Best practices for marketing often, if not always, suggest some degree of segmentation for customers or the public. Finding different ways to identify behaviors and differentiate messaging to best suit these personas is crucial for most PR and marketing functions. Often, people write about journalists as “journalists” – a nebulous bunch of undifferentiated people who perform the same tasks (perhaps in different verticals). And you hear journalists complain about this lack of differentiation in how the PR community pitches them.

The Cision 2017 Canadian Social Journalism Study provides some very tangible insights into the social media perception and behaviors of journalists. As it turns out, there are a lot of different ways that journalists view social media as it relates to their work, and it affects everything from how they perceive the platforms to how long and to what extent they use social to do their jobs.

The Global Social Journalism Study broke down these behaviors into five“Social Archetypes:”

  • Skeptics
  • Observers
  • Hunters
  • Promoters
  • Architects

What I want to do in this post is to take a look at these “Social Archetype” groups and talk about their perceptions of social, their use of social and how this type of segmentation may be useful information to a PR professional or marketer.



“Architects” are the most pro-social group of journalists and the largest of all archetype groups. About 34 per cent of Canadian journalists fall into this category. An architect journalist feels as if they cannot do their job without social media, and typically produces a lot of digital content.

What is unique about architects is the extent that they use social media to source their content and to interact with their audience. An “architect” journalist will spend at least a few hours per day on social media, and more than one-third will spend more than three hours per day using social.

Architects were most positive about their relationships with PR professionals (52 per cent), but 45 per cent also said that PR reps cannot be trusted.


“Promoters” are all about promotion on social media platforms. About 11 per cent of Canadian journalists fall into this category.

These journalists are also very pro-social but perceive the benefits of social a bit differently. A promoter has a less favorable view of sourcing information through social than the architects and sees social as a means to promote their content and interact with their audience. They are creating a lot of digital content, and view social as important for promotion but also believe that social promotes speed over quality content. Where the architect might see everything social as awesome, the promoter sees it as an important, (somewhat) specialized tool.

And nearly half of promoters say that they would like to be contacted by PR pros on social, although they are more skeptical of PR content than architects.


“Hunters” are the reader-leaders of journalists. About 29 per cent of Canadian journalists fall into this category, which is characterized by monitoring social media, but not sourcing or checking as much of their information on social. Like Promoters and Architects, Hunters still find a lot of value in promotion and audience interaction, preferring Facebook and Twitter over other platforms.

There is a precipitous drop-off in the amount of time that hunters spend on social media daily versus promoters and architects. Nearly all hunters spend less than four hours a day on social, the majority spending less than two hours.

Hunters also have one of the most favorable views of the PR profession of all archetypes.


“Observers” primarily equate “social media” with Facebook and Twitter. About 18 per cent of Canadian journalists fall into this category.

We characterize Observers by inconsistent social media usage (some journalists in this category only use social for a few hours per week, although many devote less than two hours daily). Observers will promote their content, but lament the impact of social media on traditional journalism. Observers are highly skeptical of PR professionals and favour subject-matter experts, industry and professional sources for their content.

The vast majority of Observers publish a work-related blog (87per cent), although few in this group identify as a blogger/vloggers, so it appears tjhat they support other online media brands.


“Skeptics” are just that: skeptical of social media. About eight per cent of Canadian journalists fall into this category.

What characterizes Skeptics is an extraordinarily different social media usage pattern than other archetypes. In fact, only six per cent of Skeptics report using social media platforms daily. And only 20 per cent reporting weekly usage. These are the Anti-Architects.

Interestingly, many Skeptics are concerned about copyright law as it relates to social media. They are not Luddites: they use email consistently and prefer it as a means for contact. And Skeptics, although apprehensive of social media are no more ambivalent as other groups about PR professionals than many of the other archetypes.


One of the most important takeaways from the Cision 2017 Canadian Social Journalism Study is that there is a huge variation in how journalists view social media and use it to do their work. Throughout the spectrum of Social Archetypes, we see most journalists have a conflicted relationship with PR. Perhaps tools like the Social Archetypes are a way to bridge the trust gap by better understanding the perceptions and habits of social journalists.

About Nick Bell

Nick Bell is the VP of Marketing Communications at Cision. With more than 20 years of technology marketing experience, Bell has held executive-level positions with marketing technology firms including Oracle Marketing Cloud, Eloqua and Adobe. Bell has a proven track record of developing award-winning and ROI-based marketing programs, media relations, and brand strategies. Bell holds a degree in journalism from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter @nbell94102.

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