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Media relations

Getting the basics right

Irrelevant press releases continue to be the bane of journalists' lives

Almost seven in ten journalists (68 per cent) claim that fewer than a quarter of the pitches they receive from PRs are relevant, according to Cision’s 2022 State of the Media report, which surveyed more than 3,800 hacks across 17 markets.

A further 23 per cent claim between 26 per cent and half of all releases are relevant, which is a pretty poor batting average. Is it any wonder that a separate report by media monitoring company Propel found journalists open just 36 per cent of PR pitches but respond to as few as three per cent?

Rather incredibly, one per cent of Cision’s cohorts claim that the majority of the pitches they receive are exactly right for their needs, but I suspect they’re either being ironic or are just so new to the game that they’re grateful anybody calls.

Yet here’s the really depressing news: the numbers haven’t changed since Cision surveyed journalists back in 2020. That’s right, the PRs keep sending. The journalists keep deleting and tweeting their irritations. But nobody seems to be actively trying to resolve the problem. For an industry obsessed with time sheets, just think how much more productive you could be if you weren’t wasting time checking in with a journalist who has absolutely no interest in your release to see if they are planning to run it.

The answer, according to Cision, is to ‘do your due diligence to ensure you’re reaching the right person at the right outlet for your story’. Blimey, that doesn’t sound too hard. I mean, if I was planning to run a story on, I don’t know, the plight of blackberries, I wouldn’t ring a tomato farmer for a comment. He’d think I was an idiot.

In part, this is the fault of some media distribution companies. Last year, I complained about a particular one that was the source of most of my irrelevant press releases. It’s called Agility, and, according to my listing (into which I had no input), I was interested in: ‘Corporate communications, Finance and financial services, Company and corporate news, Business, management and industry, Sharing economy/Gig economy’, which meant PRs just sent releases that they could shoehorn under those headings. In other words, pretty much anything.

When contacted, Agility was most apologetic, promising to update my profile to fit my true interests forthwith. And yet, their irrelevant press releases still regularly arrive in my in-box. More recently, I actually received an email from an Agility sales rep. He had noticed that I ‘was in communications’, and wondered if I would be interested in its database of more than 1.1 million media contacts to whom I could send press releases, with an ‘accuracy of over 99.6 per cent’. I guess I was the unlucky 0.4 per cent. I didn’t sign up.