Risk reward & serendipity: Why authorities should take a chance and speak to the media

by | May 27, 2021 | Analysis, Public Relations

According to Edelman’s 2021 Trust Barometer, business has emerged from the past year’s tumult as our most trusted institution—considered more credible than the media by the American public.

In fact, fewer than half of all Americans acknowledge any kind of trust in mainstream media, and 56 percent of Americans believe that “[j]ournalists and reporters are purposely trying to mislead people by saying things they know are false or gross exaggerations.”

Why your business needs to stay engaged with media

So why would any business leader bother trying to connect with customers and prospects through the media? On top of the loss of trust, you’ve also got the eternal challenge of ceding control. You can deliver your message to a reporter, but how it gets delivered to the audience, if at all, is entirely up to her and her editors.

In spite of all this, we continue to believe that every business leader should engage with the media as a tool for building their authority, burnishing their brand and fueling their business development. It’s not possible to be a true authority without putting your insights through the gauntlet of media scrutiny. We know those purchasing professional services still trust traditional media—and that it influences their purchasing decisions. And furthermore, it’s possible to ensure your messages get delivered through the media—if you understand successful participation.

Maybe you know all of that and still aren’t convinced

If so, here’s another reason: serendipity. Participating in conversations in the media makes it far more likely that a client or prospect will stumble across your name, your insights or your authority. In other words, rather than connecting on your terms—through one of your owned properties, at a conference, or any other channels you use to get out your message—you’ll be connecting on theirs. Rather than feeling like your message is being pushed on them, your client or prospect will feel like they discovered it themselves—perhaps right at a moment when, searching out answers or new information, they need it the most.

Serendipity & search rankings

Intuitively, anyone who has scanned a newspaper page, flipped through a magazine or scrolled a news website can recall the experience of landing on a headline that catches their attention and then reading a story they weren’t searching for. Nowadays, when we finish reading that story we’re more likely to pull up Google and go hunting for more information about what we just read—or about the person who delivered the most insightful quotes.

More importantly, news stories generally rank higher in Google search results than most owned content. Google’s algorithm—more accurately, the software people who build it—clearly believe news stories are, as a whole, more trustworthy than other content. That means links to those stories are more likely to appear on the first page of search results on just about any topic.

And in a bizarre twist, surveys show users trust Google News more than other sources of news—including the publications whose articles it links to. Maybe this is because readers trust the order in which Google presents news stories more than they trust the editors at those publications. Or maybe it’s because they don’t understand there’s a difference between the two.

Whatever the reason, participating in media makes your name and insights more likely to appear in the stories that rank highest in many Google searches. So that potential client searching for information in your area of expertise is more likely to encounter your perspective if it’s in a news story than if it’s on your website.

The bottom line: Media participation works

We started with a number of data points showing the public’s lack of trust in media. But that might not tell the whole story. Our own research, for instance, shows that C-suite executives continue to trust traditional media above other sources. And a Gallup/Knight Foundation survey from last year found that Americans perceive the media as biased—but that perception is largely related to their political beliefs.

Taken together, these surveys indicate that executive audiences think of the business press separately from the political press. And there is ample data to support the instinctual belief that media coverage is an invaluable lead-generation tool.

The bottom line: even as eroding trust gives you another reason to question the value of earned media, participating in the media conversation remains vital—not just for building your credibility as an authority, but to ensure your prospective audience will find you. Especially when they weren’t looking.

This article originally appeared on the Greentarget blog; reprinted with permission.

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Lisa Seidenberg
Lisa Seidenberg is VP, Media Relations at Greentarget.