Survey Reveals the Top Ways Reporters Find Stories

When you have a question no one seems to know the answer to, what’s the first thing you do?

If your answer involves turning to Google, then you’re not unlike the 250 or so reporters the agency Wasabi Publicity recently surveyed. After all, reporters are people too.

According to the survey, the top ways reporters find sources and stories are:

1. Google
2. Pitches
3. Breaking news
4. Social Media
5. Press releases

The survey matches my own experience and I believe represents a substantial evolution to the classic corporate media relations program: PR should embrace content marketing and marketing should want PR to embrace the concept.

Content Marketing as Media Relations

Several years ago, I was pitching a story to a reporter that I thought was tailored, timely and a good fit for both the journalist and publication.

Despite my experience, intuition and persistence, I simply couldn’t get a response. Yet I knew it was a good story – a story with legs.

After several attempts, I re-worked my pitch into a blog post and published it on the company blog. The post gained traction in social media, which was in part the desired effect, but then something else happened: it earned links and mentions from several other news outlets.

I had a special epiphany that day: content marketing created media relations opportunities beyond the conventions of just crisis communications and newsjacking.

Content marketing is a pillar PR because it integrates the five ways reporters find sources and stories identified in this survey – and more.

Building Relationships with Content

Reporters look for signals of trust and credibility among sources. According to the report:

Once sources have been identified, the next step is to evaluate which sources are best for coverage. According to the survey respondents, an impressive 77% of them specifically look for a source to be a recognized expert in their field. Traditional thought was that having written a book is a major determining factor here, but the journalists who responded to the survey reported that only 8.6% of them look for book authorship when evaluating a source.

Google looks for those elements too in ranking content and including it in response to search queries. Some SEO savvy PR pros have called for redefining “organic search” as “earned search.” Indeed, Google has been the new front page” for a long time.

Good content marketing, that’s is the sort that focuses on utility, hype-free help and education, becomes a shortcut to evaluating sources.

Is it perfect? No, which is why content marketing is one pillar and not a replacement for PR.

Perhaps that’s what Wasabi CEO Drew Gerber meant when he suggested to Ragan’s PR Daily, that PR professionals should “not forget our relationship-building roots: personal outreach.”

Note: An earlier version of this post originally appeared on Sword and the Script.

Photo credit: Flickr, Silke Remmery, Newspaper (CC BY 2.0)