Media article in IoD Magazine

The changing world of media

by Ken McEwen, PR consultant and chairman of IoD Aberdeen

The media world that we, the current generation, have all grown up in is changing.

We are used to the power of mass communication being vested in television, radio, newspapers and other publications. Now, as the pace of the internet revolution shows no sign of slowing, we are seeing a real shift in that power.

Our new ‘social media’ landscape includes new features such as blogs, websites YouTube, FaceBook, MySpace, Bebo and the sensation of the moment, Twitter. You dismiss these media as frivolous – or the domain of teenage angst – at your peril. Social media websites have been at the core of campaigns that have rocked multinationals.

Media article

Some have called it the ‘democratisation of media’.

In the past, breaking news involved journalists and editors with access to sophisticated communications networks and equipment. Now, news events can be broadcast around the world on the internet using nothing more than a mobile phone.

The classic example was when the US Airways flight crash landed on the Hudson River in January this year. The first reports were circulated around the world on Twitter. The first picture was on the web a good 15-minutes before the news channels’ helicopters were on the scene. As 7,000 people scrambled to see that picture, the server collapsed under the strain.

Even the news media themselves are recognising the extraordinary power of this ‘social media’ revolution.

Newspapers, radio and television stations, including the BBC, ITN and Sky News all “tweet” their stories on Twitter to draw people to their coverage. Many journalists now monitor Twitter for breaking news is part of their daily routine.

Business has to take this revolution on board too. If effective communication with mass audiences is part of the strategy, social media must be considered. That’s why organisations like Microsoft now employ staff bloggers to ensure they get their message out online. That’s the positive aspect of the social media revolution.

My forward-thinking clients are now ensuring that the maximise the potential of social media. Their website includes a news feed or blog, linked on the main page. Twitter is used to drive traffic to the blog. To build a loyal client base, followers receive special offers and discounts. A regular email newsletter builds communication and loyalty, with hyperlinks that deliver more traffic to the website.

There are huge communication opportunities here for businesses that are willing to embrace new media.

But we also have to consider the downside. The communication power in building, maintaining and enhancing reputations is moving further away from the organisations concerned.

Whereas traditional media had all sorts of editorial checks and controls built in, ‘social media’ may not.

Using their new mass communication power, individuals and pressure groups with their own particular agenda, can project messages around the world, while sheltering behind the relative anonymity of the web.

All of which increases the importance of the reputation management aspect of the public relations discipline.

© Ken McEwen Public Relations, 2009. No unauthorised reproduction. All rights reserved.

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