The Disintermediation of Journalism
I’ll say right off the bat that media relations is an important part of any B2B communications program, but it’s no longer the leading strategy. The number of companies communicating directly with their audiences—through social media, email marketing, webinars—is greatly increasing, and in our view has equal, if not better, weight than pitching stories to the media. This is particularly true for smaller companies who may not generate the same editor’s interest as a more established and well-known brand, but whose leaders have valuable expert views on their industry.
For public companies, the SEC allows corporate executives to use their personal social media channels to convey company information considered material to investors, but says they must inform investors what channels are being used for that purpose. This enables companies to effectively deliver company developments to their audience without third party editorial influence.
The spread of technology has turned ordinary people into both producers and consumers of news and companies into news outlets. A brand’s ability to broadcast information and commentary across its own platforms is often more effective in helping the company reach its audience and key business objectives than a piece in The New York Times or Wall Street Journal. For example, the WSJ has a circulation of around 2.8 million, including digital and print, but how many of those people are you trying to influence? Likely a small percentage. And where media outreach involves a journalist interpreting your information and adding their own angle, disseminating information on your own gives you complete control of the story.
Targeting your audience through social channels and your own contact database (through email) will give you a direct, disintermediated line to your audience and them to you. We see this played out in politics every day, where POTUS types a thought on his phone, your pocket buzzes and you read the message (for better or worse). It’s not just politicians that share insights via social platforms—CEO’s like Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX, and Jack Dorsey, founder and CEO of Twitter, distribute insights and corporate information this way.
Building communities of interested followers and sharing useful information gives you a direct line to prospects, clients and key stakeholders—and them to you. In the much flatter, more open information sharing network that now exists between humans through social media and email, building up institutional credibility relies on companies communicating directly with their audience in a way that is authentic and human and shows authority and leadership. It is this interconnectivity through social channels and email that has deteriorated the significance of the press as a primary distribution channel for news.
More important than the ability to reach a more targeted and relevant audience is to ensure that what you are saying is authentic, has a human face and is what your audience cares about. For our clients, we encourage by-lined articles that share experience and give an insider’s view. Authentic thought leaders focus less on their own image and more on adding value to their audience. As a result, they build a personal brand of trustworthiness which is far more effective than self-promotion. We’ll share more on this in our next article, so stay tuned.
When developing your communications strategy, it’s important to understand all the tools you have at your disposal and which ones are most effective in connecting with your audience.