Study Examines The Impact Of PR On News

Courtesy of the Cardiff School of Journalism comes a fascinating study on the link between PR and news. The researchers set out to study the British media to discover how much journalists rely on PR and the wire services.

Opinion page of a newspaper To anyone who is aware of the changes going on in the mainstream media right now, there are very few surprises in the report. Essentially, today’s journalists are required to do more with less time. The resulting pressure has increased their reliance on material provided by communications professionals.

These findings do, however, add some weight behind the anecdotal stories of trends in the traditional media. Indeed:

“…our research suggests that 60% of press articles and 34% of broadcast stories come wholly or mainly from one of these ‘pre-packaged’ sources.”

One area that did surprise me, though, was the analysis of PR impact on different topics:

  • 37% of health/nature stories are based mainly or wholly on PR material (perhaps reflecting the restrictions on advertising, and hence higher reliance on PR, for pharmaceutical companies)
  • Business/consumer news and entertainment/sport news follow closely behind health/nature
  • The study found that “Politics appeared to be less PR ridden…”
    • In government-related stories, there’s a distinct difference between different media:
      • 39% of PR material found in broadcast media came from government sources
      • 21% of PR material in the press was from government
      • The broader public sector (hospitals, police, etc) provided 23% of the PR material found in the press

Interestingly, the study found that of the stories featured a single primary source, 50% of those in print media aren’t contextualized by other information. That percentage is significantly lower for broadcast media.

This is symptomatic of the challenges being faced by journalists nowadays. The pressure to produce three times as much content as they did twenty years ago means that journalists are heavily reliant on pre-packaged information and have little time to follow-up on it.

All of this provides significant opportunities for organizations (via communications professionals) to achieve favourable coverage in the mainstream media (which, as Edelman’s Trust Barometer found, is much more trusted than than official corporate communications).

Download the full report here (use Word to open).

Dave Fleet
EVP Digital at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.