Understanding the client/media dynamic in the digital age

Thu, 10/07/2014 - 08:36

AS every public relations consultant will tell you, it is a very fine line between the client's needs and those of the media platform to which the specified content is envisaged to appear.

This is the very reason that clients need to understand the prevailing relationship between traditional and social media, and how at times this is extremely symbiotic and at others, perenially detrimental.

While there can be little doubt that public opinion leans towards social portals given their immediacy and at-your-fingertips nature, what many fail to realise is that it is the traditional news brands that continue to hold sway.

I am from a print media background, and proudly so. The skills that I learnt under the stewardship of the best in not only this land, but others, is beyond price.

Which is precisely the reason that even in the digital age, it is those men and women who have plinthed these traditional news organisations to become word on news value.

News24 may be an online platform, but save for some commentators who have been tasked with covering the Oscar Pistorius trial "live" and the intermittent columnist drawn from the ranks of who-knows-what, the journalists on point are experience beyond question.

Which brings us to Facebook and Twitter.

Journalists have of course cottoned on to the fact that these two platforms are ideal to market their scoops and breaking news; quite simply, because that is the world we live in. It is a 24-hour news cycle, and depending on the public's specified interests, it is made to order.

Yet Facebook and Twitter, whether the stakeholders and editors beholden to them like to admit it or not, their "exclusive" in the social media environment is akin to spam mail.

A newspaper's Facebook page may have 72 000 Likes, but what impact does that have in terms of its quarterly circulation? Very little.

That being said, the mere fact that it does have the said number of Likes indicates the esteem in which it is held. The so-called Citizen Journalism fad died a very quick and sudden death, simply by virtue of the fact that the authors were not recognised as authority sources.

So what does this mean for the client?

In South Africa, at least for the time being, placement in a magazine or newspaper is still crucial to marketing their product, as in order for that publication to gain traction in the burgeoning social media environment, it is necessary for them to relay the information within the digital sphere as well.

Essentially this means a "double whammy" for the media relations consultant and his client.

The problem, however, comes in with the belief that base social media marketing will be the be-all and end-all solution to every question in the universe.

A "social media campaign" essentially means a post-graduate is utilising their hours-upon-hours of Facebook "experience" to identify outlets they think are worthy of product placement. While such commitment to a computer screen is admirable, Google Analytics will unfortunately discard such attempts as a farce.

Thus it is still the New York Timeses of this world, the Sunday Timeses, The Mail & Guardians, that will continue to register as the root of credibility, no matter how their sales figures may dwindle or soar.

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