Study Shows Significant Distortion of PR Messages by Mainstream Media and Bloggers

prwebThe fact that the messages sent out are met with competing stories, distortion and delution is not news to any PR Professional. Yet how much the gap between what a company communicates and what gets published by mainstream media and bloggers might be a cold shower for members of the trade. A recent study conducted by Burson-Marsteller, Message Gap Analysis, shows there is an average 48% gap for mainstream media and a much bigger 69% gap for bloggers reporting the news.

To reach the findings of the Message Gap Analysis study, Burson-Marsteller analyzed 158 messages sent by 16 companies listed in Financial Time’s Global 100 companies list, four for each major region included in the research: US, Latin America, EMEA and Asia Pacific. The coverage for the selected message by both online and offline mainstream media, as well as by influential bloggers (influence being determined by observing traffic and/or reader engagement in comments) was analyzed between March and May 2010.

While the average gap between the corporate message and the mainstream media coverage was of 48%, the numbers differ from one area to another: Europe scores the lowest gap, 40%, followed by the US with 45%. The higher gaps occur in Latin America – 53%, and Asia Pacific – 58%. The much lower gaps in the US and Europe can be attributed to the longest history PR has had in these regions, compared to the other two included in the analysis.

When it comes to blogger relations, it seems that a lot more of the initial messages being sent out is lost on the way, the average gap being of 69%. The lowest is again reported in Europe – 59%, followed by Asia Pacific – 63%. The US scores a much higher gap of 76%, topped only by Latin America – 82%.

Along with the data revealing how much PR messages are distorted and how much is lost on the way, Burson-Marsteller’s Message Gap Analysis also includes some valuable insights, extremely useful for members of the PR trade looking to remove barriers and decrease the existing gap:

  • “Aspirational” language needs to be supported by concrete facts and messages or it will be ignored
  • Tell the whole story – or the media will tell it for you
  • Avoid jargon and make it accessible (especially since the media is not the only audience for press releases any more)
  • press releases are reprinted extensively, which affects the strategy for communication professionals
  • bloggers are more likely to make comparisons to competitors and to speculate