Three Journalism Trends and What They Mean for PR Pros (and Their Clients)

As a tech-based PR firm, we are always following the trends. Maybe it’s the news-junkie in each of us that needs to be fed on a daily basis, but either way, we’re always immersed in the latest stories, the drama that hatched overnight, or the newest viral recipe hitting TikTok. Being able to decipher the trends across industries and connect them to the stories our clients tell is a bit of a super-power.

Now, Muck Rack’s annual State of Journalism report has me thinking about trends we have been seeing in journalism and how they will impact what we do and how we prepare clients to work with the media. The State of Journalism report, which our team looks forward to each year, surveys over 2,500 journalists on the latest trends in reporting, social media, and media relations practices. Here are three trends reported that we’re taking into practice:

1. Are You a Credible Source?

The 2022 Muck Rack State of Journalism study found that fewer journalists view CEOs and company PR pros as credible sources for reporting.


Yes, that one hurts to read, but there is a lesson to be learned in this data: journalists don’t want a sales pitch, or a conversation filled with the latest meaningless jargon. Journalists want unique stories – and they have a knack for seeing through the BS. They also don’t want their time wasted (especially since they’re busier than ever nowadays, often covering up to four beats!).

So how do you combat the client credibility crisis, and how do you enhance your own authority on the latest trends and news?

Well, building credibility does not happen overnight and it takes some specific actions from a PR pro’s toolbox: research and relationship building. Know what your target journalists are working on, and understand what will make a great story for them and what won’t. Pitching interviews with half-truths and half-baked plans will only add fuel to the lack-of-credibility fire. Working with journalists on stories that fit their needs will help you build and nurture a relationship, too.

On the bright side, this data also found 60% of journalists say their relationship with PR pros is mutually beneficial – so if you’re doing this right, props to you. Once you’ve built the relationship, continue to foster it and you’ll reap the benefits.

2.Yes, Social Presence STILL Matters. And it Matters BIG

I like to think we are past the phase of companies completely ignoring the “newfangled” social media thing. But the reality is so many companies, big and small, don’t dedicate the time they should to their social media presence. Ignoring  customer feedback via social channels and only posting once a month is not going to cut it – in fact, it can seriously hurt growth potential and deter media prospects.

The same Muck Rack report found 60% of journalists consult a company’s social media in their reporting, and combined with the the feedback that journalists plan to spend more time on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube this year, you can expect  they’re really going to be paying attention to social profiles. Work with your clients to ensure their social media strategy is locked and loaded – even if that does not fall within your work per say – and communicate the urgency with the internal team to keep engagement up.

This is even more critical in building media relationships than ever because journalists are also watching social media shares on their stories – over 60 percent of journalists are keeping an eye on this KPI! So, if you score that amazing client win, make sure it’s getting shared across the corporate channels, and you as a PR pro should also share and thank the journalist for their time and reporting to extend that reach.

3.On Background, Off the Record, Anonymous Sources – A New Era

As the Society of Professional Journalists has so aptly put it:

“Anonymous sources certainly have a checkered journalistic history. None is more famous and perhaps none was more important than Watergate’s “Deep Throat,” the FBI source who helped The Washington Post unravel the White House cover-up of the Watergate break-in. And perhaps none was more infamous than those Janet Cooke invented to concoct her fictitious Pulitzer Prize-winning story about a child heroin addict. “

Over the last several months there have been a surge of new policies among publications about “on background,” “off the record” and “anonymous” sources. The Verge updated its ethics policy, citing “big tech companies in particular have hired a dizzying array of communications staff who routinely push the boundaries of acceptable sourcing in an effort to deflect accountability, pass the burden of truth to the media.” The Associated Press also enforces rules about reporting from anonymous sources. And we really can’t blame journalists for this reaction –according to Edelman’s Trust Barometer for 2021, “business” is the only institution that still has the public’s trust. Meanwhile, “media” is the least trusted entity.

What does this mean for PR pros? First – always make sure your clients are prepared for media interviews. Remember, if a journalist doesn’t agree that you are off the record, you are on the record. Also respect the fact that the era of “off the record” could be gone, journalists have been burned and you want to be a good partner to them – use “off the record” requests judiciously. In all reality this goes back to the first trend – being a credible source. Respect the time of the journalists you are working with and work out if a conversation is on the record or “on background” before you start any client interview or meeting.

Interested in diving into other insights from Muck Rack’s State of Journalism Report? You can check out the full report here.

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