Annual Media Contact Survey

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction

Methodology

Results

Demographics

Staff Evaluation

Comparisons

Information Vehicles

Conclusions

Appendix

Introduction

Mass media can affect citizen perception of local government in ways typically unmatched by the local government itself. Since local governments do not have the resources to so totally pervade citizen opinion, and because once created, opinion is difficult to change, it is imperative that local governments find ways to work effectively with the media: both traditional (print, television, and radio) and new (including reporter’s blogs, media forums, and citizen e-journals).

The Town of Cary takes a positive, proactive approach to media relations, working each day to enhance the partnership as a means of ensuring that accurate and timely information about Town government is disseminated to its citizenry. In July 1997, the Town launched a comprehensive, strategic communications program, much of it devoted to media relations. As part of that effort, Cary’s annual Media Contact Survey, first distributed in 1999, was designed to help evaluate the performance of the Town in its partnership with local, national, and international media and give the Town insight into ways to enhance those relationships.

Methodology

Designed by the Public Information Officer, the Town of Cary’s short survey (see Appendix) asks media to evaluate Town staff’s skills and techniques as they relate to the curricula of the Town’s Basic Media Relations, Media Relations Refresher, and Media Relations for Public Safety Staff classes. The survey also asks media to identify and evaluate specific information vehicles used by the Town to disseminate information.

For the first time, the survey was conducted using INgage, a Web-based survey tool. On March 16, 2010, an e-mail was sent to all regional media representatives who worked with Town staff over the last year. The media representatives were advised of the activation of the Web survey and asked to complete the survey as soon as possible. Responses were collected through March 31, 2010. Two additional follow-up e-mail reminders were sent before the survey closed.

Results

Of the 82 media representatives asked to participate, 15 surveys were completed, yielding a response rate of 18.3% (see Appendix for Results Tables). This is below last year’s response rate of 19%.

Demographics

This year, responses came from four sources – print, television, radio and Internet. The majority are editors and managers followed by reporters, and more than half have been in the Triangle market for more than five years.

MEDIUM


Television

Print

Radio

Internet*

1999

69%

19%

9%

3%

2000

43%

43%

7%

7%

2001

41%

47%

12%

0%

2002

43%

43%

14%

0%

2003

43%

57%

0%

0%

2004

67%

22%

11%

0%

2005

62%

38%

0%

0%

2006

46%

43%

7%

4%

2007

43%

29%

29%

0%

2008

48%

48%

4%

0%

2009

53%

42%

0%

5.3%

2010

50%

22%

11%

17%

*This category was previously named “Wire” and included Internet respondents.

POSITION


Reporter

Editors/Manager

Technician

Other

1999

65%

19%

9%

7%

2000

57%

36%

0%

7%

2001

65%

12%

6%

17%

2002

64%

21%

7%

7%

2003

57%

43%

0%

0%

2004

63%

37%

0%

0%

2005

67%

33%

0%

0%

2006

48%

35%

4%

14%

2007

36%

57%

0%

7%

2008

52%

43%

4%

0%

2009

47%

37%

0%

16%

2010

27%

67%

6%

N/A

EXPERIENCE


Yrs. In Media

Yrs. In Triangle Market

Here One Yr. Or less

1999

72% for 12 yrs. or less

77% for 7 yrs. or less

22%

2000

71% for 12 yrs. or less

79% for 7 yrs. or less

21%

2001

47% for 12 yrs. or less

65% for 7 yrs. or less

35%

2002

57% for 12 yrs. or less

86% for 7 yrs. or less

29%

2003

100% for 12 yrs. or less

71% for 7 yrs. or less

43%

2004

33% for 7 yrs. or less

89% for 7 yrs. or less

11%

2005

20% for 5 yrs. or less

62% for 5 yrs. or less

NA

2006

31% for 5 yrs. or less

68% for 5 yrs. or less

NA

2007

21% for 5 yrs. or less

43% for 5 yrs. or less

NA

2008

13% for 5 yrs. or less

57% for 5 yrs. or less

0%

2009

42% for 5 yrs. or less

53% for 5 yrs. or less

NA

2010

20% for 5 yrs. or less

33% for 5 yrs. or less

0%

Staff Evaluations

Two sections of the survey ask respondents to evaluate Town staff. The first—reported in the table below—presents a list of 13 positive statements to which respondents are asked to rate their level of agreement on a scale of 1-9 with 9 being the highest level of agreement. For questions that did not apply to their individual experience, respondents were asked to choose NA to indicate not-applicable to them.

