveys. Over the years, PRWeek has established itself as a vital part of the PR and communications industries in the US, providing timely news, reviews, profiles, techniques, and timely research for in-house and agency professionals. The annual PRWeek Awards honor the best campaigns, companies and people in the industry. In addition, there is an annual conference, and a range of smaller events such as roundtables, webcasts, and other forums for professionals to exchange ideas and share best practices. The full content of all PRWeek publications is available to subscribers only, online at

SOURCE Canada NewsWire Ltd.

For further information: For further information: Laurie Smith, Vice President, Culture & Communications, (416) 863-5616,

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