PR surveys work even when they are junk

Journalists frequently criticise public relations people for using ‘bogus’ surveys and research in order to secure media coverage. Quite right to in many cases as many of these so called surveys and research projects are constructed on very weak foundations.

The problem is that they work. Despite the criticisms the media has an insatiable appetite for this type of material. Jack Shafer has an excellent analysis of a bogus survey that secured coverage in dozens of prestigious US daily newspapers and news broadcasts  including the Washington Post, San Jose Mercury News, CBS Evening News, New York Times and Boston Globe.

I for one will keep producing them for as long as journalists keep running them!

Via the Holmes Report blog.

4 Replies to “PR surveys work even when they are junk

  1. "I for one will keep producing them for as long as journalists keep running them!"


    Now there's a quote that's bound to enrage journalists the world over.

    PR has spent years trying to build up its image as a trustworthy source of news.

    Admitting that you're going to keep churning out crap as long as the writers are dumb enough to believe it is a blow to all the good work.

  2. Stuart Bruce – PR Futurist 🛰️ Counsel and training for communications teams and PR agencies 📊 Strategist 🗣️ International speaker 📺 NED 📈 Author 📘 Mentor 👂
    Stuart Bruce, BMA PR says:

    But Nobleizer it depends on your definition of news. Lots of editorial in newspapers and magazines isn't hard news. The reason journalists use these faux surveys is because readers like them. It's not PR people 'fooling' journalists but is actually the media fooling their readers.

    What annoys me most about this type of survey is the hypocrisy of saying they are wrong but running them anyway.

  3. Giving airtime to faux surveys is a 2-edged sword. If the analysis is any good, the reality gets exposed, PR looks daft. If not then the PR objective is met in spades. I guess a lot depends on your perspective.

  4. Its a form of marketing

    Readers love surveys, so journalists love surveys and so PR provide surveys.

    Much of the media is about entertainment. If surveys produce a "wow" or "never new that" reaction form a reader they have served their purpose.

    When journalists are overburdened with work, they do not have time to verify surveys, hence many agencies supply bogus or partially true surveys.

    But the difference between a real survey and a bigus one are quite easy to spot – often the company it is attributed to is a giveaway. Is a NGO or charity going to make it up and risk being exposed? No

    Surveys are powerful tools for gaining publicity, as long as they continue to be and as long as journalists are overworked there will be surveys, many of which will be suspect

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