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Survey Delves Into Journalists’ Social Media Habits

Survey Delves Into Journalists' Social Media Habits

By Tannette Johnson-Elie

Social media has dramatically changed the way journalists share content and it’s become a powerful communication tool that they can leverage like never before. Now journalists can write stories, post them on Twitter or Facebook and have them go viral.

In today’s era of digital news and storytelling, understanding the psyche of journalists on social media can improve success for PR practitioners and communications professionals in getting their news covered.

In a shifting media landscape, there’s now more interest in studying journalists’ social media habits and preferences. One such example is a new online survey by Muck Rack, a platform that gathers, filters and analyzes tweets from journalists around the world, and Edelman, the world’s largest PR firm.

Journalists were surveyed to gauge how they use social media to write and distribute stories to help PR practitioners better understand the content journalists interact with online.

“We really have witnessed a big sea change in what journalism is,” says Muck Rack CEO Greg Galant. “We wanted to delve deeper into what journalists’ thinking was, how they prioritize coverage and what social media tactics work.”

The most startling survey findings: Three out of four journalists (76 percent) are feeling more pressure now to share content on social media than ever.

“With journalists under pressure, if you bring them a story that’s going to have a lot of potential to get shared and understand how the journalist thinks about it, it’s going to make the journalist more likely to want to cover it, which in turn not only will you get coverage, but also the coverage you get will get shared,” Galant said.

“It’s a vicious cycle, because the more your content gets shared, the more people will want to cover you.”

So, the question becomes – what makes good, shareable content?  For 82 percent of journalists surveyed, image is an essential ingredient for shareable content.

“I think it makes kind of intuitive sense because when you share content on social, most platforms like Facebook, and in many cases Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr will all grab an image from the article. So, if the article has an image it’ll look much better when shared,” Galant said.

Among other key highlights from the survey:

Notably, 66 percent of journalists connect their articles to a bigger-picture story already trending in the news with 48 percent  localizing that story to reach a target audience; and 33 percent say brevity is a key ingredient in making their stories shareable.

By far, Twitter is the hangout for journalists. Seventy-eight percent of journalists surveyed said Twitter is most used in their profession, compared to 18 percent who said they used Facebook and just 2 percent who use LinkedIn.

What’s more, 75 percent of journalists use Twitter to build their own brand; 86 percent of them check Twitter several times a day. (I can attest to this as a journalist and early Twitter adopter.)

Look at the world from a journalist’s perspective

“Put yourself in their shoes in terms of what’s going to be relevant to their audience and what’s going to make your story shareable among their audience,” Galant said.

Get visual

It used to be that the majority of the articles on the web didn’t have images. Nowadays, images drive content on the web and journalists understand that you’d better have an image with every article if you want it to get shared.

“The onus is on PR people to create more interesting visual content,” Galant said. “Make sure you have compelling images because it will convince the journalist to write a story with sharing potential.

Use Twitter to build relationships with journalists

Realize that Twitter is now required for building relationships with journalists and getting insight into how you should pitch them and when you should pitch them, says Galant.

One word of advice: “please get to know me first as a journalist, learn what beat I cover and what my content needs are before you start pitching your ideas.”  The key is to build trust over time.

Don’t forget about email

Social media may be the cool, newest thing, but according to the Muck Rack survey, email is still the preferred way for journalist to receive story pitches.

“The vast majority of the time, it’s still best to send journalists an email when making a pitch,” Galant said.

The final takeaway: PR and other communications professionals will have to be more savvy and strategic to get their messages heard in a new media landscape, where journalists now are having to write across multiple platforms and are required to produce more content than ever before.

“For anyone who wants to get covered in the press, social media has changed the way things work,” Galant said. “What you were doing 10 years ago, doesn’t work any longer.”

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