MEDIA CUSTOMER SERVICE  
CHARACTERISTIC 

2006

% WHO AGREE OR STRONGLY AGREE 

2007

% WHO AGREE OR STRONGLY AGREE

2008

% WHO GAVE A RANKING OF “6” OR HIGHER

2009

% WHO GAVE A RANKING OF “6” OR HIGHER

2010

% WHO GAVE A RANKING OF “6” OR HIGHER

2010

% WHO GAVE THE HIGEST RANKING,

“9”

Accuracy
90%
86%
95%  94%  100%
80%
Courtesy 93%
86%  100%  94%  100%  87% 
Professionalism  90%
92%  100%
94%  100%
80% 
Timeliness
86%  86%  79%  96% 93%  73%
 Accessibility of Information 77%  96%  93%
93%  100% 73% 
Fairness
89%  77%  100%  94%  100%  82% 
Preparation for Interviews
93%  83%  100% 93%  100%  82% 
Pleasantness
89%  92% 100%  88%  100%  92% 
Effectiveness of Releases  77%  85% 95%  86% 93%  60% 
Timeliness of Releases  95%  79%  85%  75%  79%  43% 
Media Skills/Training  90%
90%  92%  94%  93%  60% 
Availability  86%  85%
87%  100%  73% 
Feedback  67%  85%  62%  83% 90%
30% 

*This question was omitted from the 2008 survey results and analysis.

Comparisons

Respondents were also asked to continue their evaluation by giving an overall rating of Town staff during the last 12 months using a scale of 1-9 with 9 being the best score. For 2010, 100% of those responding to the question gave staff an excellence-in-service rating of 7 or greater; an improvement over the 89% given last year. And when asked to compare Cary’s overall level of customer service to the media against other Triangle governments using the same 1-9 scale, 92% of respondents gave Town of Cary staff a rating of 7 or greater, an improvement over the 79% in 2009.

Information Vehicles

The next section of the survey presents a list of seven communications vehicles regularly used by the Town for external communications. While only news releases, public service announcements, and media advisories are targeted primarily to the media, it is reasonable to assume that all information vehicles could be a source of information for the media. Respondents were asked to record their current use of each information vehicle and to evaluate the vehicle's effectiveness, in both cases using a scale of 1-9 with 9 being the highest or best rating.

The majority of survey respondents utilize news releases, PSA’s and advisories as their primary resources for information and they also found this source to be the most effective. Town staff was the second most effective source of information, followed by the Web site.

COMMUNICATION VEHICLES


Town Web site

News Releases, PSA’s, Advisories

Town Staff

Town Elected Officials

Town Utility Bill Inserts

Town Newspaper Advertising

Town Cable TV Access Channel

2007

USE AT 7-9

50%

64%

79%

57%

14%

14%

21%

2007

EFFECTIVENESS

AT 7-9

64%

86%

86%

57%

21%

7%

21%

2008

USE AT 7-9

50%

80%

91%

67%

40%

40%

36%

2008

EFFECTIVENESS

AT 7-9

70%

85%

95%

71%

10%

30%

30%

2009

USE AT 7-9

61%

82%

67%

55%

33%

33%

29%

2009

EFFECTIVENESS

AT 7-9

69%

91%

81%

67%

13%

50%

40%

2010

USE AT 7-9

31%

64%

53%

21%

0%

0%

7%

2010

EFFECTIVENESS

AT 7-9

86%

93%

92%

73%

50%

50%

67%

Conclusions

For 2010, Town staff received an A (93%) on the average results of the customer service scale. This score is five percentage points higher than last year’s percentile score.

