B-M Gap Analysis Offers Valuable PR Insight

by coach on September 15, 2010

Message Gap study offers PR insight

Global PR agency Burson-Marsteller recently completed an interesting Message Gap Analysis study. The report is valuable reading for PR professionals and communicators both as a demonstration of “message gap analysis” but more importantly for its insight into messaging.

The Message Gap Analysis was carried out between March and May 2010 on 158 messages from 16 global companies in the US, European Community, Latin America and Asia-Pacific.

It notes the impact of the shrinkage of mainstream media and that 44% of consumers online get their news at least several times a week from blogs.

Further affecting messaging, eight in 10 European journalists have experienced layoffs at their organizations and news aggregation is growing. “Now, more than ever, speed trumps accuracy,” the report says.

Key Findings

The study points to the challenge of closing the “gaps” between what companies say and what’s reported by mainstream media and bloggers:

  • There was a 48% gap between company messaging and mainstream media messaging, varying slightly by region.
  • The gap between company messaging and bloggers was notably higher at 69% and highest in the US (76%) and Latin America (82%).

The report shares four global case studies from a music download service launch by a mobile device company; an oil company executive speaker series; a history by a beauty company; and a childrens’ product recall. Each had varying message success.

Insights Learned

The study highlights five valuable PR insights for messaging, information development and media relations:

Insight #1: “aspirational” language needs to be supported by concrete facts and messages or it will be ignored
Media and bloggers focus on benefits. They are not likely to repeat buzzwords or “aspirational” language without supporting facts. “Aspirational” words are better used in speeches. Thought leadership messages may work if tied to the company’s attributes and products.

Insight #2: tell the whole story-or the media will tell it for you.
Companies should expect media take a 360° view. Anticipate questions and criticism and be prepared to answer them.

Insight #3: avoid jargon and make it accessible.
This one is a no-brainer. Don’t use buzzwords. Test communications before releasing to avoid confusion.

Insight #4: press releases are being reprinted extensively, which affects the strategy for the communications professional.
Because of tighter resources, media and bloggers may use press releases without changes. Use journalistic style and make sure you get your message right from the start. It must meet the information needs and language of all stakeholders.

Insight #5: Bloggers are more likely to make comparisons to competitors and to speculate.
Bloggers often have deep expertise and are more likely to make comparisons. They are more likely to voice their opinion, use personal experience and the insights of others. Thus, it is often more challenging to get the company’s view across through bloggers as the research demonstrates. Social media often requires more research, monitoring and interaction. Like mainstream media, anticipating the needs of social media is key.

The study is an excellent example of why companies should take care in message development, information distribution and dealing with both mainstream and social media. It is also an excellent example of public relations measurement with practical outcomes.

You can view the summary report below as a SlideShare presentation.

What do you think? Have you any experience using message gap analysis? We’d enjoy hearing about it. You’ll also find more than 400 PR Research tips, tools, insights and resources in the PR Library.

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Photo credit: Eric Gjerde

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