Studies analyze automakers’ Web PR efforts

DETROIT: The Internet sites of auto manufacturers do not have to be a PR wasteland.

DETROIT: The Internet sites of auto manufacturers do not have to be a PR wasteland.

DETROIT: The Internet sites of auto manufacturers do not have to be

a PR wasteland.

That was the key finding of two new surveys that took an in-depth look

at the way Web PR is evolving within the automotive sector. The studies

were conducted by Eisbrenner Public Relations and Kettering University,

both located in Michigan.

Companies hoping to maximize the PR effectiveness of their web sites

need follow one rule: simplify. In both surveys, the sites judged most

effective were those that provide ease of access for journalists and

attractive visuals for consumers.

’On the Internet, it is style over substance,’ said Eisbrenner VP Tom

Eisbrenner. ’Product information doesn’t drive the success of a web


The Eisbrenner study of the Web presence of 41 automakers found that

information-packed but dull-looking sites pale beside those with snappy

visuals and pertinent information. ’A web site shouldn’t be a brochure

online,’ Eisbrenner said.

His firm’s survey, compiled with help from testing firm Automotive

Consultants, asked roughly 300 Southern California consumers to rate

four auto sites.

BMW’s site came out on top, followed by Volvo, Toyota, Mercedes and


Among the qualities users were instructed to look for were

functionality, effectiveness, product features and pricing


The Kettering study was slanted more towards determining what

journalists like and dislike on the Web. David Strubler, an associate

professor of organizational behavior at the university, said that what

most provokes a journalist’s ire is having to obtain passwords in order

to access auto media sites.

At the behest of DaimlerChrysler, Strubler’s students sent out surveys

to more than 700 auto writers last November. While only 43 responded,

their message was very clear: get rid of the passwords or make them very

easy to get. Strubler added that journalists are also concerned about

site download speed, making sure that information is up-to-date and

finding country-specific information for global automakers.

The Kettering study also asked 30 students about auto sites and found

they desired more video elements - something journalists apparently

didn’t want because of concern about loading times.

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