TopRank Marketing Editor

PRSA 2008 – Media Myths & Realities

PRSA Session - Media Myths & Realities

“Every company on earth, every client you have, every person you meet has to become involved in social media right this very second.  This is especially true if you are in PR.  If you are not sharing your messaging via social channels  – and I mean, like yesterday – you are hopelessly behind the times and yours, or your clients messaging, is likely to go nowhere.”

Is this really the case?  For those of us that have not been leveraging social media as heavily as others in our field, is the game over?

In the PRSA conference session Media Myths & Realities, Nicholas Scibetta, Global Director, Global Media for Ketchum let us know, thankfully, that those just getting started in social channels are not quite sunk yet.

Scibetta shared results of a survey begun in 2006 in partnership with USA Annenberg Strategic Public Relations Center that sought to learn the type of media consumes go to for information.

Key questions the survey sought to answer included:

  • How is media consumed?
  • What channels are most credible?
  • How is the landscape changing?

Surprisingly, with all the talk of the influence of blogs and social networks, overwhelmingly, traditional media still is overwhelmingly the media that the general populations consumes:

  • Major TV News – 65%
  • Local Newspapers – 63%
  • Local TV News – 62%
    (Far down the list – and just one example)
  • Social Networking sites – 26%

And while traditional media is declining in terms of consumption (each of the above by 6% since 2006 with the exception of local TV news which declined by 8%) and social networking sites are on the rise (8% since 2006) traditional media is not declining at the stark and frightening numbers we may be led believe, nor are social networking sites quite matching the Facebook fever we may be hearing.

That being said, there is a definite decline in traditional media – and a marked increase in social channels – in this case, much like we’d expect.

However, the pace of the decrease and increase allows PR professionals the benefit of time to plan, listen and strategize – prior to jumping in headfirst, eyes shut.

In terms of the question referring to channel credibility, the survey showed  – again, little surprise here – that media credibility is down across the board – and that word of mouth is seen as the most credible channel.

So, while traditional channels exhibit a great deal of mindshare, consumers prioritize a bit differently when it comes to major purchasing decisions.

For example, when the question was asked, “When making a purchasing decision with an environmental impact, where do you turn?”, word of mouth was among the most prioritized sources.

In regards to the last question, in terms of how are landscape is changing, the main finding pointed to a significant increase in social media channels – (again – not so rapid a growth to be feared).

So knowing that social channels are growing, and word of mouth is far and away the most influential channel, it would of course make sense to know that corporations are spending the bulk of their marketing dollars on…advertising?

More and more, corporate entities are disconnecting themselves from the wants and needs of how their consumers prefer to digest their messaging, in much the same way that we marketing or PR professionals are disconnecting ourselves from the reality of the pace of our changing landscape.

So what’s the best solution for both groups? In each sense, simply to listen.

In the case of corporations, if consumers are telling you, via the results of this survey, word of mouth is a prioritized source of credible information, it should also serve to be a vital part of your marketing mix.

For marketing and PR professionals, while social media channels are growing and must be included – or at least considered for our mix – there is simply no reason at all to completely abandon every other channel to put our eggs into just this basket.

The Point of Connection, the overall theme of this conference, is shaping up far more to be the Point Where We Begin To Listen – not necessarily when we begin to speak.

PoorSo SoOKGoodAwesome (No Ratings Yet)


  1. Avatar Jeff Przybylski says

    Overall, like anything else, if we put our primary focus in just one form of marketing, we’re not really getting much exposure, so why not mix it up and have a portfolio of marketing methods.

    Some have told me they don’t see the point of social networking and that it’s just a place for teens to meet and that shows how misguided people are concerning its effectiveness.

  2. Although Social Networking sites can be, and are, a fantastic tool to promote yourself and your business, I’d say participation is a far cry from being essential or crucial to a business’ survival. The keyword there is “survival”. On the other hand, if we’re talking about “thriving”, you’re definitely missing the boat.

    The challenge then becomes the decision of which one(s) to join and participate. There are so many, and more sprouting up quickly. Being active in these networking groups takes time and dedication. Of course, it doesn’t have to be all consuming, but you DO have to nurture it.

    All in all, you will reap the benefits.

    Best Regards,

    John Valente

  3. Avatar Arnell Pleasnts says

    The advent of web 2.0 channels has made it amazingly simple (and equally as challenging) to disseminate a message to hundreds if not thousands of eager receivers; with that said, the refinement of this mode of communication will only mean that PR, advertising, and integrated strategies will continue to move towards a predominately internet-based platform.

    But the corollary is that media agents will have to assume a very hands on role to ensure message penetration.

    I really believe this signals a change in the way that marketing will be conducted.

  4. Great statement, and one I would normally echo with a table thumping ‘hear, hear’. But I can’t helping thinking it’s too much of a sweeping generalisation. I don’t believe all companies are ready for social media campaigns right this second – some audiences still aren’t massive consumers of social media [e.g. C1, D groups, pensioners etc], some brands don’t have the resources to deal with the constant engagement that is required and some marketing bods don’t yet feel comfortable investing cash in a channel where measurement is a far cry from TV and PCC. I still think we need to carefully choose the right channels, to reach the right audience for the right brand.
    Having said all that, I’m firmly behind the idea to get more PR types involved in social media and I’ll be referencing your post and the conference 🙂

  5. Few more data on top of the one you gave:
    1) There was an adweek report not so long ago showing that 75% took part in some sort of social media in 2008 compared to 56% in 2007 – it is mainstream, not necessarily replacing existing channels (yet).
    2) From a Cone survey Sept 2008 about people using social media:
    A whopping 93% of those surveyed think that companies should have a social media presence and 92% of American