It is nearly 2014, and as communications executives, our strategies and tactics must reflect the changing media environment. While a good story is still important, print, digital, social, and video all must be part of an integrated approach to get our message into the marketplace. And we must embrace our colleagues in employee communications, investor relations, and in marketing to make our messaging resonate.
The audiences that communications professionals seek have never been so fragmented and in a media landscape that is changing so quickly. One-stop shopping with tier-one news organizations can no longer accomplish our goals.
The Huffington Post and Gawker have been established for a nearly a decade. They have a sophisticated young audience that your traditional newspaper publisher would only hope to reach. Meanwhile, news organizations including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, with much older audiences, still set agendas.
What should communications executives do to reach these elusive audiences? You must integrate the following into your media plans in 2014:
- Be social: We must become part of the conversation within our clients' industries. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are driving brand perceptions and influencing target audiences, including media. Communications executives must develop a voice on social media to get their clients heard. Many young practitioners use social media to follow celebrities, chefs, athletes, and friends. They don't use social to follow reporters and columnists. Doing so provides real insight to their thought process and editorial focus.
- Don't be a news snob: New opportunities have been created in this media vortex with smaller, nimble startup news organizations, such as BuzzFeed, Mashable, Grantland, Politico, and Business Insider just to name a few. The Huffington Post earned a Pulitzer Prize in 2012, reaching the highest pinnacle of journalistic legitimacy. These publications are credible and sophisticated while providing irreverent, witty, and occasionally sophomoric humor that attracts a young, loyal readership. Don't write these news organizations off because they are not published primarily on paper.
- Leverage your company's talent: We must influence the influencers. Bloggers, industry experts, financial and industry analysts, and academics will certainly remain important target audiences, but there is a greater need to turn employees into brand ambassadors. Staffers must become a force multiplier in messaging for the brand. Employees are largely an untapped pool of talented experts who can easily sway opinions and become a voice of reason. They are the experts so let them be just that.
- Codependency is OK: While investor relations in many companies report into a different silo than the communications department, it is critical that they work in unison. Media relies on the financial community for third-party analysis. And many analysts rely on the media to validate their work.
- Be consistent: Partner with your marketing and advertising departments. Constancy of messaging is essential. Often marketing and communications departments run independently of each other.
As communications executives, we must embrace change and counsel our clients to accept the changing media landscape. Today, we must look around corners and adjust our roles, strategies, and tactics. Change presents new opportunities, and these new opportunities must be exploited, not feared, in order to be successful in 2014 and beyond.
Robert Christie is MD at Burson-Marsteller in New York in the corporate and financial practice after joining the firm in August 2013. He is the firmer SVP of corporate communications for The New York Times Co. and VP of communications for Dow Jones & Co. Christie was selected as one of PRWeek's 40 Under 40 in 2007