Sep 25, 2017 / in Comms Best Practices / by Bruce Kennedy

Journalists get frustrated with PR Professionals. You see it in blog posts and on social media — journalists frustrated with generic, relevant pages and irrelevant material. Pew Research published an analysis of the gap between PR and journalist income, and the relative number of PR professionals to journalists (there are a lot more of the former).

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With the advent of digital journalism, it is journalists who find their objectivity scrutinized more often than before. It’s not a surprise that many journalists harbor some misgivings for the PR industry. But how can you tell the extent of a journalist’s openness for PR interactions and the extent of the skepticism about the industry?

The Cision 2017 Global Social Journalism Study provides some fascinating insights into how journalists view PR professionals and the PR profession. What’s unique about the data that they’ve collected is that the data scientists were able to categorize journalists into six “Social Archetypes” and identify how they perceive and use social media to do their jobs. What they found is that this segmentation of journalists into “Archetypes” also corresponded with common perceptions and critiques of PR professionals. What I want to do in this post is to briefly give a high-level view of the archetypes and then discuss how they see PR practitioners.

Introducing the “Social Archetypes”

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Perhaps the most helpful way to think of the Social Archetypes is to consider a spectrum of social media use and advocacy, where at one extreme you have journalist super users posting and promoting posts, engaging their audience and sourcing stories frequently on social media. These super users often access social platforms for more than eight hours per day. At the other extreme, you have erratic social media users who will infrequently use social media except to occasionally promote posts, exclusively on Facebook and Twitter. Here’s a quick snapshot of who these journalists are:

  • Skeptics — this 15 percent large segment of journalists do not perceive explicit benefit from social media and tend to believe that social undermines traditional journalism. These journalists are disproportionately reliant on email for communication, and 25 percent of them express that concern over copyright law keeps them from being more prolific on social media.
  • Observers — this is the biggest population of a social archetype at 39 percent of all journalists. These journalists spend little time on social media relative to their peers. The majority spend less than two hours per day. They especially favor Facebook and Twitter and use these inconsistently for promotion and engagement. These users tend not to be involved in digital media.
  • Messengers — these journalists have social media habits similar to Hunters, but disproportionately spend their time engaging sources and audience using messaging apps, such as Messenger, WhatsApp, or DMs on Twitter or Instagram.
  • Hunters — these journalists disproportionately use their time-consuming social media rather than engaging, although they do promote content and engage their audience to a lesser extent than Promoters and Architects. They prefer Facebook and Twitter.
  • Promoters — these journalists are nearly super users, with most using social media three to eight hours per day. Relative to Architects, these journalists use social media proportionally more to promote content than for other uses, but also engage and source content.
  • Architects — these journalists feel that they cannot do their job without using social media platforms. They are super users, logging in at least five hours per day, with 35 percent logging in more than eight hours every day. These users are active on many different platforms and use social to source leads, promote content, and engage their audience.

What Has Your PR Professional Done For You Lately?

Across all journalists in the survey, most stated ambivalence about PR pros. On measures of reliability, meeting expectations, and providing high-quality content, the biggest responses were “neither agree nor disagree.” While perhaps not the glowing recommendation that you might want on a Yelp review, it could be worse.

It turns out that the Global Social Journalism Study identifies some journalists that are more open to PR professionals, and it may be counterintuitive to who you think it is.

Architects are one of the most agreeable segments of journalists to PR professionals, with 40 percent stating that PR pros “always meet expectations” and 45 percent saying that PR pros are “reliable.” This may not be too surprising given their proclivity for social media interaction. But Hunters may be even more agreeable to PR pros, with half saying that PR professionals meet their expectations.

Even more surprising, Skeptics rate PR professionals as “reliable” on a level comparable to Architects. So, the spectrum of social media consumption and use for journalists doesn’t hold for perceptions of PR. You have fans where you may least expect them. In a year-over-year comparison, however, journalists stating that PR professionals are a “preferred source” of information declined six percent from 42 percent and 36 percent.

Does Industry Matter?

One of the other gems of the Global Social Journalism Study was their segmentation by industry. As with the Social Archetypes, it appears that a journalist’s industry may be predictive about how they view PR professionals.

Across industries, General News, Politics and Current Affairs journalists report the highest degree of “happiness” with PR professionals (65 percent), followed by Business and Industries journalists (49 percent), catch-all category Other (45 percent), followed by Lifestyle, Fashion, Sports, Entertainment, and Culture (40 percent).

Although this may seem broad, coupled with the Social Archetypes these industry-specific insights could help to further identify journalists with a favorable opinion of and who are willing to work with PR professionals.


Journalists are pretty ambivalent about you. What we see in the Social Archetypes identified by the Global Social Journalism Study are journalists that do their jobs in very different ways. Consistent, reliable, quality content appears to be in demand across Archetypes, although what constitutes quality content may be entirely different for an Architect than for a Skeptic.

Across the spectrum of archetypes and industries, there is a need for PR professionals and insights like the ones offered by the Global Social Journalism Study help to identify where to best focus your efforts.

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About Bruce Kennedy

Bruce Kennedy is a social media manager at Cision, where he manages Cision's global brands. Previously, he worked in public relations in tech and entertainment, helping brands from early stage startups to household names like Red Bull, Disney on Ice, Ringling Bros. and Barnum Bailey, Techweek and more.Connect with him on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter.