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Earned media is viewed as most credible source, survey says

Earned media stories are viewed by the public as the most credible source used by PR practitioners, revealed a recent study. The study, which featured 1,500 survey participants and 46 focus group participants, examined how people assess the credibility of these sources, including earned news, traditional ads, native ads, independent blogs and corporate blogs.

Regardless of the source utilized, people value strong writing, copious facts and balanced perspectives when processing public relations messaging, said survey researchers Julie O’Neil, PhD, professor in strategic communication at Texas Christian University; Marianne Eisenmann, head, research and analytics, Syneos Health and Maggie Homan, public information officer for Pflugerville, TX.

Findings include:
  • Blog posts by independent bloggers are considered very credible.
  • While not as many participants viewed ads as credible compared to earned media, they do believe that they are necessary to build awareness. However, survey participants recognized that ads may be biased, and therefore seek outside verification of the claims made.
  • Native ads are seen as particularly disingenuous, with nearly half of participants considering them the least credible. Some survey participants expressed frustration about having to differentiate between the various forms of information, especially as it relates to native ads.
  • Consumers actively research multiple online sources to verify advertisers’ claims about a new product and to reduce their own uncertainty about making that purchase.
  • Authenticity is of great importance to survey participants. Independent bloggers, earned media and/or endorsements from respected sources enhance credibility. Interestingly, published negative reviews or comments about a product or service enhance authenticity and affirm credibility.

In their takeaway report, published in a blog on the Institute of Public Relations’ website, the researchers noted that “despite the growing prevalence and importance of social and digital media, the findings of this research affirm that traditional media (earned media) remain a crucial component of the media mix for promoting a product or service. Earned media is perceived as credible, it is cost effective and it can be integrated easily with other channels in the promotional mix.”

Public relations pros, they said, should “continue to leverage and share messaging across the entire PESO — paid, earned, shared, owned — system. People are fairly sophisticated in understanding the strengths and weaknesses of various promotional channels, including assumptions about why and how companies and brands use paid and owned channels to inform and persuade.”

To view the entire study, click here.


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