PR Today: Traditional Media vs. Social Media

There is the age-old adage of there’s nothing like seeing your name in print. USA Today, Wall Street Journal, New York Times… While these outlets are “nice”, and even though blogs such as Mashable, Huffington Post, and LifeHacker are considered social media, more often than not, companies now consider them a part of traditional media and hire PR agencies that specialize in social media over traditional. They want agencies that can build a buzz through the company’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages.

This begs the question: is traditional media dead when it comes to an organization’s PR goals and initiatives? We all know the print media industry has suffered greatly. Yes, newspapers have gone online, their content still easily accessible from any mobile device. Everything is digital. But, what about the visibility these outlets still bring to the table? USA Today has a readership of 3.1 million; The Today Show has a viewership of over 5 million; Mashable has a monthly unique visitor rate of 42 million and 23 million social followers. Why wouldn’t a company want to hire a PR agency that has strong relationships with and the ability to gain visibility in these outlets?

On the other hand, social media is less expensive for advertisers. It moves much faster; it’s more measurable; and it allows an organization to better engage with its audience, start a conversation, and build better relationships with customers, share holders and partners. Television has been surpassed by social video: Vine, Twitter, Instagram. Millennials – a demographic with purchasing and influence power- probably wouldn’t know about a product, service or event if it wasn’t trending on Twitter.

Personally, I get all of my news from social mediums, mainly Twitter. I can get the 140 character snippet and move on to the next item.  I can follow a live blog feed on a breaking news item, read customer feedback on a product that I’m interested in purchasing, or watch a sporting event from my phone.

The problem with social media when it comes to the news is: (1) it lacks genuineness because it moves so quickly. Have sources and facts been checked?  Is the information reliable? And (2) it’s become more a form of entertainment rather than a reliable source of information.

As someone who has handled PR strategies on both sides of the table, including that for my own companies, social media is very time consuming. You have to keep the conversation going, and it can’t just be your voice. That’s like being at a party and only talking about yourself assuming people are interested in everything you have to say about yourself.

Of course, there’s more to PR than engaging with your audience via social mediums: events, social responsibility, press tours, not to mention keen writing skills that don’t always translate over social media.

So what’s the verdict? There is no clear winner here. Organizations need a hybrid approach when it comes to their marketing communications initiatives, a healthy combination of both social and traditional media methods. Hire two agencies? Most agencies now have experts on both sides of the fence, and if you’re a PR professional in this day and age, you best know social media regardless.

Kelly ReevesComment