Griffin Strategies Blog

Social Media vs. Traditional Media: Competing or Complementary Channels?

Allison Griffin - Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Remember when Americans got their news from the morning paper, a crackling radio report, or Walter Cronkite’s familiar face on the TV set? Back then, Americans got most of their information straight from the mouths of the well-respected news media.

Fast forward a few decades.  How do you get your information?  Are you more likely to get the scoop from a newspaper or the nightly news, or do you hear it hours earlier from someone’s post on Facebook or Twitter?

For a growing number of Americans, the answer is the latter. 

The world of communication is changing rapidly, thrusting credit union marketing and PR professionals into a quandary: do we keep reaching out to people in the traditional ways or do we move to an entirely new approach?

The answer? Both.

More Americans rely on digital news sources

According to a 2010 Pew survey, sixty-one percent of Americans seek out news online, and three-quarters said they get news forwarded via email or posts on social network sites.

Meanwhile, a 2010 Gallup poll found that only one in four Americans said they have “a lot of confidence” in the mainstream media.    

Perhaps most compelling us communicators, 37 percent of the Pew respondents said they themselves have reported news, commented on an online story or shared stories on social media sites.

The news experience has changed from a one-way delivery of information by journalists to an increasingly interactive information-sharing experience.  In other words, your members don’t want to be talked “to,” they want to be talked “with.”

Or at least most of your members.

The Communicator’s Quandary: Part I

With limited resources of both time and money, is it possible to strike a balance between traditional media and new media?

Absolutely.

Though traditional outlets are losing ground to social media news delivery, Pew did find something very compelling.  Some 80 percent of all social media links originate with traditional media sources.  Journalists continue to serve as the backbone of news, which means they cannot and should not be ignored. 

Credit unions must continue to pursue traditional media to help tell your compelling story about the first-generation college student helped by the credit union’s financial literacy program because it is likely to spread far beyond the original media outlet where it appeared. 

And of course, you’ll also gain appreciation for the credit union story among all the Texans who still love their favorite news anchors and the feeling of a newspaper in their hands.

The Communicator’s Quandary: Part II   

Interestingly, the Pew study found a significant difference in how news topics gleaned attention in traditional media vs. social media … and even within the social media category itself.

Whereas traditional media invest more time covering politics and government, health and medicine, and the economy, Twitter users tend to post more stories related to technology.  YouTube viewers share a lot of videos about foreign events, while blogs focus on stories that elicit emotion or involve individual or group rights.

In other words, the same news stories did not garner the same amount of attention across the various news channels.

So how do you tell your credit union’s story in all these different media channels?

Tailoring the Story

As credit union communicators, the job of figuring out where and how to tell your story is an art that requires creativity and experimentation:

  1. Seek traditional media coverage for your credit union’s story. Remember, the more self-serving your story, the less likely it is to garner coverage. Focus on stories about how your credit union is helping real people, particularly a struggling family or a group of children.
  2. Identify bloggers with an interest in consumer or education news. They tend to cover those topics twice as often as traditional media, and you also may gain more traction if you position your story as part of a larger trend.  
  3. Talk technology for Twitter. Share news about consumer-friendly tech updates or tips to help people protect themselves from cyber criminals, for example.
  4. Turn on the creativity for YouTube.  Show how your credit union serves people from all walks with a “day in the life of a teller” video. Or create a financial literacy video with some of the cute children your team is educating. (Be sure you have the right permissions and security guidelines in place, of course!)
  5. Cross-promote your news on Facebook or use it to offer interactive challenges to drive your members to your website or the nearest branch.

In today’s rapidly-changing environment, credit unions have more opportunities to tell their story.  Measure your results and don’t be afraid to experiment. Invest time to identify your target media, tailor your approach and push out your story in tandem among the various media channels to connect the credit union story to those who ought to be members.

Allison Griffin is the president of communications consulting firm, Griffin Strategies, Inc., and a co-founder of SocialRise, a social media strategy and software firm. This article was published recently in LoneStar Perspectives magazine, a publication of the Texas Credit Union League.

Punditry, Political Correctness and Public Radio

Allison Griffin - Friday, October 22, 2010
This week, National Public Radio fired one of its longtime pundits, News Analyst Juan Williams, proportedly because he uttered a personal opinion while appearing on another network.  Was it justified?  Or was it just that polarizing political undercurrents in the media finally bubbled to the surface?

