A recent survey of journalists working for broadcast outlets and national daily and Sunday newspapers has found that the press release is still the most recognised source for PRs to serve up news stories.

Of the journalists polled – from media including BBC News, ITV News, Sky News, MailOnline and London Evening Standard – 94% plumped for the press release – even though 78% said they were increasingly turning to social media to find news stories.

The findings are music to the ears of PRs like me because it highlights that the press release format is still something that is valued by journalists in an age when news stories can be broken in 140 characters.

This reverence for the press release was compounded by the fact that journalists said that they should ideally be on average 18 paragraphs long. When you think about it, it’s still a challenge to cram all the necessary information to answer those six fundamental questions of who, what, when, why, where and how?

Contacting journalists

Another interesting finding by the study, authored by Charlotte McConkey, was that even though journalists are happy to dip into social media, they’re still old school in how they want to be contacted by PRs.

Three quarters of journalists said the best way PRs can get in touch with a story is via email – compared to just 14% who said phone, and 4% who said via social media channels such as Twitter.

Journalist gripes

And perhaps my favourite section of the study related to journalists’ gripes about PRs. Two thirds said that PRs ‘don’t understand what a story is’ and they ‘don’t understand my media title’. More than half also said that PRs ‘try to tell me what a story is’, but the thing that gave me the biggest wry smile was that 48% of journalists said PRs ‘don’t provide full contact details including phone number’.

I love surveys like this as it affirms three things for me. The first is that the press release is still king. The second is that emailing press releases is still the best delivery method (although it’s sometimes a requirement to call a journalist about the story). And third and most important is that there’s lots of sloppy PR practice out there – which makes it easier for PRs who do the basics well.