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Wieck’s Speech at 2011 Reputation Management Conference

August 31, 2011

What we do at Wieck is create online newsrooms, websites that deliver all your content to the media. In the next few minutes I’ll share with you some things that I hope you will find interesting, perhaps surprising and no doubt necessary for your communications with the media.

Everything we thought we knew about the media is changing at a phenomenal rate. Not that long ago “the media” was a term used to refer to newspapers, magazines, television and radio. Now, almost on a weekly basis, we’re told of traditional media outlets closing the doors while new media ventures are making billions. The conflicting reports from around the world about the true state of the media are confusing to say the least.

As recently as 10 years ago you could penetrate every major news organisation in Australia by inviting only a handful of journalists to a launch. Today, at least in the Western world, traditional sources of news have seen a dramatic fall in their power and influence. They are no longer the sole voice of the people.

Let’s look at the easiest target – newspapers. In the US, total daily newspaper circulation has fallen by 30% in 20 years. Their revenue has dropped by more than 50% in just the last 10 years. Perhaps most significant shift of all for communicators comes from the latest Edelman Trust Barometer, which shows that only 15% of people refer to newsprint at their first source of news.

Despite the sorry tale that’s being told by newspapers in the West, worldwide newspaper circulation actually grew by 6% between 2005 and 2009.

Like I said – confusing. It’s not that traditional media is dead; rather that new media has been born. The overall number of media outlets has grown dramatically.

It’s pretty much impossible to paint an accurate picture of the number of outlets that can now be legitimately termed as “media” however here is an interesting little statistic to put it into perspective.

Back in 1981, 550 journalists and broadcasters were accredited by the palace and descended on London to cover the royal nuptials of Charles and Diana.

30 years later for Will and Kate’s wedding, the palace officially accredited 6,500 and there were an estimated 8,500 in attendance.

The days of getting good results from servicing only a handful of journalists are gone.

It’s not only the number of outlets that is changing; the requirements of media have also been blurred.

Radio and television stations now require text and images for their websites. Newspapers and magazines need video clips for theirs. And they are all working with less staff to do it.

A recent survey of 1,000 media including TV, radio, newspapers, magazines and web properties across America showed 85% use online video content to cover the news and 84% say they are using third-party video.

If you aren’t providing video content, and, just as importantly, making it readily available for download via an Online Newsroom, there is absolutely no doubt you are missing out on opportunities to promote your brand.

Keeping up with the sheer number of journalists and media outlets is hard but the competition for valuable media attention is even harder. Here’s some more statistics that both present opportunity and necessitate vigilance. Again from US data, in 1980 the ratio of PRs to journalists was roughly 1:1. Now PRs outnumber journalists 3:1. Census data to track revenues of public relations agencies between 1997 and 2007 found that they went from $3.5 billion to $8.75 billion. And those figures only include independent public relations agencies — not internal PR, lobbying outfits, advertising agencies, non-profits, or government.

It’s very difficult to find dollar figures from the Australian market – in fact it wasn’t until the 2006 Census that “Public Relations Professional” was even recognized as a job – however a Bond University study into Government media relations in Queensland found that in the 91/92 financial year the Queensland Government spent 13.4 million dollars purely on departmental expenditure. By 2008 that figure had risen to 36.4 million dollars – a three-fold increase within 20 years.

What does mean? If nothing else, this means if you work for the Queensland Govt I won’t believe you if try and tell me you have no budget!

More importantly, it tells us there is opportunity with the fact there are far fewer journalists overall trying to do three times the work in half the time. There are numerous examples of the media’s willingness to accept information provided by Public Relations representatives without scrutiny, often with embarrassing results.

Vigilance is required because your competition is now three times greater than it was a couple of decades ago. If there was a time when close enough was good enough, that time has passed. Close enough could now get you a public blasting from a frustrated Editor that, on the one hand is desperate for PRs to feed them content, but on the other is overwhelmed from being constantly bombarded with poorly executed pitches.

Having your media information readily accessible on an online newsroom both empowers Editors and provides you with a solid foundation to support your pitch.

The difficulty in keeping your finger on the pulse is made even more complicated with the emergence of the multi-directional form of media engagement: more commonly known as, Social Media. For PRs, not only understanding which social media to use but how to use the various platforms is vital.

This image should clear things up a bit for you.

As seen in the ladies bathroom on 5th ave and 23rd st New York

Social Media – in all its forms – has given a voice to consumers that can be heard loud and clear across the globe.

