What Journalists Want: We Read Cision’s 2020 State of the Media Report So You Don’t Have To

Jun 10, 2020

Another year, another Cision “State of the Media” report.

The 2020 edition, which represents the 11th annual report in the series, surveyed more than 3,200 journalists from across the globe to provide a picture of today’s media landscape. While much of the yearly report generally reads like PR 101 for experienced public relations professionals, it often contains some nuggets of interest that are worth further reflection.

In that spirit, following are a few notes and observations after digesting the 29-page report:

COVID-19 did NOT change everything: In the marketing and public relations worlds, things can seem to change fast, so it can get easy to become caught up in the moment and lose a little long-term perspective. Don’t allow COVID-19 to let that happen to you. Yes, our professional lives during the pandemic are undoubtedly different in many ways, but lots of things in the media world remain largely as they were pre-pandemic. Email is still the preferred method of pitching. Journalists still want to hear from local and national experts who can offer perspectives that illuminate their audiences. To cut through the noise, pitches still need to be timely, relevant and targeted. These things are unlikely to change any time soon.

The media business continues to be brutal: The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated what was already a years-long trend of the media business shedding jobs. Journalism advocacy organization Poynter maintains a depressing and frequently updated list of recent industry layoffs that illustrates the severity of the problem. For reporters and editors, a lack of staffing and resources was cited in the Cision report as the biggest challenge they face. For public relations outreach, this presents a challenge as the number of media outlets continues to dwindle, but also represents an opportunity as individual journalists are under pressure to produce higher volumes of content and could use help finding stories.

Press releases are still relevant: In spite of its obituary having been written a number of times over the years, the humble press release remains very much alive. In fact, journalists who took the Cision survey cited the press release (36%) as the most useful of all brand sources, beating out spokespeople (19%), email pitches (13%) and company websites (12%). For marketing and communications professionals, this qualifies as great news: There is still a place in the world for the well-crafted, well-timed and appropriately targeted press release.

The major takeaway? The more things change, the more they stay the same. Given the barrage of news and information we’re confronted with on a daily basis, separating the signal from the noise is rarely easy for anyone let alone journalists dealing with budget cuts and shrinking staffs. Standing apart from the pack requires the same focus and commitment to timely and relevant messaging that it always has.

Brandon Glenn

Brandon Glenn is a veteran journalist and marketing and communications professional, with experience in content marketing, social media, media relations and news writing. He gained a deep knowledge of the health IT industry while working as a reporter and editor for MedCity News, which covers the business of innovation in healthcare, and as a senior editor with Medical Economics, a publication that focuses on issues of importance to primary care physicians. In these positions, he also wrote extensively about the hospitals, pharmaceuticals and medical devices industries. Brandon began his journalism career as a reporter with Crain's Cleveland Business and, later, Crain's Chicago Business. Earlier, he was an analyst with consulting firm Accenture. Brandon earned a master's in journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and holds a bachelor's degree in economics from Purdue University.