How to HERO (Help Every Reporter Out)

By Gabriel Muñoz

In 2023, more than 21,400 news and media jobs were lost, the highest rate recorded since the Great Recession (excluding 2020 after COVID-19 hit). Specific to the “digital, print and broadcast” news subset, 3,087 jobs were lost. Being a journalist in 2024 likely means you are overworked, overwhelmed and underpaid. According to Muck Rack’s State of PR and Journalism Salaries Report 2023, journalists’ salaries range between $40,000 and $70,000. Conversely, PR pro’s salaries are rising, with the most recent average at $85,000. PR pros outnumber journalists too, as there are more than six PR pros for every journalist

A good working relationship between a PR pro and a journalist (especially in 2024) doesn’t come easy, but it’s good for both parties involved when it pays off. With the state of journalism on a decline, it’s now more important than ever for PR professionals to build a mutually beneficial and long-lasting relationship with journalists. This means also making the life of the journalist (and your own) easier when pitching, offering up a client as an expert, etc. Simply put: it’s time to HERO (Help Every Reporter Out).

Here are a few tips for how to be successful with your pitching and work towards building long-lasting relationships with reporters:

  • Go to where the reporters are
    • According to Muck Rack’s State of Journalism 2024 Report, “83% of journalists prefer to be pitched via 1:1 email.” However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other avenues for PR pros to take. From X (formerly Twitter) to LinkedIn to Qwoted to HERO (Help Every Reporter Out), journalists are now more “reachable” than ever before. However, this comes with challenges as reporters are inundated with solicited and unsolicited pitches. According to the same Muck Rack report, “46% of journalists receive six or more pitches per day” which equals to over 30 pitches in a week. To successfully “cut through the noise,” it’s essential your outreach stands out with an eye-catching subject line and a pitch that isn’t too short but isn’t too long (according to Muck Rack, “65% [of reporters] prefer pitches that are under 200 words”). 
  • Be quick but follow instructions to a T
    • With six PR pros per just one journalist, your window of opportunity (and time) is very limited. Whether you’re pitching reporters based on a trending story (newsjacking) or responding to a reactive request through Qwoted or X, it’s important to do it with speed. However, while quickly responding is preferred, ensuring you understand the reporter’s request is just as imperative. Are they asking for images uploaded to Google Drive or Dropbox and linked in the pitch? Do they need links to purchase at a major retailer? Do they need specific questions answered in your pitch and not just an expert for consideration? Any perceived blatant “ignoring” of requests in your submitted pitch to a reporter may leave a bad taste in their mouth and jeopardize your relationship-building prospects.
  • Do your research beforehand and get to know who you’re pitching
    • You can show someone you want to build a real relationship by first acting like you care. Get to know the reporters you’re trying to engage with before hitting “Send” on your pitch (Muck Rack’s report details how over 70% of reporters reject pitches because they aren’t relevant to what they cover). However, thanks to PR platforms including Muck Rack and Prowly, it’s relatively easy to look up a reporter’s “beat” just by checking out their profile. If not, a quick Google search will lead you to their author bio on whatever news site they write for and you can find out there. Once you’ve figured out if the reporter “covers” what you’re trying to pitch to them, adding personalization and tailoring your pitch is key. Did you enjoy an article they wrote recently? Did a headline they wrote catch your attention because you thought it was clever? Let them know. Kill them with kindness, it never hurts!