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New Media Trends: Same Old Mistakes

Digital media is long one of the hottest talking points in marketing and corporate communication and many communicators are still rushing to get into the 'newest media' in their search for the next big thing!

Not embracing new trends in media is one of the biggest mistakes any corporate or marketing communicator can make. Daily newspaper circulation figures in the US have fallen significantly from 62.5 million in 1982 to 55.1 million in 2005, to 35 million by 2017 according to Scarborough Research. A Gartner G2 study tells us that 36% of executives now get their news mainly from the Web compared with 26% who rely on newspapers - the reverse of a few years ago. None of this means that traditional media will ever fully disappear, but there is overwhelming evidence that proves digitalmedia is delivering the largest percentage of the information diet of our audiences and markets.

While ignoring new trends in media, like apps and in-game ads is the first obvious mistake of any marketer or communicator today, there are a number of other major pitfalls that sees a lot of effort, budget and opportunities wasted and which can de-rail communication campaigns.

Research tells us that we are still not yet very good communicators through new media. Many websites remain little more than brochureware - static corporate blurbs, online annual reports and re-hashed product brochures that do not utilise the dynamic two-way capability of the web. Online media centres, wanted and used by 90% of journalists for brand information and by more than 80% for media releases, photos and contact details (according to research by TEKgroup International) are often poorly designed and hard to navigate. A study by Nielson Norman Group in the USA found 60% of journalists cannot find information they want on major corporate websites.

There are three other major pitfalls. The first is - thinking of digital media only in terms of additional channels for outbound communication and using it to send out yet more stuff.

Before organisations decide to join the ranks of bloggers or podcasters, they needed to learn to monitor existing blogs along with online media, anti-Web sites, chat rooms and Internet newsgroups. Not only will this provide familiarisation with market niches, but these forms of media are an important source of information and intelligence that needs to be closely monitored.

There may be stories and postings about your organisation or brand that you should be aware of, or items about your competitors that provide vital market intelligence. Monitoring new media is a key element of environmental scanning. But most media monitoring does not include new media such as anti-Web sites, newsgroups or blogs.

The second pitfall - knee-jerk reactions to hostile or negative blogs, podcasts or anti-Web sites. While digital demands considerable attention, many blogs, podcasts, websites and online media still have very small audiences and little credibility. Communicators need to analyse new media objectively before responding, especially on social media.

The third pitfall - in their rush to get on board with the newest media trends, many communication practitioners plunge into becoming users without first evaluating the suitability of the various new media - and without learning the ropes.

Typical of this approach is starting a corporate app as an alternative to social media campaigns and filling them with company product blurbs and policies. Blogs are not newsletters, but dynamic ‘conversations’ with specific groups usually written directly by specialists in relevant fields, not corporate PR departments. Companies can publish successful blogs (as Sun Microsystems has found) but they require a high degree of frankness, honesty and openness by genuine experts in their fields.

Corporate communicators need to approach new media in three stages:

• Monitor new media avenues to see if there are existing blogs, podcasts, fan panges, Facebook groups or web sites relevant to specific field(s) of interest and to know what they are saying about your company or brand.

• Analyse the content and reach of blogs and other new media. They may have a large subscriber base and high visitor numbers, or they may be read only by the author’s relatives and friends. Analysis should include gaining data on their web ranking, audience or subscriber base - if any - and content.

• Utilise new media ONLY after completing the first two stages and after learning the rules of engagement.

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