New Media Realities Still Underappreciated in World of PR

Posted on January 5, 2010. Filed under: Public Relations, Social Media | Tags: , , |

To say that the Aughts have not been kind to traditional media is an understatement. Newspapers and broadcasters have been caught in a swirl of changing reader and viewer habits with competition from literally millions of new sources of cheap information. It has resulted in nothing less than the near dissolution of a business model that had served the press well for centuries.  

But amid this turmoil in the mainstream media (that we require a retronym is telling of the depth of social media’s impact), corporations and organizations still have to find ways to get their messages out to their publics and then measure its impact.

The job of identifying the influencers in this new media world is increasingly hard for those who have acknowledged it is necessary. However, it seems many have yet to fully accept the fact that the old rules largely no longer apply.

I know I’m no futurist. I’m not going to attempt to predict what the news media will look like a generation from now. But what I’ve seen is that the corporate PR pros of today seem to be largely going about as if it is still the early ‘90s when the Internet was mostly background noise and newspapers and broadcast TV were still the most important influencers.

Those I’ve spoken with and those I hear about from my colleagues selling media monitoring products still seem largely focused on sending their press releases to, and measuring their messages in, newspapers and magazines and on TV. It is true that many know the impact that blogs, Twitter and YouTube can have. But I think they are clinging to the old ways for two reasons: Managing their message directly to millions of voices seems overwhelming; and the PR practitioners of today, a growing number of whom are digital natives, largely are still accountable to bosses who are digital immigrants.

By now they know social media matters, but they may not yet appreciate how much or what to do about it.  I’m amazed when we witness clients who are still measuring their media impact by (literally) the thickness of their clip books and those whose measurement plans intentionally exclude measuring blogs, YouTube and Twitter.

I think we’re still in for more old-school thinking until a few things happen: Print newspapers become specialty items, digital natives move into the corner offices, and easy social-media measuring tools are developed.

Right now the tools are still less mature than they should be and the content they access is incomplete. Too many silos make it difficult to measure impact comprehensively. Walled communities like Facebook and LinkedIn continue to make this a hard problem, and pay walls and newspapers taking their content off Google will make the problem even harder.

So for a little while longer, those in the corner office in too many companies will keep flipping through clip books and counting headlines, all the while their junior associates Tweet about why they need to be evolving faster.

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