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How credible are different sources of information?

By Kim Harrison,

Consultant, Author and Principal of www.cuttingedgepr.com

How credible are different sources of news and information in people’s opinions? When putting PR programs together, it pays to understand how well different sources of information are respected and to focus on the most trusted for best results. The survey results, below, are a good guide to the credibility of various news and information sources, and you would benefit from keeping the results as a reference when planning future communication programs..

Research commissioned by international PR firm, Edelman, in March 2006, asked respondent opinion leaders, “How credible do you feel each of the following sources is for information about a company?” The responses for the US polling were:

Articles in business magazines 66%
Friends and family 58%
Colleagues 56%
Stock or industry analyst reports 52%
Articles in newsweeklies 52%
Radio news coverage 48%
Articles in newspapers 44%
The Internet in general 39%
TV news coverage 38%
Information conveyed by CEOs, CFOs 27%
Blogs 17%

 

Business magazines such as Fortune and Forbes are the most trusted source of information. The Internet is rising in credibility and has already surpassed the credibility of television news (subject to statistical variation) and will probably become more credible than radio news.

The figures show that people trust those they know or are related to more than at any other time in recent years. Therefore, you are advised to communicate directly to stakeholders and their circle of contacts. Based on the above figures, viral marketing is well worth pursuing – people tend to trust their networks to tell them about new products or services.

An earlier Edelman survey, in 2002, found the following credibility of advertising:

Product or service advertising 5%
Corporate advertising 4%

 

This result further reinforces the view that PR carries much more credibility than advertising – and, of course, is much cheaper.

Credibility of spokespersons

The Annual Edelman Trust Barometer survey of March 2006 showed the following results. Opinion leaders were asked, “When forming an opinion of a company, how credible would the information be from…” [sources below]:

A person like yourself or a peer 68%
Doctor or healthcare specialist 59%
Academic 57%
Accountant 53%
NGO representative 53%
Financial/industry analyst 53%
Regular employee of company 45%
CEO of company 28%
Lawyer 21%
Union official 20%
PR person 17%
Blogger 13%
Entertainer/athlete 12%

 

Clearly, opinion leaders are much more likely to trust a peer or a regular employee than a CEO to give them information about a company. While CEOs are badly respected, the poor old PR practitioner is about as low as a snake’s belly in the estimation of opinion leaders. A sizeable part of the problem for PR practitioners is the way our profession is consistently flamed in the media.

At least we rate above entertainers and athletes for credibility. The figure for athletes and entertainers is a good reminder not to use them in marketing communication unless they are well respected and relevant to the product or service being promoted.

People are more likely to act than in the past when they don’t like a company. Edelman asked opinion leaders the following question: “Tell me if you have ever done this in relation to a company you do not trust…” [US figures]:

 

Refused to buy their products or use their services 84%
Criticized them to people you know 77%
Refused to do business with them 75%
Refused to invest in them 74%
Refused to work for them 49%
Shared your opinions and experiences on the Web 36%
Actively demonstrated or protested against them 14%

 

You can find the survey report on the results from different continents (USA, Canada, Europe, Asia and Brazil) in
http://www.edelman.com/insights.

 

About the Author

Kim Harrison is a recognized authority in the public relations field. His website, www.cuttingedgepr.com, provides a wealth of informative articles and resources on public relations techniques and management.

 

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