When I was in journalism school, my professors certainly hammered us on the need for journalists to play the role of neutral observers and mere reporters of the facts.  Journalists, we were taught, are held to a higher standard. 

The public, by and large, shared that idealistic sentiment of the profession.  Of course, it was back when David Brinkley still graced ABC, Paul Harvey's distinctive quips were eagerly awaited by millions of radio listeners each day, and Walter Cronkite's legacy as "the most trusted man in America" still loomed large over the field of journalism.

There is no question that the landscape has changed since that time.  Dramatically.  With the rise of 24-hour cable news programming, news magazine shows, talk radio, and of course, the internet and blogosphere, the definition of "journalist" has become blurry.

Today, even as many journalists strive to uphold the traditional standards of their profession, their reliable reporting is drowned out by the plethora of "news" shows hosted by stand-up-comedians-turned-sardonic-commentators, former politicians/philanderers-turned-pundits, and paparazzi gossip reporters. Add to that the thousands of bloggers whose opinionated diatribes are being cross-polinated with straight journalism, and the media world is increasingly confusing.

Which brings me back to the firing of Juan Williams.  As a news analyst, Williams -- like other analysts and commentators -- for years has offered his opinions about politics, policy and public discourse.  That is in the job description of pundits. 

So what was the real motivation?  Was it because of what Williams opined -- the very politically-incorrect admission that he sometimes feels nervous on an airplane when he sees a Muslim in full traditional garb?  Or was it because of where he opined -- on the Fox News Channel?

Regardless of the motivation, the decision by the taxpayer-supported NPR to suddenly hold one journalist to some "higher standard" may achieve the opposite effect, instead serving to further polarize the public and add to their growing distrust of the media. 

Michael Jackson's Specter Only Part of the Spectacle

Allison Griffin - Thursday, July 09, 2009
I’m sure you’ve seen it by now. The You Tube footage of Larry King Live from Neverland Ranch. Somehow, my 9-year-old son heard that Michael Jackson’s ghost was in the background of a shot of Michael’s old bedroom at The Ranch. Like more than 8 million other people, my son and I drained the battery on my iPhone as we watched the shadowy specter of Michael Jackson again and again on You Tube.

You Tube, in fact, was dominated by all things Michael Jackson, with at least 11 of today’s top 15 favorite videos related to the King of Pop’s life … or death. And that was just for people who weren’t already getting enough through the wall-to-wall coverage by the cable news channels, live network broadcasts and Yahoo! News.

Forgive my insensitivity, but what happened to the real news? You know, news about sweeping new food safety regulations announced this week by the FDA? Stories about the unfortunate plunge in new home sales? Updates about Iran’s leader crushing his detractors?

Though those real news items received coverage, it was scant compared to the media’s attention to the Michael Jackson spectacle. According to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, Michael Jackson dominated 17% of the overall news hole, with the economy ranking second at 10%. Interestingly, Michael Jackson was mentioned in the news about three times more often than President Barack Obama between June 29 and July 5.

As a PR professional who’s made a career out of working with the media, it raises some troubling questions. Do you have to create a spectacle to garner the media’s attention? Does real news warrant attention anymore? In spite of the jump in 24-hour television and online coverage, I’ve discovered in the past few years that it is becoming increasingly difficult to pitch news stories. Newspapers have let go of longtime beat reporters who had spent years developing their expertise and sources to get good stories. Fewer and fewer radio stations have locally-based news teams and talk show hosts. Television stations seem to spend far more time on crime blotter reports and stories about the quasi-celebrities on their network’s reality show, than they do on issues people care about. Or that people ought to care about.

That’s really what it boils down to.

Media have changed, but are they to blame? Or are we, as the consumers of information, at fault? Given the nearly 4 million You Tube views of ABC News’ Michael Jackson Memorial Service coverage, I think the answer is clear.

Celebrities, whether living or dead, are far more interesting than real news.

I suppose that next time one of my clients wants to make a major policy or business announcement, I can hire Britney Spears or Chastity Bono to be our spokesmodel. Can’t be sure either would stay on message, but at least the spectacle would bring out the media, as I quietly mourn the specter of real news.