I've had the pleasure of being connected recently to some intelligent folks over at Peppercom, a public relations company that serves a variety of interesting clients, from The Columbia School of Journalism to Netflix to Panasonic to Tyco.
Ed Moed, who is one of the co-founders of Peppercom, wrote a piece recently about the public relations industry, focusing on the dangers of the way quantitative metrics are understood for measuring corporate reputations in the public relations industry.
Considering all that we've been writing lately about metrics in relation to the Nielsens, engagement, and both the television industry and the success of Web advertising (look here), I found his perspective on the dangerous assumptions always backing what are accepted as "hard numbers" to be illuminating.
In short, he looks at a recent study which measure company reputations on the basis of the amount of positive press that company has received. Ed's point, however, is that articles touting the release of some new product or service doesn't necessarily mean that readers, or the media itself, views those companies positively, just that they gave them some positive coverage.
His post emphasizes that the metrics measure something, but not what they purport to measure (similar to how measuring how much someone watches a certain show doesn't tell you whether they are engaged or not but that they watch that much).
Can one make the indirect assumption that generating positive media coverage will ultimately lead to a better reputation (or a better reputation with the media in this case)? Sure. But, what Delahaye has generated (and our industry continually does) are outputs, not end business or reputation outcomes that most CMOs, and certainly all CEOs, actually care about. Thus, the name of this particular Index is misleading.
We don't have a public relations partner here at C3, but this type of work greatly interests us, because the question about all quantitative research is what it actually tells us, as statistics can always be misleading if you misunderstand what they were asking and what they say. Particularly, when thinking about the importance of branding, this questions the idea that positive publicity automatically leads to positive feelings from the readers and of course has a bias against a major product rollout (in this case, the iPhone launching exclusively with AT&T/Cingular).
Reader kdpaine, who says they were working at Delahaye when the index launched, writes, "I find it particularly amusing that while the trades trump 'AT&T's top reputation score' Cingular comes in second in the 'sucks' category in the blogs. When people's opinions are counted, it's a amazing how different the results can be, eh?"