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Tool 18

Journalist Survey

Tool 18: Journalist Survey
Pfannenberg/Tessmer/Wecker: JP KOM Toolbox EN

Guiding question

  • What do journalists think about a topic?
  • What media do they use in forming their opinions?


  • Identify topic interests of journalists and bloggers
  • Assess the opinions and attitudes of journalists on the company's topics
  • Future reporting items the media can expect
  • Know the media usage of journalists, especially their research tools


To assess relevance with journalists and bloggers and to know their media usage habits, communicators have regular conversations with journalists, and some corporate communicators still come from journalism backgrounds. 

However, interests and media use are changing faster today than in the past due to digitization, but also due to the disintegration of journalistic institutions. Current knowledge can be obtained by evaluating surveys conducted by third parties, e.g., media monitoring and distribution service providers such as Muck Rack and news aktuell, can be obtained.

Selectively, own journalist surveys can be conducted, with questions such as:

  • What topics interest journalists in a communications field?
  • What are the similarities between the company's topics and the journalists' interests?
  • Where are there content docking points for issue surfing (see Tool 33)?
  • Where is issue cutting or issue setting necessary?
  • What are the journalists' views on the issues in question?
  • What do they see critically, what positively?
  • How do journalists typically go about researching a topic, e.g., the company's financial situation?
  • Which media do journalists typically use for their research?
  • With what frequency?
  • In which phase?

Surveys of journalists by PR agencies or PR managers in companies prove to be difficult in practice; in many German editorial offices, participation is even prohibited by editorial statutes and the like. Representative populations are rarely achieved.

Theory: Agenda Setting

Who sets the issues in a public sphere? And who influences the formation of opinion on the issues? According to Bernard C. Cohen (1963) the media does not have a major influence on what the audience thinks about a topic, but it does have a significant influence on what about it thinks. An issue is defined as a question that is the subject of controversial discussion (see Tool 2).

Communication scholars McCombs and Shaw (1972) examined Cohen’s thesis in the run-up to the 1968 U.S. election campaign and found a high positive correlation (over 90%) between the ranking of issues in the media and the audience agenda.

Infographic: What sources do journalists use for their research?