By Sarah Sherwood, publicist
Let’s face it: The power of news coverage not only names you, but helps define your company. We know the competition for news coverage is fierce for our client’s target audience. The American attention span has changed, but hunger for good information hasn’t. To be sure, traditional news remains an important part of public life. More than seven-in-ten U.S. adults follow national and local news somewhat or very closely and 65% follow international news with the same regularity. For those who pay attention and crave news – a key audience for most clients – it’s a jungle out there. But there are specific strategies that help you get through.
Today specific targeting of communications is more crucial, period. Even in 2017 there are many, many targets, of great variety. But don’t be fooled—there are too many outlets that are not well read and/or do not have much credibility and they are a waste of your time and money. Smarter targeting involves first knowing your audience well, including which sources they’re really getting their news from so your communications staff can focus on primarily delivering to those traditional and digital media outlets, third party organizations and potential partners that will garner results and meet goals. Even though there are fewer traditional media outlets, my experience tells me that if you are targeting a more sophisticated audience, there are more results with traditional news media coverage because traditional news still carries more weight. And my money is on newspapers, both in digital, and yes, paper form.
The Established, the higher-middle class to the upper crust audience, engage with and trust print advertising over digital media. In fact, research shows that print advertising in newspapers ranked the highest among millionaires, in their engagement potential, at a high of 74 percent. Why? Generally speaking, these are the people who have the patience to engage for a longer amount of time, and are impressed when the content moves them (because they tend to be more passionate). They tend to have higher levels of emotional intellect, which translates into a real reader. They tend to live in one place longer, which hints at stability.
It is true that overall Americans distrust in news outlets is growing, among mostly younger audiences and some have stopped reading newspapers all together. But again, don’t be fooled. If you are targeting a sophisticated reader, one with more experience, education and income (generally speaking), these are newspaper readers. For the average Daily reader, who has spending and decision-making power, trust in the media has declined only marginally, according to Pew research. These are Americans who decry lower standards of journalism, such as opinion-driven writing and outlets with less rigorous reporting criteria. So while you are pleased that your marketing materials are out there on social media sites, don’t be too pleased, because it doesn’t tend to work with a sophisticated audience. Overall numbers do not matter—it is who is viewing your advertisement or news story that is important. With social media, with the exception of a few, it’s easier to click through and off.
In contrast, newspapers have a highly dependable audience.
Digital newspaper readership, however, is growing, and will grow out of its adolescence as newspapers continue to figure out how we like to consume its information. Social media is showing pretty low confidence scores, and my experience is that in general (there are real exceptions), it can be pretty tough to sell to a customer via social media, as opposed to digital news, although your best bet is to have an integrated marketing and publicity campaign that will both persuade and tell your publics where to go. Just know that your readers will see social media information as advertisements rather than news. Even with younger readers, you want more recognizable news brands, with a history of accuracy, in order to persuade.
The fact is that newspaper readership is mostly made up of an established, stable, more educated and higher income audience, which is critical to your sophisticated campaign.
So why aren’t more communications departments going after publicity and publicity targeted toward newspapers? Marketing and publicity are different and highly specialized, and we used to respect this—but that is changing—with the blending of marketing and publicity. We see marketing professionals writing press releases that do not produce results. We see marketing talent too broadly. Organizations that want to reach a dependable, sophisticated audience need high level publicists in every organization or agencies that specialize and truly understand the news media.
It’s always been a challenge to break through the competition for ink, but using social media as a substitute for traditional media coverage is a mistake. It is much better to engage in an integrated campaign with both marketing and publicity professionals working side by side.