September 18, 2020

How to pitch what journalists want

Many people talk about how Digital PR, and in particular the link acquisition side of it, is continuously getting harder. So instead of just relying on ‘gut feel’ for what will work, having data to highlight trends in what journalists are writing about and linking to can be really useful. Thankfully this is exactly what BuzzStream has done with their latest study which I had the pleasure of helping on alongside author Hannah Smith.

The research took five verticals (Tech, Travel, Health, Entertainment and Personal Finance) and analysed the 1,000 most recent and 1,000 most shared articles to glean insight into what journalists in each of these verticals are writing about, what they’re linking to and much more.

The full whitepaper is available to download free here and is itself is very weighty at over 119 pages long, so for this post, I thought I’d break down some of the top takeaways for each vertical.

Travel

Good news for those looking to earn some high-quality links from their PR campaigns, Travel came out top in terms of propensity to link out in articles, closely followed by Health. The table below shows the average “unique” external links included in each article by vertical.

Cross vertical publishers linking out

 

In terms of which travel publications link out the most, The Guardian topped the table with an average of 11 links per article with the Daily Star at the bottom, rarely including links. We also looked at what percentage of the links included were follow vs no-follow to see how many publishers seemed to be implementing no-follow linking policies.

The results, reassuringly, show that most are not adding no-follow links as default with the exception of The Daily Mail. The Mirror, Lonely Planet, Daily Star and The Independent all did have more than 90% of their links marked as no-follow though which indicates a likelihood that they’re adding no-follow most links.

Travel linking out

Tech

As part of the study, we also looked at which verticals and publishers attract the most links themselves (aside from them linking out to other sites). We wanted to look at this as a potentially useful proxy for understanding which publishers act as catalysts from further coverage and links.

Tech came out as the top vertical for attracting links with an average of 7 links to tech articles vs 3 to Health and Entertainment and 2 to Travel and Personal Finance.

The table below shows, on average, how many links each publication in tech attracted. What’s interesting to note is the difference between the median links that each publisher’s articles receive vs how many articles in their top 1% receive.

Tech linking domains

Entertainment

One of the key elements of coming up with campaigns that will resonate with journalists is understanding the news agenda and what topics they’re writing about. Therefore, within the research, we analysed which words occurred the most both in headlines and in the meta descriptions for the articles.

Looking at Entertainment is interesting in particular as it shows which TV shows, movies, celebrities and networks are being written about the most. Interestingly all of the celebrities within the top 10 phrases in headlines are female.

Ent headlines

As Meghan Markle, perhaps unsurprisingly, appeared in the top results for headlines we also looked at how this compares to the rest of the Royal family, from this, we see the younger generation of royals talked about much more than their older counterparts.

Ent royals

Health

Alongside understanding the news agenda and the topics that engage journalists, it’s often useful for us to try and understand if there are any particular types of assets or formats that seem to appeal most to journalists so this was also analysed.

Within Health we see that more in-depth assets seem to be favoured with ‘study’ and research-based words being featured most commonly in headlines. Interestingly research-based words appeared in over 17% of all article descriptions, so those working in health PR would definitely be smart to think about having research either at the centre of or at least to back up their campaigns and strategies.

Exclusives used to be a fairly big part of a launch PR strategy however anecdotally we hear talk about how that’s died in light of digital news and the 24-hour news cycle. We do see this reflected especially in the Health articles, with the term ‘Exclusive’ not appearing in any of the most-shared articles of the last 12 months. The only vertical we did see this really being used was Entertainment, but even then still only appearing in 1.4% of headlines.

Health formats

Personal Finance

We’re constantly touted that certain days are the best to pitch journalists, so within the research, we wanted to look at how much that rings true. As a proxy for this we looked at what % of articles were published on each day of the week to see whether there are any spikes that might indicate being a key day journalists are writing for. The results, however, showed a pretty even spread of articles being published across weekdays for all verticals.

Personal Finance actually showed the most even spread for each day across weekdays on average. This was supported by finance journalist Jasmine Birtles who commented on the research results and explained that they commission articles whenever they see something interesting, as opposed to on certain days of the week.

Looking on an individual publisher level we can see some interesting spikes, for example over a quarter of The Guardian’s Personal Finance articles are published on a Saturday, a day that sees minimal articles from all the other publishers. Whereas The Independent publishes over half of their Personal Finance articles on a Friday, perhaps hoping to help stop people from splurging at a weekend!

PF Publishing frequence

Comparisons

As well as breaking down the findings by vertical, we also looked at any interesting comparisons across the different verticals.

For example, when looking at which formats of content or assets are most popular across the different verticals we can see that each does seem to favour a different format. Therefore depending on which vertical your brand or clients operate within or at least are pitching journalists in, you may want to consider trying out some different formats to appeal as opposed to sticking with one format and assuming it works universally as attracting coverage (interactive maps and data vis I’m looking at you!)

Cross vertical formats

Post from Jo Juliana Turnbull