Microsoft, Wal-Mart Dominate Corporate Media, GM Surprises

Microsoft, with nearly 53 billion impressions in print and electronic media news coverage in 2005, once again emerged as the top U.S. corporation in terms of free media coverage. The estimate, which comes from corporate reputation researcher Delahaye, a unit of Bacon's, shows that Microsoft dominated U.S. media coverage by a wide margin over the next-biggest marketer--Wal-Mart--both in terms of total impressions, as well as the so-called "net effect" on the bottom line of its corporate reputation.

Microsoft generated a corporate reputation index of 1,592.4, based on Delahaye's methods, which evaluate the positive and negative impact of news coverage on the Fortune 500 companies. Wal-Mart generated a Delahaye index of 1,229.4 and garnered nearly 42 million total impressions in the U.S. media outlets tracked by Delahaye.

"In these models, positive news creates a favorable buying environment, and creates a favorable lift in the environment for advertising to work more efficiently," explained Mark Weiner, president of Delahaye, based in Norwalk, CT. These figures, said Weiner, represent the quantity and quality of their coverage in opinion-leading and national news media outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Consumer Reports, and MSNBC. While perennials like Microsoft and Wal-Mart continued to dominate the coverage, Weiner said the relatively strong performance of General Motors Corp. was a surprise, given perceptions of systemic problems at the U.S. auto giant. GM ended up with a spot in the top ten--ranking ninth. Year End figures show GM with a low 528.9 Index Score proportioned to its reach of over 46 billion, which was largely negative coverage. Their reputation and overall marketing strategies were surely in tandem.



GM ranked high in earlier quarters, implementing employee-pricing strategies--but then dropped to 99 in an inevitable fiscal struggle, when "negative news trumped all other news about their sales, marketing, and environmental initiatives," says Matthew Merlin, director of Delahaye.

GM nonetheless was able to generate enough positive news to overshadow much of the negative coverage, and Merlin credits that to the way they made great efforts to "stop the flow of negative news by delivering the message of stability." Merlin notes that the first effort for most of these companies that find themselves in a negative media-shuffle is to reassure the public of internal strategy and communication improvements, and thus portray an image of stability within the company.

"Those that rise to the top are those that are the bellwethers of their industries," says Merlin. Merlin cites Wal-Mart as "not just the bellwether of their industry, but of many," such as the toy industry, supermarket industry, and now perhaps even the banking industry.

Wal-Mart ranked second, despite their struggle within individual quarters, with an Index Score of 1229.4 and a reach of over 41 billion. Weiner had illustrated how Wal-Mart counteracted the significant length of scrutiny, particularly concerning its reputation for dominating local communities and making casualties of local businesses. Wal-Mart acknowledged the negative feedback, and then began to advertise on local television about how they are helping local communities--and it helped that they also responded quickly with support to hurricane Katrina. So for as much as Wal-Mart faced a slew of negative coverage, Merlin notes, they gain so much general coverage, and their financial news is so positive, that they have been able to maintain a high level of ranking in the Index.

Top 10 Corporations By Media Reputation, Impressions

Delahaye Index Reach (Impressions)
Microsoft 1,592.4 52,664,547,896
Wal-Mart 1,229.4 41,680,461,842
Walt Disney 1029.8 32,349,990,908
Intel 752.1 21,556,889,396
Verizon 731.2 22,973,607,498
Boeing 719.9 29,987,923,528
Goldman Sachs 544.4 23,195,431,826
Time Warner 533.0 21,826,728,324
General Motors 528.9 46,264,950,214
IBM 517.4 21,316,542,251

Source: Delahaye. Index factors the net effect of positive and negative coverage of Fortune 500 companies in print and electronic media news outlets.
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