54% of press releases never get written about!

Not the kind of headline you might expect from the Chief Executive of a press release distribution service! But this is one of the implicit findings of PRNewswire’s research published on Tuesday and commented on by Todd Defren, comparing their news release distribution service with three of their competitors – Businesswire, Marketwire and Globenewswire (previously Prime Newswire).
It was tempting when this story first broke to respond with a post that shouted about how;

1. We achieve much better results than the ones stated in this survey – of course I would say that :) but I can and will prove it
2. The methodology and interpretation of the survey itself are questionable
3. That the arguments about visibility are flawed as they take no account of the relative amount of content (releases) each site has

I am going to address 1 and 3 in a follow up post in the next couple days and others have already pointed out the issues around 2 in the related tweets and comments on Todd’s blog post, so I won’t repeat them here.

But the real story IMHO and the reason why I have waited a few days before posting is I am amazed that no one seems to have focussed on the fact that the largest (?) press release distribution company in the world has just made a “landmark” announcement implicitly stating that 45% of the press releases it sends are never picked up by anyone and that across all four of these services the figure is over 50%. The words elephant and room come to mind.

So in numerical terms what does this mean?

The table below analyses:
1. The approximate number of releases that each of these companies sends per day (based on their main “.com” websites)
2. The % with no pickup (the inverse of the PRNewswire pickup figures)
3. The estimate of the number of releases per day that therefore aren’t picked up
*based on the approximate number of releases on each company’s “.com” website on 23rd September e.g. prnewswire.com

I realise that to give a more accurate figure I should be basing my analysis on a lot more days than one but given the results I think the scale is still likely to be in the right ball park. The result is an estimate of 1,121 releases per day or an average of 54% of releases sent that aren’t picked up. Assuming the vast majority of releases are sent Monday-Friday then a multiple of around 250 seems reasonable to use to estimate the number per year which gives approximately 280,000. 280,000 press releases a year that are sent by these companies to recipients who aren’t interested in talking about them.

When did the PR and media industries become so accepting/jaded that this hasn’t become the real story? Tens of millions of dollars will be being spent on employing these companies to generate hundreds of millions of emails that are of insufficient relevance to the recipients that they don’t want to write about them. How is it that the big wire services are not embarrassed by these statistics?

In the meantime a question needs to be asked:

At what threshold of pickup, or lack of it, are you just spamming people?

Media Trust PR Strategy Seminar 25th September

Very late in the day I know, but for anyone who might still be interested I will be speaking about all things online at the Media Trust PR Strategy and Planning training event, this Thursday 25th September at BBC Broadcasting House.  The Media Trust works with not for profit organisations to support them in their promotional and community engagement activities. Other speakers include Cinzia Marrocco, Head of Communications for Sense, Gerry Hopkinson, Co-founder of Unity PR and Mary Baker, Director of Porter Novelli. The event is being chaired by Gill Dandy, Chair of the CIPR Fifth Estate group. Anybody interested in last minute attendance can find more details and booking information here.

Lucky number 8?

There was a lot of talk during the Olympics about how the Chinese consider the number 8 to be lucky as the word for “8” sounds very similar to wealth. Well following on from my post on Tuesday about financial media language I couldn’t go home without a quick word on today’s events on the stock market. Shares have surged today with the FTSE-100 closing 8.8% up, it’s single biggest gain in a day and for once, unlike my earlier comments, any hyperbole will get no argument from me. In fact surged seems a little conservative, rocketed wouldn’t be overdoing it.

Will this “double 8″ change prove to be lucky? We can only wait and see, but I suspect we may not find out the answer to that question for quite a while yet. In the meantime we may all need to keep a thesaurus close at hand :)

A grade 3 back and sides and a trim on top

That’s what I ask for when I go to get my haircut – next one is due on Friday as it happens. Lee, who cuts my hair, understands what I mean by a “trim”. I don’t walk out looking like I’ve just been scalped – I have little enough hair as it is :)

With all the excitement yesterday over Lehman Brothers, the announcement that China was reducing interest rates got a little lost in the mix. The announcement was significant though as it represents China’s first cut in interest rates in 6 years. The cut was 0.27% from 7.47% to 7.20%; however two pieces of media coverage described this change in very different ways. The BBC described the change as a “trim“; however The Times view was that China had “slashed” rates. Now I don’t know about you, but if my bank told me that my mortgage interest payment had fallen by 3.6% (0.27%/7.47%) I wouldn’t really consider it had been slashed.

The serious point here is that in my experience the language that is used in reporting economic and financial matters can sometimes suffer from a lack of consistency. Share prices “plummet“ when the fall is a little over 1%, house prices “crash“ when they fall 2%, but oil prices only “fall“ when they reduce by 5%.

The lesson this has taught me though is if I ever need to get a haircut anywhere else I need to check first if the person about to cut my hair ever reads The Times!

150 equals 125? The Alternative PR Week 150

Following on from my post on Monday about the PR Week Top 150 I thought it might also be interesting to analyse the rankings from an ownership rather than a brand perspective. As I previously stated the largest player in the Top 150, if ownership is taken account of, is WPP with £81m combined fee income across its brands. Based on a little bit of analysis I think the Top 15 allowing for ownership and partial ownership would look something like this. (Hope I have these right anyone who wants to point out an error please do so).

1. WPP – £81m (Hill and Knowlton, Finsbury, Burston Marsteller, Cohn and Wolfe, Buchanan, Ogilvy, GCI, Clarion)
2. Omnicom – £62m (Ketchum, Fleishman Hillard, Porter Novelli, Gavin Anderson, Pleon, Fishburn Hedges*)
3. Huntsworth – £57m (Citigate, Trimedia, The Red Consultancy, Grayling, Huntsworth Health, Haslimann Taylor)
4. Bell Potinger – £53m (part of Chime Communications**)
5. Brunswick – £44m
6. Financial Dynamics – £42m (part of FTI Consulting)
7. Interpublic – £36m (Weber Shandwick, Golin Harris)
8. Publicis Groupe – £28m (Freud Communications, MS&L)
9. Edelman – £21m
10. Havas – £21m (Maitland, Euro RSCG, Cake)
11. Next Fifteen – £19m (Lexis, Bite, Text 100, Inferno)
12. College Hill – £13m
13. M Communications – £10m
14. The Photon Group - £10m (Hotwire, Frank PR)
15. Lansons Communications – £9m

* Fishburn Hedges is owned via BBDO Worldwide
** WPP holds a 21.8% stake in Chime Communications
Analysis based on company websites and/or publicly available annual reports.

Between them these 15 account for £505m or approximately 65% of the total fee income of the Top 150 of £781m. As you can see of the Top 10 only Brunswick and Edelman are not part of a wider group.

So why the title of the post? I suspect you have already worked this out, but if you haven’t it is because if each parent above were treated as an individual entry then the number of entries on the rankings would fall by 25. This revised listing would then fit the Pareto principle a lot more closely.