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Mainstream journalists ranked among top influencers

Anderson Cooper attends the 12th Annual CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute

Mainstream journalists still rank among the top three most impactful groups influencing consumer choices. Want proof? Fifty-three percent of senior communications leaders placed the value of a journalist’s endorsement behind that of everyday consumers and ahead of brand advocacy by celebrity spokespeople.

While celebrity and influencer marketing has gained popularity on social media, there is a growing perception that paid spokespeople lack authenticity, thus limiting their reach. Consumers place most of their trust in their peers and those they deem authentic, and mainstream journalists figure prominently in those two groups. Journalists who work for established news organizations and have a strong social media presence enjoy both visibility and credibility.

Social influence environment

When it comes to large-scale influencer marketing, trust is waning. Although 51% of consumers in Cision’s 2018 Global Comms Report place celebrity spokespeople among the top three groups in terms of influence, only 3% of consumers trust celebrities when purchasing a product in a store, further proving that celebrity influencers fail to come off as authentic. These individuals have increasingly uneven audiences and are vulnerable to scandals, which could affect a brand’s reputation.

For example, there are instances of celebrities posting an image endorsing a brand’s product but with a copied and pasted script. This sort of negligence and unreliability leads to distrust and outrage from everyday consumers, and are changing the environment for effective communications strategies.

On the other hand, mainstream journalists are now more trusted. Many frequently interact with their audience on social, with 66% reporting they do it daily. This ordinary social media presence makes them more like everyday consumers, who are ranked the highest in the Global Comms Report survey. Because there’s no plan when it comes to genuine online validation of a product or service from an everyday consumer, journalists seem more like a friend or family member. Their content is original and honest, which leads to consumer trust.

These sorts of interactions are happening increasingly often. In 2017, 90% of journalists said they were using social networks at least once a week compared to 83% just five years earlier.

In the midst of data breaches and fake news, information from mainstream journalists is still considered more reputable. People trust specific mainstream journalists more than social media giants such as Facebook or Twitter. In terms of expert information sources, journalists are seen as thought leaders in their fields, making them depended upon – not just influential. Consumers trust academics, analysts, and journalists even more than brands they already use.

Optimizing communications efforts

As mainstream journalists continue to stake out a trustworthy space online, communications pros must be careful while aligning their efforts with consumer trust. Media today is a complex, fluctuating environment with multiple streams, both digital and traditional. Pros must have a particularly keen eye on social media while pitching to journalists. Here are some helpful suggestions.

Begin with authenticity

Journalists gain consumer trust by demonstrating authenticity, and PR pros have to begin with this in mind as well. Personalized, original pitches can make a big difference. An overwhelming majority (72%) of journalists say pitches can be improved by tailoring them to suit beats/coverage.

Explain the context

With 82% of journalists saying PR professionals can improve their pitches by researching and understanding the media outlet they work for, PR pros must do a better job of clearly summarizing how their brand is right for a particular platform. This includes digging into the journalist’s social media posts and familiarizing themselves with his or her areas of interest on a variety of platforms. The PR pro can then use this information to create a proposal that is relevant and concise.

Prioritize quality over quantity

As insincerity proliferates in digital communications, journalists appreciate high-quality pitches more than ever. This means also paying attention to all details of the interaction, including the method of communication. Ninety percent of journalists indicate email is the best way to directly pitch a story idea.

Consider a hybrid strategy

Traditional media outlets are still effective – perhaps even increasingly effective. Mainstream media – such as news articles or radio – reach a large swath of important consumers, from investors to business executives, as well as the general public. At the same time, digital communications dominate our world, and new online versions of mainstream media organizations offer a chance to reach an expanded audience.

Deciding the ratio of pitching to mainstream/alternative and traditional/digital media outlets is a matter of analyzing which is most relevant for a given brand. Digital and social media platforms help promote a brand’s content, so there’s a good chance that content will be picked up by news media. This is done successfully through sharing and reposting links through websites, blogs, and various social channels.

Communications professionals need to be able to narrow down relevant journalists and create effective pitches through comprehensive research. Endorsements from mainstream journalists are one of the strongest ways to tie the brand to a reputable source and gain consumer trust.

Download the full 2018 Comms Report here.


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