Wednesday, October 17, 2007

More Proof for the Power of PR

As far as I'm concerned, the real utility of public relations is the simple act of getting a third party to vouch for your client and help validate his/her message to the audience. All the things that PR firms do boil down to this one simple act. Positioning, branding and purple cows, etc just increase the likelihood and/or persuasiveness of that validation.

There are any number of scientific studies showing how people tend to believe those perceived to be experts. Gartner, Forrester and any number of think tanks have whole businesses based on this insight.

Now it seems, people tend to be persuaded by mere gossip as well.

Study: Gossip Trumps Truth

People are influenced by gossip about others, even when it contradicts what they see with their own eyes, suggests a new study.

Past research has found that gossip—those juicy tidbits of supposed fact we share about a third party—serves many purposes, including strengthening social ties, spreading social norms and helping others avoid double-crossers and other risky partners.

Hearsay can be the most reliable source of information about situations with which you have no experience. But when you hear gossip that's incongruent with a person or incident you are familiar with, you'd be smart to throw that chitchat out the window in favor of your own direct knowledge, right?

The new study, published this week online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveals individuals sometimes place so much stock in gossip that they accept it as true even if their own observations and experiences suggest otherwise.

I've read some interesting articles about how blogs are rated at the top of the trustworthy scale, along with analysts, scientists and reporters. This fact seemed a little out of whack to me, but after reading about the influence of gossip it seems to make more sense...

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