Admittedly, what they have to say is not always to everyone’s taste but that doesn’t negate the fact that they are saying it – and where they are saying it can have a major impact on your brand.

In fact, according to a survey released by The Pew Research Center just last Friday, for the first time ever over 50% of all American adults claim to use social media.

Incidents like Dave Carroll vs United Airlines have been written into PR textbooks around the world. Only via Social Media could a disgruntled customer with a broken guitar generate enough negative word-of-mouth with a 4 and a half minute song that it would cause a company to lose around 180 million dollars, not to mention the effect on corporate reputation.

Social Media has given rise to the 24-hour news cycle.

Tony Hayworth, former CEO of BP and one time “most hated man in America”, has recently spoken about what it was like trying to deal with the media storm that resulted from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

One of the biggest problems at the time was not only keeping the media informed of unfolding developments but also tackling the inaccurate stories proliferating. At its height, there were 50 people at BP working around the clock purely on countering “inaccurate” information being posted on Twitter, Facebook and other social networking platforms.

Tony Hayworth said, “We were at war with the media every day. There’s no other word for it.”

Having an established, fully specified online newsroom well before any disaster happens will go a long way in helping with the dissemination of clear, concise and uniform information worldwide, instantaneously.

Social Media has also introduced a new word into the vernacular of communications – transparency.

I dare say you will hear a lot about the need for transparency over the next couple of days and the only point I’ll make on this topic is that there is a difference between transparency and honesty, just as there is a difference between healthy scepticism and lack of trust.

Communications professionals must also understand the crucial role reputation plays in media relations and consumer bias. The “Edelman Trust Barometer” highlights the importance of Corporate Reputation when it comes to news and information about your business. It provides a fascinating insight into how a company’s reputation affects a consumer’s willingness to change their perceptions.

When a company is distrusted, 57% will believe negative information while only 15% will believe positive information after hearing it 1 or 2 times.

Conversely, one of the most significant findings is how profoundly trust protects reputation.

If the company is trusted, only 25% will believe negative information and 51% will believe positive information after hearing it 1 or 2 times.

The Trust Barometer also found that online search engines have become the go-to for news with 29% rating that as their first source when it comes to news about a company. “Online news sources” comes in second place with 19%.

Interestingly, at 11%, news from the company’s website ranked just behind traditional media outlets of radio/TV on 12% and print with 15% suggesting that having an effective online newsroom is almost as important as what used to be “the media” when it comes to corporate reputation.

The 24-hour news cycle means that potentially on any given day, at any given hour, someone in the media is looking for your news releases or your photos, audio grabs, video footage or background information. Supplying these individually is time-consuming.

At Wieck we know what that’s like, both from the perspective of someone trying to supply it and as the person trying to get it.

In the digital age we live in, media outlets and the public expect – some would say demand – access to your information 24/7. That’s what an effectively structured and resourced online newsroom can deliver.

I’d hazard a guess that most of you here have a media section on your website. It’s where most organisations post their news releases. Here’s a question though… Are people able to read the releases on the page or do you force them to download a PDF to have a look and then try to copy and paste text from the PDF after downloading it? What about images, audio or video? If you do have these, are they of reproduction and broadcast quality? Are they in standardized formats so the media can download them with confidence?

Let’s face it, how are you meant to know the minimum pixel dimensions for news print or the correct bitrate and aspect ratio required for Australian television? I agree it’s all techno-babble you don’t need to know – at least, you shouldn’t have to.

This is where we at Wieck can really make your life easier.

An online newsroom developed by Wieck Australasia addresses the issues and many more. All of our Newsrooms have a simple and advanced search function. All have downloadable images. All can share content with social media. Video content can be viewed, downloaded – even edited online. We also recommend having audio available for download to cover the hundreds of radio stations across Australia.

Most importantly, our Newsrooms are designed not simply to respond to media requests, but to actively promote their content to the exact degree you decide.

Content can be embedded into popular social media networks, RSS feeds can be pushed and email notifications sent to registered users.

But a word of caution for anyone tempted to visit the dungeons of your IT department and asked them to make an online newsroom like I’ve just described.

I’m sure your own experience has already taught you one simple fact – IT’s priorities are not the same as your priorities. They know about computers but they don’t know about media and they certainly don’t know about PR.

As part of a global network, we provide solutions for clients including news outlets, large corporations, photo agencies and government departments. This diversity of clients enables our team to stay on top of the changing technical needs of major news organisations around the world.

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