The death knell has been sounding for some time. Traditional media is in deep decline. Viewership, listenership and readership figures are on the slide as consumers turn to social media and podcasts for their daily content fix.
Historically, the national media was positioned as the gatekeeper of information. It had a strangle hold on the distribution of and access to print and broadcast content. But the unstoppable march of social media and technology has produced a highly fragmented and diverse media market. So much so, we have long reached the tipping point where consumers are bypassing traditional media and getting their information where, when and how they want.
So, while businesses still crave coverage in national newspapers and on our radio and television channels, the value of such coverage is constantly diminishing. As the average person now spends about five years of their life on social media, this is hardly surprising.
Coverage in The Irish Times or Irish Independent is no longer the Holy Grail it once was. Just as an appearance on The Late Late Show now reaches a fraction of the audience it once did. Relying on such one-off shotgun blasts of coverage is no longer enough. Public relations campaigns and media communications have to be more diverse and inventive in order to ensure audiences are properly targeted.
Information has been democratised, thus releasing the national media’s strangle hold on the distribution of news content. As we have seen from Brexit and Donald Trump’s election, social media is the undisputed champion of influencing public opinion.
The rise of social media, and the willingness of social media giants like Facebook to gather huge amounts of data on its users, has helped empower businesses to develop a direct dialogue with their customers. They are no longer reliant on the media to act as the middleman when it comes to delivering messages to key target audiences. Hence, they need to take a more central and decisive role in communicating key messages to their public.
While a company communicating directly with customers is nothing new, the advance of social media has revolutionised this relationship and has helped develop an informal two-way dialogue.
The likes of Facebook and Twitter provide a vast array of opportunities to interact with consumers in interesting, entertaining and engaging ways. Such interaction, unlike traditional media, is highly transparent and measurable, and can be tied in with advertising, marketing and public relations campaigns.
But it comes with a health warning. Firstly, it is not just a case of cramming your direct marketing and public relations content into social media channels.
While creating dialogue on social media is ultimately an attempt to gain awareness, build influence and generate business, it has to be underpinned by meaningful customer communications. Your role as a publisher of content should not be built around product information. Your audience will quickly tire of sales and marketing blurb and will soon vanish. The content has to be meaningful, useful or entertaining.
Secondly, social media is something that if not correctly resourced or managed can be fraught with potential disaster . Like any public relations undertaking it requires an ongoing commitment. Communication with your customers should not happen once a week or twice a month or according to your schedule. It has to be a flexible, continuous and evolving process.
For many businesses blogging is a more manageable introduction to direct, two-way interaction with consumers. Like social media, the cost of entry is minimal and it gives you the ability to listen, learn and react. The fact is, boring, one-way static websites just don’t cut it anymore in the age of interactive social media content. Customers demand more.
The good news is now businesses can manage their own social media channels rather than relying on traditional media manage. So whether through customer magazines, websites, Facebook, Instagram or blogging, it is now the message not the media that is the key.
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