Managing traditional media

Man reading newspaper

A digital revolution has reconfigured the media landscape. Controls over the flow of information have eroded and barriers to entry have disappeared. Individuals are making and distributing their news, and corporations are following suit.

Start-up sites are multiplying across the internet, Twitter and a multitude of other platforms have become de facto news services, and Facebook is the primary news source for many.

Brands and marketers have fixated on the new digital landscape, but this focus runs the risk of ignoring the crucial role of traditional media.

To start with, the division between digital and traditional is porous, print publications all have their own website, often multiple websites. Nine and News Corp papers, and the ABC, have some of Australia’s largest online audiences.

Traditional and social media feed off each other, cross-fertilising and amplifying stories as news spreads.

An issue can emerge on social – a claim of racism, a faulty product – and be picked up by traditional media, which is now constantly monitoring social media.

In turn, those news reports will be shared and commented on by social networks and the cycle continues.

More significantly, traditional media still sets the agenda. It hosts the respected sector experts and is still where decision-makers turn when an issue heats up. Although the “fake news’ label has had an impact on media credibility, longer-term it is likely to encourage audiences to seek out quality brands to find news they can trust.

Dealing with traditional media must be a cornerstone of your crisis comms. There are four key rules to remember:

1. Understand

Journalists are time poor and time-sensitive; the digital revolution has accelerated deadlines.

If you want to know what media want – ask them. It is an opportunity for you to get intelligence on what the journalist needs and what they are hearing about the incident. Make sure to ask about their deadlines.

Media may want a statement, an explanation, an apology, pictures, victims, facts. The more you understand, the easier it is to be proactive.

2. Prepare

Escalate internally, get on top of the issue, find the facts. You need to understand what is going on to communicate it, and you might gain guidance on your next steps.

Gather the information the media is seeking.

3. Respond

Don’t leave a vacuum, someone else will fill it.

Staying silent loses you control of the message, and you look like you are hiding something.

Even a holding statement – “we are investigating this” – is better than silence.

Crises are opportunities to build relationships and credibility with key media commentators and influencers in your sector. If you provide timely, accurate responses and demonstrate responsible crisis management, your reputation could well be enhanced.

4. Think

Think about the implications for your organisation, what might come next?

Media may be talking to critics, checking social media, do your own checks to avoid being blindsided. Think about where the questions will go next.

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