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New or old media? A public relations conundrum


There’s a song that’s been rolling around in my head for several years, and I can’t seem to get it out. It’s sweet, sad, and mournful. It’s traditional media’s swan song. 

I can’t shake it, perhaps because I’ve been waiting several years for the dinosaur to die, assured that it’s only a matter of time and that social media will soon displace it. One need look only to the Big Easy, where the New Orleans Times-Picayune recently cut its print run to just three days a week for evidence. 

public relations swanBut I’ll be damned: that tough old bird that is traditional media just won’t croak. It makes me wonder whether new media has the chops to land the fatal blow. 

Anywhere you turn within the public relations industry, especially trade media, you get hit with all things social media. On one hand, it’s all the rage, the next big thing that is here now. You’ll never interact with your favorite brands as you have in the past, and you’ll never get your news the same way again. Social media experts have crawled out of the woodwork (many of whom, by the way, have zero credentials or credibility to support their expert assertion). 

And you better believe public relations firms are on the bandwagon. It seems that EVERY marketing, advertising and public relations firm is an expert in new media. Yet for all the fanfare surrounding social media – 78 percent of public relations agency owners say that it is extremely important that their agencies are able to offer social media services – only 25 percent have made a concerted effort to know as much about social media as anyone practicing it today. This is according to a recent StevensGouldPincus survey of PR agency owners. Talk about knowing just enough to be dangerous – dangerous and scary, especially for clients who look to their agencies as trusted advisors. 

Perhaps the reason such a low percentage of PR agency owners have put any real effort into thoroughly understanding social media is the fact that 90 percent of agency owners surveyed believe that social media won’t replace traditional print and broadcast media. 

So what to do if yours is a business that wants to tell its story in this day and age by the best means possible, whether it’s social or traditional media? 

In my last blog, I wrote about the power of traditional news media in driving traffic to your web site. Since then, new media giant Buzzfeed has published a chart that shows the publishers with the greatest number of stories that have more than 100 Facebook interactions in the month of September, with an interaction defined as anything you can do with a link on Facebook — a like, a comment, or a share. Although Huffington Post leads the list, most of the sites in the top 40 are old media outlets like the New York Times, NBC, ABC and USA Today

What that tells me is that although the medium may be changing, people are still getting their news from trusted media sources. Social media is a critical, integral part of any comprehensive public relations effort. Not only is it a way for you to tell your story, it can enhance that story by enabling you to incorporate appropriate input from your audiences. But traditional news media remains a formidable channel for telling your story, because it brings third-party credibility and validation of your story. In fact, I’m with Morley Safer here on what makes good journalism. Although I’m not appalled by citizen journalism, I do believe that good journalism, good reporting and credibility are best provided by those trained in the discipline, which may have been pronounced dead prematurely. 

How do you see the media landscape playing out over the next five or 10 years? Will traditional news media as we know it today go away and be replaced by new media? Or are we to believe what PR agency owners say about traditional news media? How will that affect the public relations industry? 

Surely something has to give. Otherwise, I’ll go insane with the song that’s looping in my brain.


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Jason Snyder is a  senior vice president for WordWrite Communications.



Love your take on this topic. We hear all the time about how "traditional media is dead." Yet one mention in a trade journal or a print magazine can bring hundreds more hits to your website than a status update on your Facebook page. Traditional media can bring much greater and faster ROI than social media. Yet social media is far more effective at helping you build a fan base. And it even lets you bypass traditional media if you wish. 
Go where your audience is. In most cases, they loook to both traditional and social media for their news.  
Posted @ Thursday, October 25, 2012 9:20 AM by Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound
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