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.