Overall, scores increased on the survey. The highest scores were awarded on questions that indicated positive interactions with staff: courtesy (99%), professionalism (98%), fairness (97%), and accuracy (97%). The Town also saw a significant increase in percentage points for staff’s availability to media, from 83% in 2009 to 90% in 2010. On every question on the 13-item customer service section, the Town received ratings of 9 from the majority of respondents.

Consistent with those findings, the Town’s overall excellence-in-service ratings increased from last year. The Town received high marks for the question that asked whether Town of Cary staff have provided excellent customer service during the previous 12 months, with a rating of A+ given (96%) compared with last year’s C+ (79%). Respondents also gave Cary an A (95%) for overall customer service to media compared with other Triangle governments, up from 2009’s C+ (79%).

The high customer service ratings this year could be attributed, in part, to the success of the new reporter’s orientation, which provides all new reporters with information on the way the Town of Cary does business. In addition, a new “For Members of the Media” section of the Web site was launched in late 2009 to give all reporters and editors a clearer understanding of expectations at crime scenes or when conducting interviews with staff.

On the 13 items considered on the customer service scale, the Town received the lowest percentile on the following questions, which earned ratings below 90 percent:

  • News releases and PSAs are timed appropriately for needs – 81%, a decrease from 2009 (82%)
  • Staff routinely give feedback about work - 85%, an increase from 2009 (72%)

Both questions received a lowest score of 5 from respondents, with 21% of respondents giving a rating of 5 on the question of timing news releases. However, a majority of respondents, 64%, gave the question the highest marks of 8 and 9.

The results of the timing question is interesting In the last year, the Town made an effort to send out communications to the media farther in advance in response to comments made by certain niche publications. However, this may not be working well for others in the media. Timing news releases appropriately for all mediums continues to be a challenge for staff, and increased use of the Internet to disseminate news around the clock could increase the demand for the Town to push information to media faster and more often.

The question concerning appropriate feedback for media saw ratings of 5 through 9, with only 10 respondents answering the question (five responded not applicable). Only one respondent gave the lowest score of 5, while the majority gave the question a score of 7 or higher. This seems to indicate that while the Town could step up efforts to offer more feedback, good or bad, to media, most are satisfied with the level of response offered by staff.

Interestingly, the demographics of this year’s survey changed with most respondents reporting 11 or more years of experience professionally, 40 percent touting 16 or more years of experience. Sixty-seven percent of respondents have also worked in this market professionally for six or more years, and the same percentage of respondents also work as editors or managers. This may account for the positive increase in scores over last year, when 42 percent of respondents reported having five years or less experience in the business professionally. It may also help explain the desire of professionals now faced with a changing marketplace in the world of media to receive feedback from municipalities to gauge how they move forward.

Moving forward: Areas for Improvement

Garner more responses to the media survey
It’s difficult to gauge true opinion with an 18 percent response rate. Moving forward, the media survey will be consistently disseminated during National Sunshine Week and, as part of the week’s activities, the Town could host an open house for media to raise the level of interest in the Town’s media relations program as it relates to openness and transparency. The survey would then be offered in paper format to fill out at that time and the link distributed via e-mail for those wishing to take the survey later and/or for those unable to attend the open house.

Conduct a focus group
The idea of convening a focus group consisting of 10-15 media representatives has been considered since 2007, and is one that could provide positive insight on the media’s needs, particularly in areas such as timing and effectiveness of news releases and feedback. If an open house/media day is held as part of Sunshine Week, volunteers for a focus group could be solicited at that time. Alternatively, a virtual focus group could be established on the Web as oftentimes it’s difficult to schedule media representatives for face-to-face meetings.

