Can media coverage predict a company’s reputation?
The extent of influence of media coverage on public opinion is a hotly debated topic. For communication professionals, their intepretation of how influential the media is can influence how much effort they put into media relations compared to other activities. Here is an interesting case study (pdf) that shows the link between media coverage and company reputation (or more precisely people’s opinion of a company).
The case study (Winner of the 2011 Jack Felton Golden Ruler Award for excellence in research, measurement and evaluation), is on Toyota and “uses a mathematical model of the impact of persuasive information on opinion formation to show how Toyota’s corporate reputation, as measured by surveys, can be directly predicted by document sentiment (i.e. media coverage)”.
The study also makes comes to some interesting findings that have implications for wider media relations and monitoring:
- Information favorable to Toyota is about twice as persuasive as unfavorable information.
- Blogs appear to be a leading indicator of negative issues, yet have limited impact on Toyota’s corporate reputation at the national level.
- The research suggests that any representative sample of media outlets can be used to gauge opinion, and that automated sentiment scoring is sufficient.
The study concludes with some implications for communication practice in general:
“Quite simply, the model demonstrates that media relations works. Persuasive information in the media drives opinion formation. The model is truly predictive – not just a correlation – in the sense that this week’s media results are used to reliably predict next week’s corporate brand reputation”