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The implications of a lack of trust in the media for PR

One of the main problems that the communications industry has to face is trust in the media. A recent study from research agency Arlington Research highlights the nature of the problem with just over a quarter (26%) of UK adults surveyed saying that they trust the media in relation to their consumption of news stories over the last six months.

One key reason why communicators are not believed is because they do not take the trouble to understand an audience. Paul Stallard, managing director at Arlington Research, says: “Anyone who has been involved with creating a PR or marketing plan will understand that thinking in the now is not enough. Audiences constantly change. Understanding your audience is pivotal to the success of any communications strategy. A key part is to know who they are and how best to talk to them.

Unfortunately, the old adage ‘rubbish in, rubbish out’ is still the basis of too many PR strategies. Scatter-gun mail outs with quantity put over quality is frequently seen.”

Key findings

  • Around one third (32%) of 18-24 year olds prefer video news compared to just 4% of those aged 65 and over.
  • Just over a quarter (26%) say they trust the media in relation to their consumption of news stories over the last six months.
  • Trust is highest amongst 18-24 years olds (31%).
  • Trust is lowest amongst those aged 55 and over (22%).
  • Less than half of the respondents (46%) agree with the statement “fake news worries me” in relation to their consumption of news.
  • Around one-third of respondents (32%) get most of their news from social media.
  • Just over half of respondents (53%) say they rarely buy a daily newspaper. 
  • It is not just the audience you need to understand, but the media they consume. Stallard adds: “It sounds obvious, but too many people take a gut-feel approach about the publications they should be talking to or just look at the reach figures of a title. This is such a dangerous approach. If you are making strategic decisions that can impact where you will be sharing your message, surely you want to do this with the most accurate information possible?

“For example, just under a third of UK adults surveyed (32%) get most of their news from social media, caring more about the story than the media title that writes it. Just over half of respondents say that they rarely buy a daily newspaper“.

Once you have researched your audience and the media channel, the next step is working out how to make your story more interesting and believable. Stallard offers these tips: “One-third of the consumers agree that the use of statistics increases their trust in a particular story. If a stat can’t be found a proof point is equally important as 36% of the people surveyed said that without one, a news story is just fake news.”

Stallard concludes: “Understanding who your audience is, what media they consume and how you can ensure the story resonates is essential. Not only will it help you find the right audience, it will also help you structure your story and highlight what is important to them.”


Arlington Research surveyed a minimum of 2,000 UK residents (increasing to 2,800 with some questions) using an online methodology amongst a nationally representative sample. All respondents were aged 18 and over. Quotas were applied for gender, age of respondents and the region in which they reside to ensure the sample was nationally representative.

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