The real-time value of New Media is unsurpassed. Everything in it happens in the realm of “here and now.” Your news is as new or old as your last post or blog or tweet.
Sites such as Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube have heralded the coming in of Web 2.0 – a whole new world that provides excellent chances and opens up new vistas for a Media Manager. With the onset of Social Media in the arena of media coverage and planning, a PR Professional must be adept at handling each of these avenues. While Social Media is expanding career options by introducing such positions as a Social Media Manager or an Online Reputation Management Expert, not many companies have the finance or inclination to bifurcate responsibilities and hire separate individuals to handle such posts. Hence a role such as this has landed itself in the kitty of the Communications or PR Professional who needs to learn, unlearn and relearn to become a master of both the traditional and new age media. This, to my mind, is an extremely welcome change that encourages you to shape up for the New Media defined roles otherwise you may be shipped out by those who are more adept and trained.
Come to think of it, as PR experts with our strong skill base in writing, media handling, planning, website management, and marketing communications, we are the naturally skilled workforce who should be entrusted with the responsibility of managing the New Media.
A lot of the power has shifted to you – the Communications specialist – from those on the journalistic side. If you have proved your worth and your Brand is considered of significance, then even the journalists are becoming fans of your Facebook page, following you on Twitter or linking up with you on LinkedIn.
You get to decide what, when and how much you wish to share with your target audience through your blog posts that link neatly with your parent website (thereby also increasing footfalls on your website), your Facebook updates, your tweets and YouTube plug-ins. You get to learn instantly whether your Brand is ‘trending’ or is being given the cold shoulder by the online traffic.
With the old media, it was difficult to measure the reach and penetration of your story – the only measure being the circulation figures which often failed to tell you whether the information on your company was actually read by the key audience or not. In the New Media, you can actually count up the “likes,” “views,” “shares” and “follows” to define how much a sub-product has been liked and whether a marketing idea will fly or fall with the end consumer.
While the old media and your story in it had the misfortune of being retired to the wastepaper basket or sold to the ‘Raddi recyclist’ (Scrap paper dealer) or of reappearing as a wrap for snacks sold by the street vendor, there is no such danger with the New Media. Of course, the biggest fear in the New Media is to go completely unnoticed by those very eyeballs that you wish to catch as news and information flash by in high speed across the information freeway. Yet, the New Media has this great propensity to go Viral in the biggest way possible. Imagine the circuitry your story can create – from your company website or blog to LinkedIn to YouTube to Facebook to Twitter – with innumerable swaps in between – to a large river of search engines on which your story continues to appear.
And often with proper Search Engine Optimization it would appear in the initial few searches itself. This brings us to the importance of skills such as business writing for technology-driven platforms as verbose as blogs or as crypt and concise as the 140 character Twitter. The other skills to be polished would be intelligent use of keywords, learning to link up well, using such tools as hashtags, bing, klouts, RSS, Social media alerts, tickers, Feedjits and the like. But this is a subject matter of another article which we may get into another time.
With New Media, you have the advantage of creating your own community that follows you, likes you and becomes a fan or a member. Your article that is liked or viewed by ‘X’ number of people has actually been read by those numbers without any wastage in the count and as a bonus has also been shared with their respective networks. Your Brand that is followed by a certain number of people enjoys loyalty from this number which has the potential to grow into a large population. Think about the online hits that certain features/stories invite on the internet and you will instantly know that this population can grow to a size of millions or more.
New Media is also an excellent platform for networking widely with larger demographics or pointedly with chosen focus groups. The networking and linking up chances with the like-minded groups on sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook help you increase your audience base taking you beyond the geographical boundaries within which your company exists. There are hundreds of Groups for Hoteliers, Travel professionals and other such defined categories with which you can network and share your information.
With an avenue like Wikipedia, you can be your own Editor and create a User page or article for your Company. If it has universal significance then you will be easily inducted into the Wiki pages and enjoy easy searchability and wide readership.
With New Media, everything happens in the present so much so that the stories are listed every second and every minute of the day and through the night. The World Wide Web never sleeps and to make matters worse the Social Media keeps it on its toes at all times. There are no lunch breaks or pit stops on this information highway. Hence you need to be consistent and constant with your messaging. The rise in the relevance of New Media has caused a decline in the attention spans, therefore there is a greater need, now than ever before, to be pertinent and prime in your ‘newsability,’ otherwise, your input will remain popular only amongst employees, family, and friends.
With New Media, you can reinforce your message with the ease of clicking a button. Simply press share or retweet and your story comes alive once again. But you must learn to do this prudently and in the right time span lest you become a social media outcast. With so much of information threatening to deluge their mind space, your guests do not wish to be bored with old news or annoyed with repetitive nuisance.
All forms of New Media present wonderful options for inter-linkages. So, your official blog piece or website page can be tweeted or shared on LinkedIn, Facebook etc. simultaneously with just a couple of clicks and you get to showcase your product amidst a large number of users of these sites with so much ease that it makes a kid’s play appear difficult.
One of the biggest boons of New Media is that it is absolutely free and adds admirably to your profit protection strategy. View this point in the light of big dollars earmarked for the annual media plan covering advertising and other media spend including Press FAMs and individual Press Trips for media coverage on your Company. Virtual Property Tours with exciting 360-degree views that have been traditionally put up on the website can now be uploaded on YouTube or tweeted or shared through LinkedIn, Facebook and the like for free and to multitudes who just need to have access to a machine and the medium of Net. This, however, does not reduce the importance of the human touch, the impact of relationships with the media and the power of experiencing a property for real.
With these huge benefits come the bad lemons too as is a given with almost anything in life; with everything there always being two sides. Opening up to a wide readership and onto instant news platforms such as these also calls for immediate feedback. Your guests are at free will to tweet back or post a negative comment or deride your new sub-product or product in the same open, worldwide medium that you use. The onus lies on you – the Newsmaker – and your Company to be more responsible, meaningful and noteworthy.
With you as the Communications Chief, New Media also allows for much greater engaging and involvement of the employee base that can be part of the news making process, thereby developing a stronger bond and belongingness with the Company they represent. While not everybody can be allowed to post or tweet – given the crucial baseline of adhering to the Company profile and Brand Standard, but they can send their submissions to you, who as the Chief Brand Custodian can play the editor to the hilt and include the appropriate ones on to the forums. Seeing one’s tweet or post feature in the virtual world gives almost the same high as seeing one’s article in print, well almost, and is especially true for the non-writers.
While the importance and significance of the Old Media cannot be ever denied, the New Media is all too powerful, in your face, productive and result-oriented so as not to be taken lightly. It is not a fad and needs to be fashioned out sensibly into your media strategy.