BBC has most online influence, TLG Thought Leadership Survey reveals

The BBC stands head and shoulders above online rivals when it comes to shaping opinions on business reputations, while The Times' impact has dropped off in the year it introduced a paywall.

Influential: BBC website

The TLG Thought Leadership Index 2010 surveyed 1,000 business leaders, representing media, comms, politics, charities and corporates.

It found more than half (51 per cent) of those polled in the UK thought the BBC website had the most influence over the way companies were perceived.

The Financial Times' website came in second (26 per cent), while The Times site, gated since 25 May, took third place with six per cent.

Commenting on the findings, Jon McLeod, UK chairman corporate comms and public affairs at Weber Shandwick, said: 'The Times suffers from perceptions that it is influenced by a Murdoch agenda, and that will get worse for Sky if it is bought out by News Corporation. The reputation of news providers is key when it comes to business leaders' perceptions of how coverage shapes views.'

Pete Goold, managing director of Punch Communications, added: 'From a search-oriented PR perspective, the decision to move The Times behind a paywall has ultimately limited its effectiveness as a source of links that are fully effective within a search campaign - whereas the BBC remains as much a prized source of link generation as it does for traditional PR.'

Despite the immediacy of online news, it is television that has the most power to alter corporate reputations.

Almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of those polled in the UK picked TV as the most powerful medium, compared with 50 per cent of respondents in the US.

The survey also found that the rapid developments in social media have yet to usurp more traditional platforms in terms of corporate reputation. Just seven per cent of UK respondents felt social media sites, such as Twitter, had the most influence on business reputation.

Jonathan Oliver, TLG's director of media relations, said: 'Social media, especially Twitter, now need to be part of any comprehensive media strategy.

'Over the past year, the "Twittersphere" has demonstrated its power to break stories and damage reputations. But used in the right way, social media can also help build corporate brands.'

How I see it

- Catherine May, Group director of corporate affairs, Centrica

I'm not surprised about the influence the BBC continues to have. Programmes such as Watchdog as well as the news give it amazing influence. But we are seeing huge markets for other types of media. These are exciting times and new strategies of comms are what makes our jobs interesting.

- Paul Charles, Chief operating officer, Lewis PR

Broadcast media are so much more immediate than print outlets and carry huge credibility, especially the BBC, which will always be seen as impartial. Despite the findings, social media sites are starting to have traction in altering brand reputation.

63% think television has the most impact on business reputation
24% believe print has the most impact on business reputation
7% say social media have the most impact on business reputation
3% think online news has the most impact on business reputation
*Source: TLG Thought Leadership Index 2010.

Survey results - Who has the most influence on business reputation,
according to the TLG survey

Print news
The Economist 3%
The Guardian 4%
The Daily Telegraph 11%
The Times 23%
Financial Times 53%
Other 6%

Online news
The Economist 5%
The Times 6%
Financial Times 26%
BBC 51%
Other 12%

UK social media
YouTube 14%
Other 17%
Twitter 37%
Facebook 32%

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