Use new media to push information to reporters
The Town is now employing social media as part of its communications toolkit, and media are among those following the Town on Twitter. By using this microblogging service, Public Information staff is able to communicate news more frequently, including status updates on emergencies that don’t rise to the level of a news release, briefings in advance of a more detailed update, and reminders of events for which a news release has already been issued. Use of this technology began April 1, 2010 and staff should continue to explore ways in which new media can help meet the varying needs of different media.

Create feedback opportunity with media Web section
While the media section of the Town’s Web site has been well received for the information it provides, the site does not offer a dedicated mechanism for feedback. The Town should solicit comments from reporters and other media throughout the year by providing a form, survey, or other method of making comments to staff.

Remind staff to provide feedback
When following up with staff after they’ve conducted an interview, public information should remind staff to follow-up with the reporter to provide feedback. Tips on ways to provide helpful feedback could also be created by Public Information and posted on C-Net. Moreover, Public Information should check-in with staff, by department, at least twice a year to gauge their feelings on the way their events/programs/initiatives or the Town as a whole is being represented in media. This may allow more opportunities to interact with media in a meaningful way, especially if staff feels like news is being incorrectly reported or unfairly slanted.

Given this year’s results to the survey, the Town has made great strides in its media relations program, and the training offered to staff has contributed to a positive environment where media feel they have appropriate levels of access to staff and the information they need. As newspapers and other news media face challenges in their changing roles, the Town will need to be responsive to their changing needs and offer feedback on our expectations.

Appendix

Town of Cary staff responds to Triangle media requests for services and information on a variety of subjects each day. In our continuing effort to meet your needs in the most efficient and effective manner, we ask that you evaluate your contact with our staff by completing this short annual survey. Since this survey is designed to reach EVERY media representative with whom we’ve had contact over the past year, please let us know of anyone in your organization we may have missed so that we can get a survey to that person. Thank you!

  1. My current position is with ___print ___television ___radio ___ Internet

  2. I have worked in the “business” professionally for ___ years.
    Less than a year
    1-5 years
    6-10 years
    11-15 years
    16 or more years

  3. I have worked in this market for ___ years.
    Less than a year
    1-5 years
    6-10 years
    11-15 years
    16 or more years

  4. Which of the following categories best fits your current position?
    ___ Reporter, Anchor, DJ/On-Air
    ___ Editor, Director, Producer, Publisher, Assignments
    ___ Videographer, photographer, graphics/layout, engineer, research

Please rate your level of agreement with the following statements on a scale from 1-9, with 9 meaning that you strongly agree and 1 meaning that you strongly disagree. Enter “NA” for not applicable.

(strongly disagree) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 (strongly agree) not applicable (NA)

5. The information I received was accurate.

6. Town staff I’ve dealt with was courteous.

7. Town staff I’ve dealt with was professional.

8. Town staff met my request for information and/or services in a timely manner.

9. Town staff provides easy access to public information.

10. Town staff has dealt with me fairly and equitably on issues involving other media.

11. To help ensure the accuracy of the survey, please answer 6 for this question.

12. Town staff members are prepared when appointments for interviews have been made with them.

13. The Town of Cary has created a pleasant working environment for me as a member of the media.

14. News releases and PSA’s are written effectively for my needs.

15. News releases and PSA’s are timed appropriately for my needs.

16. Town staff is available to me when I need them.

17. Town staff appears to possess the appropriate skills/training to deal effectively with the media.

18. Town staff routinely gives me appropriate feedback about my work, good or bad.

19. Overall, Town of Cary staff I’ve dealt with in the last 12 months have provided excellent service.

20. Overall, the Town of Cary’s customer service to the media is excellent compared to other Triangle governments, including city, county, state, and federal agencies in our area.

(strongly disagree) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 (strongly agree) not applicable (NA)

Town Web site

Town news releases, PSA’s, media advisories

Town staff

Town elected officials

Town utility bill inserts - BUD

Town newspaper advertising – Cary Connections

Town cable access channel programming – Cary TV

Other thoughts

Please provide any additional comments, concerns, or suggestions about how we are meeting your public information needs.

RESULTS

2010 Survey and Results Report.

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