Mind the gap: what journalists expect versus what companies deliver

Visiting corporate websites is almost second nature for business journalists seeking information, so our Capital Market Survey sought their opinions on the service companies are currently providing. The results serve up plenty of insights for communications teams to digest!

Press sections are a notable concern, falling below expectations for a striking majority, while general company information is also somewhat lacking. Despite this, there are positives contained within a mixed bag of findings.

The business journalists sharing their expectations and experiences of using corporate websites cover a broad spread of the global markets, with a particular concentration on Europe and North America. They also follow a full range of sectors. Regardless of their areas of expertise, though, one working method is almost universal: 93% use the corporate website as a regular source of information. As such, we believe it's important that companies strengthen their communication with the journalists who write about them by delivering the content they seek to find.

Press sections don't cut the mustard

It's no surprise that the corporate press section is the part of the website which business journalists expect the most from. While their demands for press and media content are high, their satisfaction in what companies currently deliver is low.

Of the many areas where companies can work to better meet journalists' needs, the press release archive should be the first. This should come fitted with a range of date and category filters for ease of navigation, while the latest releases should not just be a PR exercise, as our respondents were critical of "marketing jargon", "filler", and "generic, unhelpful press releases". It's also crucial that the information they receive is up to the minute, something which is particularly relevant in this time of global pandemic.

"The content should be more up to date, and relevant. it is often lagging what is going on around in the world." 
- Journalist covering North European markets

A large number '84%'

...of business journalists think companies need to improve their press sections.

A press contact is essential

Having a press contact on hand to answer any enquiries is important for 91% of journalists, who depend on this line of communication for quickly verifying information and obtaining quotes. In terms of contact details, a personal email address is the main priority ahead of a telephone number, which reflects that email is the most-used channel for journalists to receive information. As best practice, the press contact's details would be available directly on the press landing page.

Most important contact information

  1. Personal email address
  2. Personal phone number
  3. General email address
  4. Link to personal Twitter/LinkedIn
  5. Contact photo

Don't assume that journalists already know your business

 "It takes too long to find out what some companies do based on their About us pages."
- Journalist covering Western European markets

The About us section of a corporate website should make a journalist's life easier. A good place to start is with a company introduction providing an overview of the business. To follow, a brief summary of company facts should include information from the number of employees to revenue, which will allow a journalist to quickly extract the relevant highlights. Beyond this, important company information will naturally vary depending on the nature of the business. For example, a healthcare journalist expressed interest in an area of particular focus during the current climate:

"I want to to see more detail on R&D pipelines in health companies."
- Healthcare journalist covering global markets

As long as the information is clear and well-organised, it will make the experience of visiting the website more efficient - and not only for journalists. Our recent Careers Report revealed that jobseekers often visit a company's About us section as their first port of call when considering an application.

Patience is not a virtue when it comes to website experience

With research to be done and stories to break, journalists don't have time to waste on the corporate website. They can't wait around for poorly optimised interactive content to load or trawl through a labyrinth of pages to find the quote they need. The website should be set up to do this work for them, so that it's no trouble to navigate through. The homepage should also play a role in offering some key highlights as a handy shortcut.

Most wanted: general features

  1. Easy navigation
  2. Fast loading speeds
  3. A responsive, mobile-friendly site

Most wanted: homepage items

  1. The latest press release
  2. The latest financial report
  3. A short summary of the business

The internal search engine is another area where companies can definitely tighten their game, as more than half of journalists struggle to receive relevant results. Some have stopped using it altogether as a consequence.

"Often things I know are there don't show up. And the search results tend to be quite jumbled up, not showing the most relevant results."
- Journalist covering global markets

The overall satisfaction score offers a silver lining

...of corporate websites generally fulfil the expectations of business journalists. 

Although many areas leave something to be desired, there is encouragement to be taken from the way companies are reaching journalists' needs elsewhere. Investor relations, for example, is a port in the storm. While there is room for improvement, more than 60% of journalists are satisfied with the IR service currently provided. An overview of key financial figures is their greatest concern here, so providing this would lay the foundations for a positive experience on your investors site.

The results from our Capital Market Survey may read as though journalists are a particularly demanding user group. Their standards are not unreasonable, though. They expect media content to be available in the same way that analysts expect to find financial content. They rely upon general company information in the same way that jobseekers and other stakeholder groups do. Companies delivering the content covered in this article across a reliable and functional website won’t go far wrong in providing the experience that journalists require.

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