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Traditional Media and Social Media: Creating an Effective Communications Partnership

You’ve decided to take your business into the 21st century and dip your toe in the social media world. You’ve mapped out your objectives, identified your audiences and created the messages necessary for a strategic communications campaign. Now, how do you effectively use all of the tools at your disposal to implement a campaign that’s as effective as possible?

For starters, bear in mind that while social media is a valuable way to communicate with current clients and reach new ones, traditional media outlets—print, TV and radio—still have a substantial audience. Combining social and traditional media may give you a stronger edge in a busy marketplace.

“Too many times we forget marketing is a 360-degree experience,” says Tim Shisler, freelance interactive journalist and blogger. “Social media is a tool, albeit a very powerful tool, within a marketer’s toolbox. Customers can be anywhere today—TV, print, online, mobile—and it is a company’s job to effectively target and reach their selected customers through each of these mediums, utilizing a variety of distribution methods. When I explain marketing to potential clients, I draw a circle and put their brand in the middle. Each part of the circle represents a different part of the pie, and in order to reach each section, the company has to push its message out in that direction.”

The Basics: Targeting Your Audience

Social Media Examiner suggests asking these questions as you develop an integrated, social-traditional media campaign. In looking at each question, you need to determine how each kind of media can get your message out most effectively.

Who is the audience?
Go beyond basic demographics and ask yourself what potential customers look like, what they sound like, whom they hang out with, etc.

Where is the audience?
Look beyond the publications and programs that target audience members and try to get a sense of where they are in their lives.

How can I connect with my audience?
Don’t think only about which media channelsto use—also ask yourself how you can connect with your audience from a creative perspective, what offers you can make and how you can initiate a conversation with potential customers.

How do I extend the conversation?
Once you’ve made contact and started “the conversation,” what do you plan to do next?

How can I get my audience to introduce me to others? You have to think beyond the conversation to the recommendation. Referrals are what can truly make your business succeed.

Social and Traditional: What Is the Real Difference?

“Social media demands 24/7 presence, frequently updated and relevant content, a diplomatic and distinct voice,” says PR professional Todd Defren in his Public Relations Squared column. “Traditional media requires careful timing, a differentiated story, a proud voice, a tightly packaged and closely held assembly of content, verifiable proof and articulate defenders. Understand the difference; do both,” he advises.

Social media (blogs, social media sites, online news feeds, etc.) is based on giving up control and fostering two-way communications with your audience in order to build community and create trust over time. The best practitioners engage others by starting interesting conversation topics or creating exclusive online content. Through blogs, online sites and videos, people can write reviews, post comments and ask questions. That gives you the opportunity to talk directly to consumers, instead of at them. It’s a format that is interactive, (ideally) friendly and personal.

Traditional marketing (via newspapers, magazines, radio, televisions, etc.) is based on you creating and controlling the message, then pushing that message out to the types of media that best serve to promote those ideas and stories. These campaigns tend to be insular and targeted. However, they do not have to be focused on a particular topic (as tends to be the case with social media). That means traditional marketing has the power to be a strong content generator, giving readers more depth and scope on a topic.

Many traditional news outlets now have a significant social media presence. Writers explore story ideas via their Twitter™ feeds or on the news outlet’s Facebook page. Many magazines and newspapers have a website that offers additional or distinct content that differs from the hard-copy edition. This can present you with a variety of new opportunities for reaching out to the media or garnering media coverage. A significant example of this is the national business magazine BusinessWeek, which used to have a “What’s Your News Story Idea” webpage. On this page, readers submitted their story ideas, which were reviewed by the editor in chief and a community editor. The magazine committed itself to picking at least one story a week from those submissions to be assigned to a BusinessWeek reporter.

Ask Yourself Some Important Questions

  • How do you integrate social media channels with a traditional public relations effort?
  • At what stage should social media kick in?
  • Does it happen at the awareness phase or closer to the “I’ve bought it, and I love/hate it” phase?

If you are doing something that has caught fire—on a large or small scale—and your customers can’t wait to tell others about it, social media can be an effective tool for creating awareness and generating demand. If you have a product that is new or may not be considered a necessity, generating a lot of conversation in the online world may not be quite as easy.

To get a better sense of how social media and/or traditional media can help move your company forward, create a scale that examines customer awareness in all phases—from being totally unaware to becoming a loyal customer. Which media strategy makes sense at each point of the continuum? How do you move someone from having no information to being in love with your product or service?

Seeing those connection points on paper will make it easier to understand what options are at your disposal and, more important, how (and when) they can work together to create a campaign that is well-rounded and hits customers on all levels.

According to Peter Baron of Cision Navigator, there are a number of ways in which you can begin to balance traditional media with social media through some easy steps.

  • Share links to online industry trade publication articles (traditional media placements) as points of discussion in LinkedIn Groups and on Twitter, or post your reaction to the story in your blog. This can be an especially effective PR tool if you authored or were quoted in the article.
  • Tap the power of microblogging for sharing and receiving instant updates at industry events. The next time your company exhibits at a trade show, assign one person the role of shooting out regular updates via Twitter: reporting from the event, sharing observations about panels and presentations, communicating with other attendees regarding related events, etc.
  • Actively weave social media into standard communications like email, phone conversations and business cards. This includes asking to connect with folks via LinkedIn or directing people to your Facebook page or Twitter feed.

According to a 2010 survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, while most original reporting still comes from traditional journalists, technology makes it increasingly possible for the actions of citizens to influence a news story’s total impact—online and offline. Depending on the focus of the story, companies need to monitor both traditional and online media on an ongoing basis in order to be proactive and be prepared to act quickly and strategically.

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