Traditional public relations is better than online activity

A 3D newspaperThe last two days have seen two entirely different stories emerging about banks part-owned by the British taxpayers. Yesterday, the Royal Bank of Scotland announced whopping great losses and promised more to come. Meanwhile, today, Lloyds Bank posted significant profits, confirming the taxpayers will be getting share dividends.

Both banks, however, went into PR overdrive. The CEO of the Royal Bank of Scotland was on TV, radio and looks like he spent the day being interviewed, trying to get his message across that they were on the road to recovery, but it was a long road. Today, the CEO of Lloyds Bank has been saying how pleased he is that at last the company is paying dividends again after a long break.

But who do you believe in all the coverage of these divergent banking stories?

  • Do you believe the banks themselves? Are you sure that the CEOs have given you a balanced and fair assessment of the situation?
  • Or do you believe what you have read online in places like Google New, which is awash with material about these banking results?
  • Alternatively, have you bought a printed newspaper today and read the coverage of the banks, putting more faith in this media?

What is the most trusted source of information on these banking stories – the banks themselves, online media or printed media?

Hold on to your hat if you are an online PR practitioner… turns out that PRINT is the most trusted source of information about a company.

Well – at least it is amongst the PR industry. A study published in the Public Relations Journal from the Public Relations Society of America has found that people in the PR industry value traditional media much more highly than they do new media.

But before you say this is all rather biased, consider some of the most famous companies on the interweb. Think about Google, Facebook and Amazon and wonder how did they get to be so big. Students of corporate history will know that all of these companies began with relatively small budgets and turned to low-cost public relations, getting articles about their businesses published in newspapers, magazines and journals. In “The Google Story“, author David A. Vise points out that a chance inclusion of Google in a listing in PC Magazine in 1998 led to the fledgling company understanding the benefit of free publicity in mainstream media – something the company continues to benefit from. Similarly, in “The Facebook Effect“, David Kirkpatrick reveals the intense media interest in the early days of Facebook and how this stimulated the growth in the use of the social network.

People flocked to Facebook and Google, for instance, because they trusted the independent coverage these technology firms were getting in the print media.

Even though much of what we do these days is digital, the degree of trust we give to things in printed form is still very high. Indeed, this taps into our psychological need to touch and feel things to establish their reality.

The Public Relations Journal article might be biased because of who it studied, but it does help make us think. In these digital and virtual days should we concentrate on online activity, or is there still a place for real world, print-based public relations?

On the basis of this study and on fundamental psychological principles, if you want people to trust your business you need to get yourself into printed newspapers and magazines.

If the banks had realised that seven years ago – when they often would ignore the media – perhaps they wouldn’t in the state they are in now.

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