WEST DES MOINES, IA: A clear majority of American consumers are more likely to trust media reports than advertising, according to a nationwide poll conducted by consumer research company RoperASW last month.
The study, which was sponsored by PR agency Hanser & Associates, showed that 68%
of participants place more weight on news coverage than advertising when determining their trust of individual companies. While just 23% of respondents said they consider the
two to be of equal value, a mere 9% called advertising more important.
The results, according to agency president Ron Hanser, are a reflection of "the growing preponderance of evidence that proves the impact of media relations.
"We wanted to demonstrate the best way for a company to rebuild the consumer trust that's been taken away by the recent corporate scandals," explained Hanser.
Citing other surveys that have compared the effectiveness of public relations and advertising, Hanser added that the RoperASW data is particularly useful because it is also broken down into several subcategories.
For example, the survey found that respondents in the Western US are more inclined to rely on news coverage than Americans in general. Seventy-five percent of participants in that region said that media coverage was of higher importance than advertising, compared with 68% nationwide.
At 64%, participants from the South were least inclined to rank news coverage ahead of advertising.
Trust in the media also appeared to rise with education and income level.
Seventy-four percent of respondents with college degrees place more trust in the news media than advertising, but that number drops to only 53% when the survey isolates those respondents who ended their formal education after graduating from high school.
As per income level, 77% of respondents earning more than $70,000 annually trust the media more than advertising, while 57% of those making between $10,000 and $30,000 a year prefer news coverage.
Hanser & Associates has released the survey results to existing and prospective clients, and is actively pitching reporters on the findings.
"Our intent is to have the whole [public relations] industry benefit from this," said Hanser.
The survey was based on polling of 1,147 unpaid participants deemed "influential" on consumer decisions by RoperASW.