NORWALK, CT: Walt Disney took over the number one spot for 2003 in Delahaye Medialink's annual Media Reputation Index (MRI).
Disney's rise from fourth to first can be attributed to the success of blockbuster films such as Pirates of the Caribbean and Finding Nemo, said Mark Weiner, CEO of Delahaye.
He said positive movie buzz outweighed negative coverage of disagreements on the Disney board and problems for CEO Michael Eisner.
"The Disney name has an incredible amount of goodwill in the media," he said.
Microsoft and Wal-Mart, which ranked second and third in 2003, also saw positive coverage outweigh negative news items last year.
For Wal-Mart, which faced allegations that it knowingly let an outside contractor use illegal workers last year, the negative attention paled next to the company's positive business news.
"Their business momentum and their growth is a big business story," Weiner said.
Larry Smith, president of the Institute for Crisis Management in Louisville, KY, noted that Disney, Microsoft and Wal-Mart all have worked hard to establish goodwill in the local markets they serve. And they do so without trumpeting their largess, a plus for consumers weary of companies' touting themselves for PR purposes.
"They're pretty good about not beating people over the head with their good deeds, but they do a lot of good stuff," Smith said.
Weiner noted that the 2003 survey marked the first in four years in which all 100 companies examined had overall positive coverage.
"There was no Enron this year; there was no WorldCom," Weiner said.
The positive tone of news coverage could indicate that the public is feeling less negative about American business after a period of disillusionment that was brought on by Enron and other recent corporate scandals, said Weiner.
Smith, who does his own survey of crisis coverage, said, "I think when our data is in, crisis coverage will have gone down a bit" in 2003 compared with 2002.
"A lot of companies have cleaned up their act," he said.
Companies that consistently rank near the top of the Delahaye survey are there because "they're successful and because they're consistent in their communications," Weiner said.