It is almost hackneyed these days to lament the changes in contemporary newsrooms. Anyone working in PR, journalism or watching the news is witnessing a battle between traditional media and direct, social media. The President of the United States is on Twitter every morning and provides an ongoing case study in the efficacy of social media as a communication channel.
So it’s only natural to believe that PR and communications professionals are re-assessing the tools at their disposal to effect change, promote ideas and products and defend positions. Layer on the ever-increasing challenges with engaging traditional media channels successfully and again it seems logical that PR and comms pros are turning to content and direct distribution channels to communicate with their customers, colleagues and constituents.
That’s not news.
But when we surveyed 500 comms and PR pros late last year, we were surprised how enthusiastically our colleagues are embracing these newer channels. At 104 West, we have questioned the effectiveness of a mono-channel strategy and leaned heavily on social and direct media in addition to classic PR. We have also strategically encouraged clients to broaden their perspectives and move away from company-centric efforts in favor of more thought leadership.
Our survey data suggests that our industry colleagues are more closely looking at how strategies drive engagement and leads as only five percent of communication professionals said media relations is the most effective tactic for driving a successful program. We’re right there in agreement. Additionally, over half of the respondents have already adapted their strategy to focus more on social media. Again we nodded right along.
The most stunning discovery comes with the disconnect between communications professionals and their clients or bosses. Nearly half of communication professionals surveyed (45%) said the biggest challenge in conducting a campaign is that clients and executives have different views on strategy and measuring success. In other words, while the pros are looking for ways to maintain a connection with their audiences to drive business and increase engagement, the corner office is still looking for trophies in the form of a cover article or major splash piece in the media.
Those things aren’t mutually exclusive, but the data also indicates the leaders with the purse strings are less impressed by these new tactics. It feels like some kind of reckoning is afoot.
With so many executives searching for discernible ROI, why are they still attracted to the black box of PR where it’s harder to measure performance and/or impact on business? Our survey suggests that rank-and-file comms teams are trying to contribute to the business in sustained and productive ways. But, traditional PR is still fashionable to the leaders in charge of the budgets.
Unless these emerging channels become more attractive to the corner office or the press reverts to some former self and substantive media opportunities are more readily available, this feels like a stalemate. Which side do you think blinks first?