In a survey conducted by U.K.-based Parker Wayne & Kent public relations, nearly 53 percent of PR professionals said that offline (print) coverage was more valuable than online news coverage for their company or client.
Other findings from the survey include:
- 63.8 percent of PR professionals believe their stakeholders refer to print coverage more than online, television or radio.
- 52.9 percent of PR professionals believe their stakeholders are more influenced by print coverage than television, online or radio.
- 11.7 percent PR professionals believe offline (print) coverage is becoming less relevant to PR campaigns.
Downloads of the survey are available on the Parker Wayne & Kent website.
The survey illustrates a major disconnect between PR industry folk and consumers of information with regards to the perceived value of print -vs- online news coverage and information.
The stark contrast in perception becomes readily apparent when compared with results from consumer surveys like one conducted by Fleishman Hillard and another by Experian Research Services.
According to Parker Wayne & Kent’s press release announcing the survey results:
- Fleishman Hillard’s study found online coverage to be eight times more influential than printnd twice as influential as television with consumers.
- The Experian report concluded levels of consumer engagement with online content to be much higher than when the same information was presented offline. For instance, there was a 25 percent increase in engagement when television shows were presented online.
Even though the survey of PR professionals was a rather small sample of PR professionals in the U.K., I think this perception gap is far more widespread in the industry.
PR strategies in general are geared toward aiming for print coverage for a few reasons:
- Print guides TV coverage – The old joke in the news industry is that TV news producers go in to work and read the headlines of the local paper to decide what they should cover that morning. The exception to this rule, of course, is traffic jams, accidents and violent crimes aka non-PR generated coverage. My hunch is that people are thinking this way about online coverage, however, I may be wrong.
- Print is easy to measure according to the old standards – Traditional methods of ROI calculations like ad equivalency can satisfy the bean counters even if it doesn’t really mean much in the real world.
- Print is tangible – This one has no roots in logic, but rather more with the emotional resonance associated with seeing something in print.
Am I forgetting anything?
The reality is that online coverage typically has far more traction with consumers of information. That’s why there’s a strong imperative that we learn how to measure it properly. The number of unique visitors to the site and level of engagement with the news item in the form of comments and trackbacks provide a much better indicator of visitor interest and sentiment than arbitrary dollar amounts.
How do we go about educating executives and clients about the influence of online coverage?
Print may be tangible, but it’s tangibility doesn’t encourage engagement with the information. I know it’s our job to satisfy people who may want print, but isn’t it also our job to educate and counsel?
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