Trust is like air to communicators and journalists. We live it and breathe it because we know that without it, nothing we do or say matters. Without trust, we can never hope to win hearts and minds.

Which is why the assault on journalistic integrity amounts to an existential crisis within our profession.

But now, two recently published reports provide reason for hope.

The Pew Research Center’s American Trends and Cision’s 2018 Global State of the Media surveyed over 1,300 journalists on their perceptions of trust. Topline findings? Trust in journalists — though still guarded — is measurably improving. And the media’s trust in communication professionals hasn’t changed: We remain a sought-out resource.

The key findings have meaningful implications for communicators.

Finding: Local news is the most trusted news
The Pew study found that 85 percent of Americans trust local news organizations for information. Local TV news also captures the largest television audience.

As trusted news sources, friends and family come in second behind local news. Social media lag far behind, earning a meager 35 percent for trustworthiness.

While fear of fake news has strained public trust, audiences still consider local news media to be credible information sources.

The lesson here? Don’t relegate local news to the bottom tier of your media relations plans. Telling stories through local news mediums, including local TV news, is a powerful way to reach and engage with the public.

 Finding: Journalists feel they are regaining trust with the public
Although the Cision survey found that 71 percent feel the public has lost trust in journalists, there’s a positive side to that stat. It’s actually a 22 percent improvement from the previous year’s rating of 91. In fact, 75 percent of media surveyed said that the most important goal for their organization is to ensure 100 percent accuracy of content.

Most members of media (92 percent) felt their relationships with PR professionals had remained neutral over the past year — or were even more valuable. We need to protect and build on that trusted partnership.

When working with journalists, it’s absolutely essential to be an advocate for accuracy. And our professional ethics demand it.Click To Tweet

Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) members proudly follow a Code of Ethics to be both “honest and accurate in all communications.” And the PR Council is working together with journalists as part of the news literacy project to educate society — particularly young people — about how best to discern credible news.

 Finding: News releases are most trusted brand sources for media
To riff on Mark Twain, reports of the death of the news release are greatly exaggerated — and can be put to rest. Journalists feel news releases are the most valuable content from communications professionals and are the most trustworthy resource for brand news. They even eclipse spokespeople, websites, blogs and social media.

Journalists actively seek out news and information from your news releases. Make sure you’re delivering. Starting now, take a fresh look at your news releases to ensure that they:

  • Minimize or eliminate marketing-speak and jargon
  • Lead with human interest
  • Drive home the news that matters to their audience
  • Use visual assets to strengthen storytelling impact

One last tip for communicating with journalists. We’ll all be better communicators by being better media partners — and that means researching media outlets to understand their audience and focus first, then being conscientious about providing data and expert sources when needed.

In other words, invest the time to be an informed partner. And invest the budget to provide quality and credible content that your media partners find interesting and relevant for their markets and audience.

Now, are you ready to tell your stories? Take our brief 5-minute Storytelling Readiness Quiz to see how you rate. We can trust you to be straight with us — right?

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