I want to learn more about how members of the press interact with NGOs online. How do they pick what to write about?
Hello! Thank you for your request on how members of the press interact with NGOs online and how they pick what to write about.
The short of it is the press is more likely to cover captivating stories. They are also more likely to cover new releases that were communicated to them through their preferred communication channels. Journalists are also more likely to cover stories that are supported by facts and are accompanied by high-resolution images.
To retrieve the necessary information, I focused my research on surveys targeted at journalists. The responses by these journalists show what they want and the things that will increase the probability of your story being covered. I also made use of NGO publications, industry news and analysis available online.
Below, you will find a deep dive of my research.
MEDIA RELATIONS WITH NGOs
The press is indispensable for NGOs that want to generate more media traction and create awareness about their cause. The relationship between NGOs and the media is, however, menacingly delicate. NGOs have a hard time getting journalists to pay attention to their press releases. This was the case for Sophie Madden who had a hard time trying to get journalists to cover the Ebola catastrophe back in 2014. These journalists have voiced some of the reasons they feel the relationship between the media and NGOs is not potent.
Two separate pieces of research show that journalists are more likely to cover a story if supporting information is available. The survey by PWR New Media found that 82% of journalists consider bios and supporting information important. 45% want relevant infographics. If NGOs make this information available, journalists are more likely to cover their stories. Another survey, 'What do journalists want?' showed that 8.2% of journalists consider supporting video crucial for them to cover stories. Press releases and pitches by NGOs should contain this information. This will motivate journalists to write and cover stories by NGOs.
High-resolution photos are also important for journalists. 74% of journalists reported that they are more likely to cover a story if it includes high-resolution images.
Using the right communication channels may also help NGOs acquire media coverage. 91% of journalists prefer to receive pitches for news stories ideas and press releases via email. While about 47% of journalists look for stories on social media platforms, most of them don't prefer being contacted this way.
These pitches should also be tailored for particular journalists. Understanding the journalist and what generally interests them is important. This information can be used to create pitches for stories that work for them.
It is interesting to note that 37% of journalists consider pitching by phone off limits and 30.2% feel the same about public social media.
MORE INTERESTING STORIES
Journalists feel that NGOs need to make their stories more interesting in order to gain more coverage. Reporters are always looking for new or compelling information for their readers and viewers. Using this mindset may help NGOs to get the press to talk more about them. Simon O’Connell, the executive director of Mercy Corps Europe, explains that NGOs are guilty of telling their stories in an 'overly-simplistic' manner. NGOs and reporters need to make their portrayal of the problems they offer solutions to, more captivating. Making the NGOs stories newsworthy will attract more members of the press to the NGOs and to their stories. This can be done by telling stories of individuals as opposed to communities as a whole. This personal touch makes the story more relevant and appealing to journalists and media outlets. This includes giving beneficiaries a role in the promotion of the NGO. Stories of beneficiaries often have the largest impact and will help publicize the NGO.
The State of the Media Report 2016 shows that 24% of journalists feel that communication professionals need to improve their availability on request. Journalists argue that NGOs do not respond to their queries promptly enough and this may lessen the amount of coverage they receive. Constant engagement between the media and NGOs will ensure that more content from NGOs makes it to the media.
Over time, journalists are giving more value to social platforms as information and communication channels. As of 2015, 39.9% of interviewed journalists found Twitter to be their most valuable social channel. 21.6% of journalists found that Twitter was also most likely to grow in value to journalists over the next year. This is in comparison to Instagram's 19% and Facebook's 18.7%.
NGOs will need to keep up with the rising popularity of these platforms. Social channels are becoming increasingly important for all sorts of agencies. NGOs need them to get their message out there and to engage with the press.
To wrap it up, it is harder for NGOs to get attention from the press thanks to the dysfunctional relationship between NGOs and the media. NGOs can acquire more media coverage by making their stories more interesting, engaging with the media, ensuring the content is supported by hard facts and by reaching reporters through their preferred communication channels.
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