Words Matter: How Journalists in Different Verticals Think & Write

Recently, we analyzed over 200,000 pieces of content in five verticals (Health, Finance, Tech, Entertainment, and Travel) in order to determine how the PR landscape will look in 2020. A big part of that research involved reviewing the different ways that journalists communicate, not just in terms of topics and types of content but in the literal words they use.

Why would we do this?

Well, we have a thesis that by using the language that journalists themselves use you’ll be more likely to get your pitches opened, read, and covered. We’re certainly not alone in the belief that this can increase coverage. As Alex Cassidy, Head of Outreach at Verve Search says, 

“Subject lines are the most important part of any email, because they determine whether you’ll get an open or not. We recommend examining how individual publications write their headlines, and mirroring that in your pitches.

For example, if we are pitching UK tabloids we might write a subject line such as: ‘RE- VEALED how the UK really feel about Alexa and Google Home’.

Whereas when pitching a more highbrow tech site, we might use a subject line like: ’25% of people in the UK feel uncomfortable talking to Amazon Echo’.”

Most Popular Formats

We started by looking at the most prevalent words which might suggest a format in each of the verticals. Perhaps unsurprisingly, video and photos win out within Entertainment and Travel verticals respectively. As such, it may be the case that having video and photographic (or otherwise visual) assets to provide to journalists may increase your chances of gaining coverage here.

Conversely, study, report, and data win out within Health, Personal Finance and Tech. As such, it may be the case that having unique research (framed as either a study, report, or data, as appropriate to the vertical) to provide to journalists may increase your chances of gaining coverage in these verticals. 

Vernacular Used in Different Verticals

Secondly, we looked at the relative popularity of vernacular across the various verticals. As you can see from the table below, the words ‘reveal’, ‘reveals’, and ‘revealed’ are the most frequently used across all verticals bar Travel, where ‘tip’ or ‘tips’ wins out: 

Top Phrases by Vertical

Diving a bit deeper into the actual headlines used, we can also get a good understanding of the actual topics that are most popularly covered in different verticals. To explore this, we aggregated all of the most common unique words and two-word phrases by vertical. This gave us a good idea of those elements that journalists are using to grab reader’s attention (and thus, the elements they are most likely to cover).

Within the Health vertical we see the following top four phrases:

Within Tech:



And finally, Finance:

Taken on a standalone basis, this data can be valuable. Combined, it can massively increase replies and coverage. Optimizing your pitch using the correct content type, topic and language will immediately create more resonant messaging that demands attention.

This data is a small sampling of the information available in our full data piece, Getting Coverage in 2020: Analysis & Insights from Over 200,000 Articles. To get the full study, including the complete lists of resonant unique phrases as well as insight into what publications you should prioritize by coverage behavior, best days to pitch by vertical, how many unique articles are published daily by top publications, and how many shares different publications receive for top content, you can download it here for free.

Stephen Panico

Stephen Panico

Stephen manages growth at BuzzStream and also ponders and writes about outreach strategies that he hopes are occasionally helpful. When he's not doing all of that you can find him trying to level up his home cooking or playing games of strategy and chance.

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