Monday, November 21, 2005

Cynical media? Not unless you're guilty - or an Australian sports fan

Before I moved from Australia to London a year ago, I was warned that the British media was more negative and cynical than the Australian media. With access to more than 300 million news items in the Factiva database, I thought I'd do a quick analysis of headlines to see if I could make any high level comparisons.

So...does the media report more on wins or losses? Surprisingly, the word "win" appeared in 84% of the 36,304 headlines in the UK media last year, that contained either the word "win" or "lose". This was on par with the ratio in the 9,000+ global sources in The percentage of headlines in the North American and Australian media referencing the word "win" was marginally higher, with both media sets reporting a ratio of 86% for "win" and 14% for "lose". Conclusion: winners are grinners, and no one likes a loser - unless...

You're talking about the terms "guilty" vs "innocent". In the British media, 82% of the 3,655 headlines that contained the terms "guilty" or "innocent", reported "guilty". This percentage increased in the Australian media to 89%, in the global media to 90%, and in the North American media to 93%. Conclusion: guilty people seem to make headlines far more frequently than innocent people, which is a bit of bad luck, unless you believe that any PR is good PR.

The terms "bad luck" vs "good luck" in the headlines returned a fairly consistent ratio across the global, North American and British media, which ran at about 41% for the term "bad luck" and 59% for "bad luck". The luck was up in Australia, where the ratio swung the other way and more than half of the headlines contained the term "bad luck". I suspect that most of those articles were about The Ashes series this year. But let's not go there. Speaking of disasters...

The North American media used the term "disaster" five times as much as it used the term "miracle". 85% of the 15,757 articles in North America last year reported "disaster" in the headlines. The percentage of the word "disaster" in the global media headlines was 82%; 72% in the UK and 69% in the Australian media. So with the remaining 31% of headlines in the Australian media reporting the term "miracle", I'm hoping that the bulk of those articles are about upcoming performances by the Wallabies.

Hmm. Cynical media or cynical reader?

Censorship in the spotlight

The issue of censorship was the focus of a raging debate at a UN communications and technology summit last weekend, according to a report in the Weekend Australian.

The article summarises the debate between those who say that the Internet should be available for people to exercise freedom of speech and those who claim that Internet restrictions are warranted to protect the state.

China and Iran were two of the 15 countries that the French press freedom group Reporters sans Frontiers, labelled "enemies of the Internet" in a protest at the Summit. Interesting to see that the latest estimate of the number of blogs in China is 6 million and growing, and 700,000 in Iran - staggering numbers!

Will such governments ever willingly back down in their views about censorship or will technology such as blogs force them to? I suspect that the collective voice power the blogosphere provides otherwise once repressed, disgruntled, frustrated or angry individuals, is an issue that governments on that list of 15 countries will not be able to ignore.

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Invisible PR Person?

Ah - the journalist/PR relationship is alive and well in the case of Charles Wright and Apple Australia. I found Charles Wright's Razor blog/column yesterday, about the perfection of Apple's program to develop the invisible PR person very amusing.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

New research: good reputation can improve share price

Valuing intangible assets such as a company's reputation, has always been challenging. In an economic climate where everything must be tied back to the bottom line, even the issue of "reputation" comes under scrutiny.

The question, "what is the value of having a good reputation?" is one that communications professionals are often asked to answer. While they intrinically know that a good reputation attracts better employees, drives sales and improves relationships with all key stakeholders, it can be an ongoing battle to get the budget to fund the activities that nurture their company's reputation.

Factiva and Investor Dynamics recently commissioned research that investigated the financial link between good corporate reputation and share price.

Conducted by MBA graduate students at the London Business School, the research found that good corporate reputation can directly contribute to the value of the business. The research indicates that investors who base their portfolio buying on companies with strong reputation reap on average 1% per month excess risk-adjusted return.

Check out the white paper which details the research. It's a great supporting resource for anyone who plays some part in managing their company's reputation.

Bloggers: - re-defining the rules

I speak with many PR professionals at industry events and Factiva's events, and it's fascinating to see what the general level of awareness of blogs in the PR and broader business community is. It's also interesting to see whether people consider blogs a threat (or an opportunity), or if they view blogs as "merely a bunch of geeks having a whinge".

At the International PR Summit in London earlier this month, Mark Adams, the Head of Communications for the World Economic Forum, raised the issue of blogs in a panel discussion about global communications trends, challenges and opportunites. He said that companies who ignored blogs did so at their own peril.

