Mark my words: the transmission of central bank communication to the general public via the print media

Tim Munday and James Brookes in this Bank of England paper analyse how central bank communicates to the general public via print media. It also suggests how central banks can improve their news coverage and readability:

We ask how central banks can change their communication in order to receive greater newspaper coverage. We write down a model of news production and consumption in which news generation is endogenous because the central bank must draft its communication in such a way that newspapers choose to report it, while still retaining the message the central bank wishes to convey to the public. We use our model to show that standard econometric techniques that correlate central bank text with measures of news coverage in order to determine what causes central bank communication to be reported on will likely prove to be biased.

We use techniques from computational linguistics combined with an event-study methodology to measure the extent of news coverage a central bank communication receives, and the textual features that might cause a communication to be more (or less) likely to be considered newsworthy.

We consider the case of the Bank of England, and estimate the relationship between news coverage and central bank communication implied by our model. We find that the interaction between the state of the economy and the way in which the Bank of England writes its communication is important for determining news coverage. We provide concrete suggestions for ways in which central bank communication can increase its news coverage by improving readability in line with our results.

Specifically, they find 5 ways in which communications can improve:

we find five main categories of features are significant in explaining the news coverage that central bank communication receives, and derive five policy implications from them. These are that the central bank, if it is designing communication that it wants to reach the general public, should:
1. Keep things simple. Our results show that one should avoid introducing embedded clauses and separable particle verb structures.
2. Be personal. Use we/us/you to engage the reader.
3. Write in short sentences. Long dependence arcs reduce the likelihood of newspaper coverage.
4. Summarise the message in the first sentence of the document.
5. Use facts and figures.   

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