The way communicators dispense information is out of sync with the way consumers use media, according to
Media, Myths & Realities, a comprehensive survey of media usage among
consumers and communications professionals conducted by global public
relations firm Ketchum and the University of Southern California Annenberg
Strategic Public Relations Center. Advice from family and friends is the
No. 1 source that consumers turn to when making a variety of decisions -
ranging from purchasing consumer electronics to planning a vacation - and
advice from an expert rates highest when making medical decisions and
purchases based on a product's environmental impact. Despite the strong
evidence that friends, family and experts play a key role in influencing
decisions, only 24 percent of communicators report having a word-of-mouth
program in place.
Another indication of this communication gap is the differing reliance
on company Web sites. Communicators rank their companies' own Web sites as
the most effective way to share corporate news or issue a response to a
crisis, but consumers rank company Web sites sixth and seventh among places
they turn to for corporate news and crisis response, respectively.
In its second year, the Media Myths & Realities survey examines the use
of more than 40 media channels, ranging from newspapers to social
networking sites. This year's survey was expanded to include the
fast-growing BRIC countries - Brazil, Russia, India and China. The theme
"public of one" emerged from this year's findings to represent the way
communicators should view today's consumer audience. With digital media
giving rise to increasing media choice, fragmentation and personal
empowerment, the term "mass market" is being outmoded. As a result, it is
imperative that communicators view their audience as distinct groupings of
"This year's findings magnify the point of last year's benchmark
survey, which showed that communications professionals need to vigorously
reassess their communication priorities to meet consumers' needs in this
multimedia channel world," said Nicholas Scibetta, Ketchum senior vice
president and global director, Global Media Network.
"The survey results also show that today, more than ever, each consumer
can search out the specific information he or she is seeking while tuning
out the media sources that aren't personally relevant or meaningful,"
Scibetta added. "Communicators must focus on speaking to individuals, not
just broadcasting to the masses, when getting their messages across to this
new 'public of one.'"
Other Key Findings
* Consumers in emerging markets may be setting the pace for media use.
"This year's survey deflated a major myth that the 2006 survey didn't
explore: the notion that emerging markets are less media-savvy than the
U.S.," said Jerry Swerling, founder and director of the USC Annenberg
Strategic Public Relations Center. "Consumers in the BRIC countries are
tech-savvy, they are accessing more mobile media and they deem media
outlets to be more credible than do their U.S. counterparts. As more
corporations operate globally, communicators must be aware of these
differences." Furthermore, overall media consumption in the BRIC
countries is heavier than in the U.S., and BRIC consumers generally
rate media sources higher in credibility than do U.S. consumers. For
instance, in the U.S., 65 percent of consumers report using major
television network news, compared to 85 percent in Brazil, 79 percent
in Russia, 72 percent in India and 60 percent in China. Meanwhile, only
Russian consumers rank major network news lower in credibility than
U.S. consumers. On a scale of 0 to 10, major network news ranks 7.6 in
Brazil, 7.6 in India and 7.4 in China. It ranks 6.7 and 6.2 in the U.S.
and Russia, respectively.
* U.S. consumers are more skeptical of nearly all media outlets. Another
key finding underscores the fact that while U.S. consumers are using
more media sources than ever before, they are less likely than they
were a year ago to take the information they receive at face value.
Consumers rated all media sources, with the exception of cable network
news, as being less credible than in the 2006 survey. While local
television news was seen as most credible, it dropped from 7.4 last
year to 6.9 on a scale of 0 to 10. Celebrity endorsements ranked last,
at 3.7, down from 4.7 last year. Cable network news ranked 6.8,
compared to 6.4 in 2006.
* Media preferences are more personalized than ever. The study reveals
that 22 percent of U.S. consumers use social networking sites, up from
17 percent in 2006, and 19 percent of consumers use blogs, up from 13
percent. Among consumers over the age of 55, use of blogs and social
networking sites more than doubled. At the same time, use of most other
media outlets slipped from a year earlier. Search engines continue to
be a gateway to consumer choice in information, with 60 percent of U.S.
consumers using them to find and select the news and other information
they want to receive. The trend toward more personalized media is even
stronger among "influencers" - the 10 to 15 percent of the population
who initiate changes in their community or society through a variety of
activities - with 35 percent using both social networking sites and
blogs and 72 percent using search engines.
Takeaways for Communicators
* Treat audiences as groupings of individuals rather than faceless
masses. Rather than rely on the reputation of a media outlet to carry
your message, relate to the public by creating content that is
relevant, authentic, and engaging, and motivates consumers to share
information with like-minded people. The opportunity for communications
professionals is to help provide context, rather than sheer content,
and give consumers more of what they are seeking. Quantity of media
impressions should not be the sole focus of a campaign - media should
be used as a vehicle for reaching stakeholders in a way that is
meaningful or useful.
* Put word-of-mouth and search-engine-optimization strategies in place or
miss out on tremendous potential for audience reach and sales. In
addition to advice from family and friends being the No. 1 source that
U.S. consumers turn to when making select decisions, search engines
(such as Google, Yahoo, Cade, Yandex, Baidu, etc.) rank No. 1 or 2
among all media channels in overall usage for BRIC countries and No. 3
in the U.S. among influencers.
* Be wary of the communication flavor of the month. Be sure to stay on
top of the latest research and avoid becoming reliant on any single
communication technique regardless of how new or exciting it may seem.
For example, usage of podcasts is registering in the single digit range
with the exception of the 18-24 age group, which grew from 8 percent to
* A company's own Web site should not be the primary choice when
communicating to stakeholders. While a company Web site provides
communicators with a high degree of control over their message,
consumers often turn elsewhere for information.
The survey was conducted through online distribution between Sept. 30
and Oct. 5, 2007.
Source: PR Newswire