Most Americans say PR drives purchase decisions and website visits

by | Aug 3, 2020 | Public Relations

PR pros know their efforts drive results, but new research from boutique tech PR firm Bospar reveals that general consumers appreciate the authentic work of public relations teams and their campaigns, especially in these trying COVID times. The firm’s new study, PR & Marketing in The New Normal, finds that an overwhelming majority of Americans say that PR-generated media articles about brands and businesses spurs them to visit those company websites, and can even drive them to purchase a product.

The new study, with research partner Propeller Insights, aims to determine how COVID-19 and other events of the first half of the year have impacted B2C and B2B decision-making. It shows that nearly 9 in 10 Americans (88 percent) said that seeing placed stories through PR activity would drive them to visit a company’s website. Nearly one in five (19 percent) said they only needed to see a story once before being driven to visit, and nearly a quarter (23 percent) said they needed to see the company in the news twice before visiting. By the time a company has appeared 10 times in news coverage, 85 percent of Americans say they would visit the company’s website.

An even greater proportion of respondents (92 percent) said seeing placed stories through PR activity could drive them to purchase a product. One in five Americans said they would make a purchase on the second or third time they saw the company in the news. By the time a company has appeared 10 times in the news, 86 percent of Americans said they would make a purchase from them.

In addition, Americans ranked placed PR news stories (41 percent) as their #1 source to read before buying a consumer product

That was followed by Consumer Reports (40 percent), friends (40 percent), family (34 percent) and the manufacturer’s website (34 percent).

When asked what they look for when about to buy a product for their business, PR-placed articles ranked first with 34 percent of Americans, followed by: friends (23 percent); family (22 percent); analyst reports from the likes of Gartner, Forrester and IDC (21 percent); coworkers (18 percent); peer review sites like G7 or TrustRadius (15.2 percent); social media commentary (12 percent); press releases (12 percent); awards (11 percent); and white papers (9 percent).

“It may seem self-serving for a PR agency to publish a report that says ‘PR Works!’ but that doesn’t make it any less true,” said Curtis Sparrer, a principal at Bospar, in a news release. “I think my favorite statistic of all was the distaste for white papers. Who has time to read those anyway?”

Most Americans (78 percent) say COVID-19 has impacted them—here’s how:

  • 33 percent are more fearful
  • 24 percent are working less hours
  • 16 percent are unemployed
  • 10 percent are more hopeful
  • 9 percent are working more hours
  • 8 percent are going to change how they vote in the presidential election
  • 6 percent got sick but don’t know if it’s COVID-19
  • 5 percent lost a family member to COVID-19
  • 3 percent got sick from COVID-19

A vast majority Americans (84 percent) say the pandemic is not over

More than 4 in 5 (81 percent) believe companies need to do something more to win their business—whether it’s for consumer goods or business-to-business offerings. Those include:

  • Help health workers fighting COVID-19 (49 percent)
  • Hire a diverse workforce (34 percent)
  • Help essential workers like grocery employees (45 percent)
  • Make a statement with actions on supporting Black Lives Matter (30 percent)
  • Invest in corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs (26 percent)

Americans say COVID-19 has changed how we purchase both B2B (86 percent) and B2C (80 percent) offerings. When it comes to consumer goods, the most popular sentiment was only buying essential goods (35 percent), followed by being more concerned about price (30 percent) and being more selective (30 percent). When it came to business to business goods, the most popular choices were being more selective (40 percent), followed by purchasing only essential goods (33 percent) and being concerned about price (29 percent).

“These numbers show what marketers and communicators already suspected—that COVID-19 has profoundly affected us all,” Sparrer added. “Brands looking to connect with their audiences are going to need to be focused on corporate social responsibility while also being mindful of bottom-line issues like pricing.”

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter