We read a dream headline last week: “PR is 88% more effective than content marketing, says new Nielsen study.” Wow, in this age of social media and content marketing mania, this headline seemed to be saying that traditional PR or media relations was more effective. We had to check it out.
We quickly got a complete copy of the study and started reading. In fact, the headline didn’t even tell the full story. This new Nielsen study of 900 consumers asked which type of content was most effective in convincing purchasers to buy a product. The content choices ranged from user reviews (think Yelp and Trip Advisor) to expert content like news stories and reviews. The study acknowledges the growth of social media and paid content usage by upwards of 54%, but the trust of this content is not growing at anything close to this percentage. In fact, 88% of the those surveyed said that they trusted expert or third party reviews more than user reviews. Fifty percent said that they wouldn’t trust a product’s branded website and 61% were less likely to trust product reviews paid for by the company selling the product.
In addition, the study went further and looked at how influential these content mediums are in influencing a purchase decision. Again, the across-the-board-winner was expert content or news media stories/reviews during the three stages of purchase influence – familiarity, affinity and purchase consideration.
So, while we live in an age of growing social media influence, consumers still remain largely skeptical of user reviews and paid content. True, consumers admit that they are using these sources more than ever but skepticism is growing. The Nielsen study states, “The perceived partiality of the source was especially critical in setting expert content and branded content apart.”
In the end, the trusted, independent, third-party content provided by news media product reviews and stories was the hands down trusted leader. In the most critical purchase category called purchase consideration, expert content was 38% more convincing than branded content and 83% more than user reviews.
So what does all this mean for your PR and social media strategies?
In the end, this study points out that an integrated content marketing strategy is still the most effective strategy. Good content continues to drive good engagement but the content is viewed differently by different audiences. Thus, current customers are much more engaged by user reviews, product reviews and branded website content while new customers are naturally more suspicious of these mediums until they have a product/service experience. To promote trial, D+P recommends the use of traditional PR strategies like media relations. Nothing replaces the third-party endorsement of a good media review or story to help get customers to experience your brand. That’s a headline which never gets old.