Overcoming Negative Media Coverage: Does Government Communication Matter?

Liu, Brooke Fisher, J. Suzanne Horsley, and Kaifeng Yang. “Overcoming negative media coverage: Does government communication matter?.” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory (2012): 597-621

Abstract

Public administration scholars often note that government should engage in more effectiveexternal communication to improve citizen trust and maintain political legitimacy. An important part of the belief is that more effective communication can lead to more favorable media coverage that ultimately shapes citizen trust in government. However, the link between government communication and media coverage remains empirically untested.

Through a survey of 881 government and business communicators, this study tests the relationship between external communication activities and media coverage.

The study shows that government organizations report being less likely to have favorable news coverage than their private counterparts, but most government organizations do report that their media coverage is favorable. Moreover, the results show that active media interaction, organizational support for communication, and adequate communication budget are associated with reporting more favorable coverage. In comparison, a different set of variables, except adequate communication budget, are found to affect whether business organizations report having more favorable media coverage.

Empirical research on effects government communication
p598: “Given the importance and challenges, it is crucial for public administration scholars to more rigorously study government communication and its impact on media coverage and, in turn, citizen trust

it is reasonable to state that the mechanisms linking external communication and government performance have not been mapped out with empirical evidence.

The purpose of this study is two-fold:

  1. To identify the types of government communication activities
  2. To test how the activities affect perceived media coverage

Method
p604: “The survey consisted of 68 questions (…) the dependent variable is measured by three dimensions: the extent to which the media coverage is perceived as favorable, accurate, and fair.

Media more negative on government
p599 “results of a survey of government and business communicators found that government communicators reported being covered more frequently and more negatively than business communicators (Liu, Horsley, and Levenshus 2010).”

Government communication people feel they receive more unfavorable press/less favorbale press than business communication professionals, see Table 4.

To further understand the dependent variable, table 4 presents the responses’ detail distribution in government and business subsamples. Note that 9 is the scale midpoint depicting a neutral evaluation. Consistent with the t-test, higher percentages of business communicators (as opposed to their government counterparts) had responses higher than 9. Among government respondents, although very few of them reported extremely low values (3, 4, and 5), 15.3% of them reported that on average their organization had experienced unfavorable media coverage in the past six months. In contrast, 65.3% of government respondents reported favorable media coverage.

4Liuetal

Positive effect media interaction for government
p609: The results show that media interaction for government (Model 2, Beta = 0.29, p < .001) does lead to positive media coverage. Media Interaction is the composite of: Write news releases and advisories, Hold news conferences, Conduct media interviews, Respond to media inquiries, Pitch stories to the media, and Track media clips.

Media interaction (news releases, news conferences, media interviews, responding to media inquiries, pitching stories to the media, and tracking media clips) is found to positively affect media coverage for the government subsample, but no such relationship is found for the business subsample (p612)

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