It's hard not to agree when you see headlines like: "Bloggers Break Sony", which appeared in an Information Week article yesterday.

It's yet another example of how consumers are using virtual voice power to force companies (in a very public way) to listen.

As Alan Scott, Factiva's Chief Marketing Officer said in the article, "There's a whole new set of rules that people have to live by. Whether it's blogs or user groups or NGOs, it's all about honesty and authenticity. This is just the latest painful example of a major company finding that the old tools and the old actions don't work."

Demonstrating the value of PR

This week's PR Week (Nov 11, 2005) reported interesting new research from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations.

The survey sized the UK PR industry at £6.5bn, and found that PR contributes £3.4bn to the British economy. PR is also estimated to provide £1.1bn of corporate profits.

PR spend, the survey found, has risen by a third since 2000 to an annual average of £1.2m per organisation, and it estimated that there are now 47,800 people working in the PR industry.

It's great to see stats like this that reinforce the value of PR.

Monday, November 14, 2005

What exactly is news?

Journalism lecturers at university taught me that news is amongst other things, new, unique, unusual, controversial or quirky.

A Factiva colleague and former journalist gave me a far more practical example – the “man bites dog” test. “It’s not news when a dog bites a man – that happens all the time,” he said. “But it is news when a man bites a dog.”

A quick search on returned some 289 articles dating back to 1987, with ‘Man Bites Dog’ in the headline. The stories behind those numbers are a little more disturbing…

One drunk man in Shanghai bit a dog to death after it had nipped him on the cheek as he walked home.

And spare a thought for Renny, a three-year old police-dog, who was bitten by a drunk patron leaving a Syracuse nightclub. When questioned and charged with injuring a police animal, the offender said he could not remember biting the dog because “he was pretty drunk.”

In another incident, a drunk and blind man was caught on cameras gnawing his guide dog’s ears and nose. He was fined and banned for life from ever owning a dog,

Eoow! What is it with drunk blokes and biting dogs?

On a more positive note, my favourite Man Bites Dog story was reported in the Daily Telegraph in August 2000. A Welsh fisherman had to abandon his boat in a storm and climb a 40 metre cliff. The only way he could save his pooch was to carry her to safety – using his teeth. "I grabbed her by the scruff of the neck and clamped my mouth around the fur. She didn't seem to mind," he said.

Aww…finally a good news story!

Probably not the most compelling USP I've seen...

If you can't beat em, join em!

Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to blog I go.

Apparently the blogosphere is growing at the rate of a new blog every second. That’s a lot of people creating a lot of content! Who’d have thought there were that many wanna-be journalists and self-publishers?

I suspect that my motive for blogging is similar to that of millions of other bloggers: I question what I read in the mainstream media; I question what’s being served up by corporate and government PR machines; and perhaps, for a brief moment, I want to unleash my inner journalist and write my own views without censorship or the corporate editing process.

Having worked in marketing and corporate communications roles in both large and small companies for over ten years, I’ve experienced my share of corporate editing/censorship. In the early days, the marked up changes would appear across the page in bright red ink. Now, the tracking function in Microsoft Word lets my various internal editors do that electronically. Some days, those mark ups have left my pages looking more like road maps - or war zones. One time, when I was writing a press release, an ex-boss decided to short-circuit the drafting process, commandeered my keyboard as I was mid-way through it, and attempted to finish the release for me. His reputation for being a micro-manager was never more evident…

These days, I am a Public Relations Manager for Factiva, a Dow Jones and Reuters company. I work with our regional marketing teams and PR agencies across the UK, CEMA and APAC, as well as my colleagues in our US head office. I still have to work documents through a long approval process which ensures consistency of our corporate message. And that’s fair enough – the best companies and brands have consistent and well articulated messages.

That said, Factiva is also encouraging its employees to blog. Whereas some companies have a blanket “Thou shalt not blog” policy, Factiva is actively encouraging us to “go forth and blog”. When I put on my corporate communications hat, I ponder whether this is opening the company up to unnecessary communications risks. But then many companies are being blogged about right now by their past and present employees, and by satisfied and dissatisfied customers. In many cases, companies are completely unaware that these conversations are taking place. To me, that is a far bigger communications threat.

So. This blog is my own foray into self-publishing, and will discuss my observations as a communications professional, and how the ever-changing media landscape is impacting my role and the role of corporate communications globally.