New media study reveals reporters’ social media performance anxiety

by | Dec 12, 2017 | Public Relations

What’s keeping journalists awake at night these days? From fake news and media trust to news bias and presidential attacks, there’s certainly plenty to keep media outlet leaders on edge. But as for day-to-day output, new research from the Public Relations Global Network (PRGN) finds increasing pressure on reporters to produce multimedia stories and perform well on social media.

Half of all journalists around the world say their job now requires them to produce video and create content for Facebook and Twitter, in addition to their normal newsgathering and reporting duties, according to a new survey.

“Journalists are facing increased pressure to produce multimedia stories,” said Anne A. Buchanan, APR, president of Buchanan Public Relations and a founding member of PRGN, in a news release. “Today, storytelling is much more than words. The clear message to PR firms is to think visually and graphically.”

The survey polled reporters from around the globe and offers CEOs and business leaders new details into the research that goes into reporters’ vetting process when considering interview sources.

New media study reveals reporters’ social media performance anxiety

With more than 110 respondents to each question, the survey analyzed how media professionals vet CEOs prior to, and during, an interview to determine their story-worthiness. The survey also asks members of the survey pool to assess how their reporting responsibilities—print, audio, video, social media, etc.—have changed compared to two years ago.

“As PR practitioners, we certainly have anecdotal evidence and experiential knowledge of how these factors impact the success of our clients. We also recognize that quantifiable data is ‘king’ when it comes to supporting opinions,” said Leeza Hoyt, president of PRGN’s Los Angeles agency The Hoyt Organization, which designed the survey and coordinated its implementation with the network’s more than 50 members.

“In this case, we discovered that while business leaders can adapt to a rapidly changing media landscape, there is a great deal of added pressure on media professionals to populate additional channels. That said, reporters still rely on past news coverage, websites and information from PR agencies as their top research tools,” Hoyt added, in a news release.

Key findings from the research:

Interview vetting

To determine how reporters assess whether a CEO is a qualified and credible interview source, the survey asked respondents to name the top three factors they consider during the interview-vetting process. The responses revealed:

  • 85 percent look at industry or market knowledge
  • 53 percent consider their professional track record
  • 41 percent analyze past news coverage
  • 40 percent assess the CEO’s personality.

Interview preparation

To assess how reporters conduct research on their sources before an interview, the survey asked which research tools were used by priority. The results paint a clear picture of how reporters prepare:

  • 86.7 percent of reporters use past media coverage of a CEO as a top consideration when determining their credibility (36.3 percent consider it the first source)
  • 75.2 percent refer to company websites (20.4 percent consider it their first source)
  • 63.7 percent use info supplied by a PR agency (10.6 percent consider it their first source)
  • Google searches (57.5 percent), company annual reports (35.4 percent) and professional sources who know the company (35.4 percent) were the other top sources reporters use when vetting and preparing for interviews
  • Surprisingly, no respondents consider social media among their first source for media preparation, though 21 percent did name it among the sources they do check. Social media showed 69 percent of reporters used Facebook, 65.5 percent used Twitter, 62.8 percent used LinkedIn and 37.2 percent used YouTube. Neither Instagram, Snapchat, nor other social media sources exceed 7-percent usage in reporters’ interview preparation.

Interview methods

When it comes to reporters’ willingness to conduct an interview in writing—often the preference of many PR clients—the survey found:

  • 33 percent of reporters never offer email interviews
  • 62.5 percent will conduct an email interview in certain situations
  • Only 4.5 percent prefer to conduct interviews via email.

More than two-thirds of reporters will allow interviewees or PR agencies to review direct quotes before publication in all or some cases. Specifically, the survey found:

  • 24.3 percent of reporters often allow quote reviews
  • 34.2 percent occasionally allow reviews
  • 29.7 percent will never allow reviews
  • 11.7 percent allow reviews by the sources only (not their PR firms).

Social media and other reporting duties

To assess the growing pressure reporters feel to perform well on social media, the survey asked reporters to compare their current emphasis on print stories, social media channels, blogs and visual content versus two years ago. Specifically, the survey found:

  • Only 57.3 percent of respondents are being asked to provide print content. This is a 10.3 percentage point decrease compared to 67.6 percent two years ago
  • Those reporters required to provide basic online content remains virtually unchanged at around 89 percent
  • Reporters required to provide visual content continues to increase with 49.1 percent required to provide video (versus 36 percent two years ago) and 29.1 percent required to provide photography (versus 22 percent two years ago)
  • Social media requirements for reporters have seen a significant uptick across all platforms compared to two years ago: 55.5 percent must post to Facebook (up from 37.8 percent); 47.3 percent are required to Tweet (up from 35.4 percent); 20 percent utilize LinkedIn (up from 14.4 percent); and 14.6 percent have a blogging requirement (up from 10.8 percent).

“PRGN’s goal was to give our members and their clients the most up-to-date understanding of how reporters and bloggers go about their jobs and consider their sources,” said Christina Rytter, president of PRGN and founder of Copenhagen, Denmark-based Scandinavian Communications, in the release. “As a result, agencies can better prepare our clients by giving them a broader appreciation for the pressures and processes that media professionals face on a daily basis.”

PRGN conducted an online survey of 110 journalists from newspapers, magazines, electronic and online publications around the world this fall. In addition to questions about job responsibilities, journalists were asked about their approach to news coverage of CEOs. Results are posted on the PRGN website.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter