Credibility is an au courant item

Steve Brill, self-appointed watchdog of media standards, has made journalists and media owners the primary target of Brill's Content. Yet, as he has shown in his coverage of Microsoft, he is not averse to a poke at PR. The latest issue even has a piece about VNRs, featuring Medialink.

Steve Brill, self-appointed watchdog of media standards, has made journalists and media owners the primary target of Brill's Content. Yet, as he has shown in his coverage of Microsoft, he is not averse to a poke at PR. The latest issue even has a piece about VNRs, featuring Medialink.

Nor is Brill's Content free of its own publicity stunts and agenda-driven spins. PR, of one sort or another, is never far from the surface where Steve Brill is concerned. The magazine even provides an online outlet now for complaints about journalists.

Speaking at a Magazine Publishers' Association event last Monday, however - at which he was lecturing on how and when to get publicity for your magazine - Brill raised once again the idea of a credibility rating, an index that ranks a publication in terms of its worth. A newspaper like National Enquirer would not have the same credibility rating as The New York Times, he said, when it came to advertising.

Brill admitted that the concept was half-baked - 'quarter-baked' is actually what he called it - but the thought occurs that this is something that PR companies have been doing for years: which PR professional would rather place a story in the National Enquirer than The New York Times? The days when media placements were measured simply by the column inch have long since gone.

But by a curious coincidence, the PRSA Foundation is working on a credibility index of its own. Launched at the conference last month, The National Issues Credibility Index is now being tested by the PRSA. And the question is: what stage in the baking process has it reached?

Some $2 million is being invested in the research, and the work is being done in conjunction with a grant from the Rockefeller Center. But it's not just the money. The index aims to measure how much faith respondents put in certain types of individuals on certain types of issues, a task with endless possibilities, and something that could potentially change the way in which clients are advised.

Early results show that on the issue of race, people put more faith in teachers and community leaders than in government institutions. If you've seen how the government handled the Advisory Board on Race, that probably won't come as a large surprise, and again, a certain amount of this comes down to common sense.

But if it achieves its stated aim - to demonstrate the need for leaders to earn the public's trust - the Credibility Index will have been worth the money.

In the meantime, there's another question to be determined. Should we - could we - have a credibility index for PR agencies and PR departments?

On second thought, perhaps that task should be left to Mr Brill.

 

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