CHICAGO — As the news media continue wrestling with issues like fake news and a drop in public trust, journalists want PR reps to know who they are and what they cover, and to skip the corporate spiel when pitching stories, according to Cision’s 2018 Global State of the Media report.

The latest annual study, released Tuesday, found that journalists still see value in their relationships with PR contacts, with 70% categorizing their relationships as neutral and 20% as more valuable than in the past.

A majority of journalists, 63%, said even in this age of digital wizardry, they still prefer to get their information via press releases or news announcements. 44% said press releases are the most trustworthy source of brand information.

However, the study, based on the responses of 1,355 journalists, bloggers and influencers in the US, Canada and Europe, found that it is also imperative for communicators to cut to the chase when pitching stories if they want to grab journalists’ attention.

“They need to write in plain English and talk to a very plain news hook,” said Cision CMO Chris Lynch. “For communicators in particular, it starts with really focusing on telling the story of press release.” It also means communicators need to step up the project management aspect of the work, keeping information simple as they proceed through the executive approval process, he added.

Those takeaways for communicators are part of the report’s larger global and regional look at the challenges facing the media, as well as its members’ current mindsets.

Key findings include a majority of journalists are still grappling with the effects of fake news and a lack of public trust, 18 months since the those issues emerged from the 2016 presidential election.

Globally, 71% of journalists said they believe the public has lost trust in journalists.

That’s down from a high of 91% a year ago. But, as Lynch said, “71% is still pretty high, even for a profession that has cynicism baked into it.”

Globally, 56% of  respondents said that fake news is making readers more skeptical than ever about what they read and see — a factor leading to accuracy ranking as more important than speed with 75% of journalists surveyed.

Results differed per region. In the US, fake news was a primary concern of 59% of journalists, higher than the global average, with social networks and search engines bypassing traditional media, staffing and limited resources also ranking high.

78% of US journalists said ensuring content is 100% accurate is a top priority. American news people still want help from PR professionals; About 30% said having a solid understanding of their outlet and areas of coverage would be helpful, while 27% said tailoring pitches to their beats is important.

In the UK and Europe, the number of journalists who think the public has lost trust in journalism is lower than in the US and Canada: this is the sentiment of 63% of British journalists, 56% in Germany, 55% in Sweden and 42% in France.

More than 81% of British journalists said their title values accuracy the most, above exclusivity or being the first to break a story – only 7% said being the first to publish a story was most important to their organisation – three percentage points below the global average. This compares to 70% of Swedish journalists, 67% in France and 53% in Germany valuing accuracy most.

Fake news is not as top of mind in Britain as it is in other places, with just 19% of journalists citing it as the top challenge facing the industry. But 37% said social networks and search engines bypassing traditional media have been the biggest test for journalism over the last 12 months, and 29% said changes to social media algorithms would be the most disruptive in the future.

In Europe, UK journalists (44%) still rate press releases as the most reliable brand news source. German journalists, however, view press releases much more highly: 78% said they were the most reliable source, while French and Swedish journalists were broadly consistent with the global figure of 63%.

Trust in earned and owned social media channels is uniformly low across Europe, ranging from 0% in Germany to 5% among British journalists. But there are more dramatic differences between the perceived reliability of other sources: only 23% of UK journalists view company spokespeople as reliable, lower than any other country surveyed.

In contrast, spokespeople are trusted by 33% of French journalists, 36% of Swedish journalists, and 44% of German journalists. And while the information on company websites is seen as reliable by 23% of the UK media and 26% in Sweden, this drops to 14% in Germany and a very low 2% in France.

Additional reporting by Maja Pawinska Sims