Today’s media contain a bonanza of survey stories, that ever-popular staple of the public relations tool box. Surveys are great PR because, as well as generating media coverage, they give third-party endorsement to an organisation’s key messages.

BankWest wins today’s prize for the most successful PR effort with its very serious sounding “BankWest Key Worker Housing Affordability report”. BankWest retail chief executive Ian Corfield got some fabulous coverage across radio and television including a segment on the Channel Nine Today show that bordered on a shameless promotion of BankWest products.

The BankWest survey may not tell us anything particularly new but it is formulated in a very media-friendly way. Housing affordability is a red hot issue and focusing on respected people like nurses and firemen makes it seem almost like a serious policy paper. Added to this, the story lends itself easily to state-specific coverage, always popular with editors.

We don’t have the BankWest report yet because, in line with standard PR practice, it is “to be released today”. The morning preview piece is a key PR tactic that allows you to control the message, rather than letting pesky reporters make their own interpretations of the data.

The Daily Telegraph billed this lame preview as an ‘exclusive’; this means that BankWest gave them the report in the hope of maximising coverage. Often the journalist in this situation will ask: “Now who else has this story?”. If the answer is lots of people, your chance of coverage in that outlet goes down immediately.

The St Vincent de Paul Society also got some media coverage for “a report to be published today” which shows that many people use caravan parks as crisis housing. Again, not that surprising and without a survey, unlikely to generate much interest. Vinnies got some newspaper and radio coverage but didn’t do as well as BankWest.

The Australian also previews a “major report” to be released today and conducted for the industry body, Newspaper Works, which shows that people think newspapers are “absorbing, dynamic and reputable”. Gosh, really.

The study might be more interesting than that because there is this little barb towards the bottom of their preview article: “Thirty-three per cent of consumers believe newspaper content is the most respected; only slightly less than for TV, radio and magazines.” Doesn’t sound that flash and perhaps another reason for using the preview tactic.

The Australian also previews a Roy Morgan survey conducted for the Distilled Spirits industry and “to be released today” which shows that middle-aged men are the real problem drinkers and not teenage girls. The Australian notes that the survey is part of a “counter-offensive” against the Federal Government’s alcopops tax. No kidding.

Trevor Cook blogs at Corporate Engagement.