Getting journalists to pay attention to pitches from PR pros has always been a challenge, but according to a new study from public relations management software company Propel, it’s gotten considerably more difficult over the past year.

The Q4 2021 Propel Media Barometer finds that the industry average response rate to pitches slid by 32 percent from Q3 2020 to Q3 2021. That translates to an overall response rate of 3.49 percent, down from 4.62 percent in Q3 2020.

Open rates also fell, going from 36 percent to 28 percent.

This trend is not quite as strong at what Propel refers to as “top-performing PR agencies,” where open rates fell just slightly, from 45.04 percent to 44.51 percent. Response rates also dipped just a bit, from 8.89 percent in Q3 2020 to 8.70 percent in Q3 2021.

Propel 2021 Media Barometer: Media Outlet Engagement - Top 3 Open & Response Rates Q2 & Q3

Some topics fared better than others, the report found. Pitches related to art and entertainment had the best open rate in both Q2 (37.33 percent) and Q3 (34.96 percent) of this year. However, food and drink came out on top in terms of response rates, racking up 4.44 percent in Q2 2021 and 4.69 percent in Q3.

Other topics getting top open rates in Q3 included tech and computing (30.09 percent), food and drink (29.09 percent) and financial (28.16 percent). Scoring well for response rates were art and entertainment (3.10 percent), business and industrial (3.05 percent) and tech and computing (3.03 percent).

It also matters where you send your pitches. The Wall Street Journal “consistently opens the most pitches sent through our software,” the study’s authors say, with an 85.58 percent open rate in Q2, which dropped to 63.41 percent (still placing it at No. 1) in Q3. The top response rates came from Forbes in Q2, with a rate of 4.84 percent, and Sky News in Q3 (6.19 percent).

BBC News, the New York Times and Business Insider all did well in open and response rates in both quarters.

Propel also looks at which PR agencies are getting the most buzz on social media. Edelman tops that list, followed by Ketchum., BCW, FleishmanHillard and Weber Shandwick.

The study concludes that the overall drop in the effectiveness of pitches places a greater weight on “having targeted, high-quality pitches” that address the appropriate targets.

“We all know that paid media dollars are migrating toward earned media due to rising PPC costs, the death of the cookie, ad blocking and the increasing importance of brand credibility,” said Propel co-founder and CEO Zach Cutler.

Propel based its findings on over 1.4 million media pitches sent to journalists.