Most public relations practitioners intuitively believe in the power of media coverage to create the awareness, knowledge, interest and intent that is needed to achieve desired behaviors by target audiences. But how much media coverage is needed to affect change, and is more really better? And before you say yes, when and where have you seen it proved?
A new Institute paper by Angie Jeffrey (VMS), David Michaelson (David Michaelson & Company), and Don Stacks (University of Miami) is entitled “Exploring the Link Between Volume of Media Coverage and Business Outcomes.” And that’s what it does.
Media coverage is sometimes measured by counting clips, audience impressions, and the media value if the same space or time were purchased. At a more sophisticated level, volume measures may consider other factors like tone, accuracy and target audience reach. But this paper goes beyond all that and offers case studies comparing quality and quantity of media coverage with business outcomes, using an artificial-intelligence linguistics tool to analyze huge numbers of articles.
In the first of several cases, a healthcare organization extensively publicized the importance of mammograms. The campaign included no paid media or promotional activity, depending entirely on media coverage. Comparing media patterns with business results (visits to doctors’ offices to discuss a mammogram), it’s clear that business results marched upward with volume of coverage and fell when coverage declined.
A second case deals with the effects of negative story volume, and whether the old adage, “bad publicity is better than no publicity” is really true. It’s not.
Finally, a third case illustrates how media coverage that simply mentions a brand without delivering a meaningful message may not have much impact. The product was a medicine for overactive bladder, with prescription volume as the business outcome. An analysis of 3,000 articles showed only modest correlation between coverage volume and prescription volume. But the correlation of coverage with prescriptions soared when at least one key message made it into the story.
The moral: define your business outcomes, define your messages, and work like crazy to get those reflected in as many relevant media sources as possible.
President and CEO
Institute for Public Relations