It should come as no surprise that journalists are using the internet more frequently in their reporting.
Bulldog Reporter, a public relations newsletter, recently released the results of their annual survey of journalists and media relations practices.
The biggest change the survey found is that reporters regularly go online to research corporate information and other background for stories. Ninety-seven percent said they check company websites for background or to get company contact information. Many complain, though, that too many sites don't easily provide access to company contacts or even a company phone number. I recently encountered that problem myself with Delta Airlines, which doesn't even have a main phone number for their headquarters on their site. Click here to buy tickets or get flight info, but don't try to contact them with a suggestion or, heaven forbid, a complaint. That's the message they give by making it hard to contact them, and that's what a lot of reporters don't like about many company websites.
More journalists are including blogs in their reading to follow what's happening in fields they cover. Three-quarters of those responding said they use social media in their research, up from 67 percent a year ago.
How do reporters prefer to be contacted with pitches or news releases? Overwhelmingly (75 percent), they prefer email. A very distant second is via the commercial newswires like PR Newswire and BusinessWire. Snail mail comes in at just over 2 percent, and faxes barely register at 0.8 percent.
The survey also asked reporters what they think of public relations people and how they reach out to journalists. It's disheartening to see the most common response was that "PR people interrupt me and waste my time."
There's a simple common-sense way to avoid that rap. We in public relations must be considerate. If you call a reporter, be aware of deadlines and don't call on or near deadline unless it's urgent. (And I mean urgent to the reporter, not to you.) When a reporter picks up the phone, don't just launch into your pitch. Ask if he or she has a moment to talk now, or if there's a better time for you to call. It's a small courtesy, but it goes a long way in getting better attention and a better response. And of course, pitch ideas or send releases that are relevant to what the reporter covers, so you're not wasting their time.
If more of us in public relations would use just a bit of common sense and courtesy, journalists might think more highly of us.
It's never too late to start doing things right.