The Research Wire-Trap

By: Chris Michaels, Sr. Account Manager, Fusion PR (@chrisamichaels)

Recently I received an e-mail blast of a study conducted by a company that was obviously hired by a newswire service. It claimed that service XXX was so much better than the rest because it garnered more “coverage” than any other service.

I laughed. Then I got angry. Because as I read the study, methodology, claims and results, I found that there were some very big flaws in this survey; the largest one is it’s a giant hasty generalization.

Here’s what I found, and find offensive:

This first thing wrong with the survey, is that it does not take into account the newswire distribution ordered by the client (according to their parent company’s earnings releases, “XXX Newswire’s clients use their YYY distribution”). It only looks at how many times someone mentioned the content of the release, regardless if it was to a desired outlet. Meanwhile other wire services allow for more customized local circuits and industries.

This survey also failed to take into account whether the client desired pick up or not. Some companies use newswires to meet disclosure requirements and as such, are not written to engage the average reporter but rather to provide key corporate information to the financial community/disclosure outlets.

The survey also didn’t take into consideration the media relations done by the client or their PR agency – who is to say that the newswire is responsible for the pick up? Because the study defines pick-up, “as any reference to the release subject matter in media published after the date and time of the release,” it could claim that the wire service garnered any and all coverage. Therefore, if I did my usual proactive efforts, had an embargoed article that didn’t post until the story crossed the wire, and did my own distribution blast of the release to my client’s media “fans,” I don’t get credit for the hours of work that were put in.

The last part is that the number of pickups is irrelevant to the number of eyeballs. Without the qualifications, I could get picked-up by 500 blogs with 3 readers, or I could get picked up by 4 blogs with 500,000 readers. According to the study, I would only have been successful had I attained coverage on the 500 blogs.

I think you get the point.

So, what would provide the better ROI?

Obviously it’s something this study assumes is total coverage, regardless of outlet and article quality, and not the complete campaign effort from a PR team, in-house outreach. Instead it should have looked at combined campaigns, agency/in-house team outreach, and qualified the number of eyeballs.

Sticky-ness doesn’t rely just on the just distributing a release over a wire, but by the complete campaign efforts of a team to proactively pitch, follow-up and ensure that the news got to the right people.

Therefore the study begs the question, has this study, and the hiring agency, now alienated the entire community of PR professionals by claiming to do their work?


1 Comment
  • Steve

    September 26, 2008 at 7:06 am Reply

    Chris,

    Great points and all this comes back to an ongoing public relations industry issue, how do we measure results. Much measurement in our business still falls under the “how many clips” heading, whereas we need to be getting much deeper and more accurate in measuring results.

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