When it comes to pitching stories to bloggers, PR folks still don’t get it.
Are you surprised to hear this? I didn’t think so. But now we have a real live study to support the claim.
A study released last week by APCO Worldwide and the Council of Public Relations Firms (CPRF) looks promising on the surface. Hell, it even has a colon in the title? And as anyone knows, important research always has a colon in the title.
But did you know that “Expectations for Bloggers: Public Relations Executives’ and Bloggers’ Points of View” draws its conclusions from a survey of just 102 people? Just 55 PR executives and 47 bloggers make up the sample. And that, friends, is a survey that — no matter how interesting — has NO statistical validity.
I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I usually skip the “methodology” section. Boring stuff. But Robert French, professor and Web 2.0 guru at Auburn University, took a close look at the APCO Worldwide/CPRF study:
I am so tired of seeing these survey as marketing tool lame examples. To see it coming from an industry group, well … it is just simply sad.
With such a small, insignificant sample, don’t say “59 percent spend more than 20 hours per week (blogging)” [Source for survey sample quote]… rather, say 27 people. Sheesh! I’d fail a student for something like this. Use of percentages to try and make the results seem more credible is simply wrong.
Of course, if you’re a PR firm pitching expertise in “blogger relations,” you’ll want to download this study and make copies for your next client meeting. Just hope that no one across the table knows anything about research methods. The report’s use of percentages based on such a tiny sample is out of line. It’s fine as an exploratory study, but it’s nothing more.
In fairness to the survey sponsors, there is no attempt to hide the sample size. In fact, it was reported in PRWeek. Unfortunately, the survey cites percentages in a way one should do only with generalizable data. As such, it misleads.
Update 3/27/08: The PRNewswire release by APCO/CPRF doesn’t mention sample size or any limitations of the research, thus PRWeek must have gotten the numbers in follow-up.
Thank you, Professor French, for keeping an eye on how our profession uses, or misuses, the numbers. It’s a reminder to us all to read the fine print.
Maybe there’s still time to stop this story before it becomes Internet legend. That takes precisely 3.6 weeks. I read a survey about it somewhere.
Update 3/26: Folks, I badly underestimated the power of bloggers to pick up and run with a story before giving it a critical look. Use Google Blog Search and type in: APCO blogger study. Most folks have taken the bait on this one — the “media snack” of the week. Let’s be careful out there!