Where corporate America shines: Custom publications breed trust

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Here's an irony: Faith in American business appears to be at an all-time low; the nation's president has just fired the CEO of a leading automaker; a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll indicates that 80% of the country blames the banks for the current financial crisis. And yet, 1,000 Americans surveyed in February and March by Roper Public Affairs & Media for a Custom Publishing Council (CPC) survey said that their faith in, commitment to, and enjoyment of custom publishing has actually increased in the four years since the last Roper/CPC poll.

This branded content, mind you, has been provided to these consumers by financial services firms and automakers, by companies in any number of industries that are currently caught up in the economic mess — the same types of companies that are more likely these days to inspire ire than awe. But look at these statistics from the Roper/CPC study:

Nearly eight in 10 respondents say that when companies send them custom publications, it demonstrates to them that the companies are interested in building good relationships, and nearly three-quarters say they feel better about the company when they're reading the publication it has provided.

More than two-thirds say that the companies that provide information about their products in these publications help them make better purchase decisions. Moreover, two-thirds say they are likely to buy from the company that provided them with a custom publication. Each of these statistics is up six percentage points since 2005.

The positive impact of custom media is particularly evident in consumers' attitudes about car companies: According to the survey, car owners who receive publications from their car companies are more satisfied with their vehicles, more satisfied with their car companies, and more likely to recommend the company to others than are car owners who do not receive such publications.

What does this imply? While I wouldn't suggest that custom publishing is the answer to the nation's economic woes (or that custom publishers should qualify for stimulus funds), it is clear that producing custom media is an excellent way to not only mend fences but to keep them in good repair. Nearly 80% of Roper respondents say that they don't mind the sales message inherent in custom publications, so long as the publication (print or electronic) is filled with useful information. And nearly three-quarters of respondents say that if they're going to learn something about a company (and they clearly want to) they'd rather get this information from a collection of articles in a magazine than through an advertisement.

As they work their way through this recession, corporations have a lot of work to do. It seems clear that custom publishing is a tool they should employ to get that work done.

Michael Winkleman is chairman of the Custom Publishing Council and president of Leverage Media, a custom publishing company. Reach him at mike@leveragemedia.com.

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