PR Training

Pitching Reporters Amid COVID-19 Informs 2020 ‘State of the Media’ Report

When pitching story ideas to journalists during the COVID-19 crisis, PR pros should use email, find local news angles and make experts available for video interviews, according to Cision’s “2020 State of the Media Report,” released on April 21.

The PR software company’s 11th-annual report, which surveyed more than 3,200 journalists from 15 countries, includes a follow-up section on how PR professionals can better work with journalists to reflect the new realities of the coronavirus shutdown.

Fifty-one percent of journalists surveyed say accurate content is more important than revenue, exclusivity or being first to publish — especially now, in the age of COVID-19. With all coverage now viewed through the lens of coronavirus, journalists say they’re looking for optimistic, human stories.

As always, PR professionals are advised to research news outlets and journalists before pitching story ideas. Smaller staffs and reduced resources continue to challenge reporters. In some cases, entire newsrooms have switched to covering coronavirus, and have put other stories on hold.

Mondays are best for pitching, the research finds. Emails to reporters should be concise and customized, with links that work and value that will not expire. Story ideas should be important for the public, not just for PR clients.

Swamped with work and pitches, reporters might take longer than usual to respond, according to the report. To stay in the media’s good graces, PR pros are advised not to follow up on their pitches more than once.

Other takeaways include:

  • Distrust in the media is decreasing in the eyes of journalists. For the fourth year in a row, respondents reported a decrease in the public’s distrust of the media; 59 percent of respondents felt the public lost trust this year, which is down from 63 percent in 2019, 71 percent in 2018 and 91 percent in 2017.
  • Social media algorithms are ranked as the most important new technology impacting journalists today, while the heady promise of AI continues to fade. 41 percent of journalists agreed that social media algorithms will change the way they work the most, up from 38 percent in 2019. Only 15 percent of respondents see AI/machine learning as the most important technology to affect the industry. This is down from 19 percent in 2019.

Photo credit: shutterstock

About the author

PRSA Staff


  • I enjoyed reading about how PR professionals can better work with journalists during this crisis. Now more than ever, it is so important that PR professionals are researching who they are pitching to. I also agree that PR professionals should be pitching human stories rather than just stories for PR clients. -Macy Krauthamer, writer/editor for Platform Magazine

Leave a Comment