Waters, Richard D.; Tindall, Natalie T. J.; & Morton, Timothy S. (2010). Media catching and the journalist-public relations practitioner relationship:  How social media are changing the practice of media relations.  Journal of Public Relations Research, 22(3), 241-264.

With the changing media environment and the evolving online atmosphere, traditional media relations strategies (e.g., news release and media kit preparation and distribution) are shifting to practices that are more relevant to a social media environment. The purpose of this article is to define the changing interplay between journalists and public relations practitioners and to analyze the phenomenon of “media catching,” a reversal of the traditional media relations’ communication patterns. Given its rapid increase in the past two years, journalists are eager to turn the tables and target large numbers of public relations practitioners for specific content for story ideas. A content analysis was used to analyze 3,106 reporter requests sent through the Help-A-Reporter-Out (HARO) list and media-related Twitter updates from HARO founder, Peter Shankman, during a 6-month span. Analysis revealed that traditional news outlets more often used Twitter, yet new media outlets preferred the LISTSERV technology. The importance and value of this study for public relations practitioners and scholars are in the study’s attempt to profile the trend of media catching, and to discuss the importance of fielding media requests from a variety of news outlets because of the importance of intermedia agenda setting.


Using a systematic sample, the research team analyzed a total of 3,106 requests from HARO’s Twitter account and listserv service that were sent in a 6-month period from August 2008 to February 2009.

Key Findings

1)      Journalists that used the Twitter account to distribute HARO messages were more likely to stem from traditional broadcast and print media while web-based outlets were more likely to use the listserv.

2)      The greatest number of users of the HARO service from the information seeking side were “web authors,” which included bloggers, Internet news journalists, podcasters, website owners, and beyond (25%). Traditional journalists from print publications ranging from trade publications and magazines to newspapers of every classification were the next largest group of HARO users (20%). Editors (12%) and broadcasters (4%) represented a smaller segment of users.

3)      Reflecting previous studies of the journalist-public relations practitioner relationship, HARO users overwhelmingly preferred contact by e-mail when compared to telephone, social networking accounts, and instant messaging.

Implications for Practice

Media catching is not a new phenomenon as journalists have always had trusted sources they turn to for key information on stories they were working on, but technology and social media has opened the door for journalists to start making public relations practitioners compete with one another for their attention. This flipping of the traditional media relations role has resulted in exponential growth of HARO’s services turning it from a free service hosted on Facebook to a money-making venture managed by Vocus.  Practitioners need to be aware of HARO’s rules as subsequent research has indicated that knowledge and following the rules correlates to successful media placement. Additionally, practitioners should be aware that HARO will likely not produce the big media hit that clients are looking for; however, the ability to place a brand in front of a new, unexpected audience can reap benefits for the organization. Likewise, given the large variety of media outlets using the service, it is likely that well-crafted responses may generate inquiries from multiple types of media, thereby encouraging an intermedia agenda setting effect.

Article Location

The full article is available for purchase at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10627261003799202#preview

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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