Do journalists matter in this age of social media? President Trump seems to relish a public bust up and you could argue it is not doing his popularity ratings any harm.
Trump relishes a public bust-up
Indeed, amongst his supporters, it seems to actually enhance his popularity. And there appears to be no end to his willingness to let his frustrations show as illustrated by his ongoing feuds with CNN, the New York Times, the BBC and the list goes on….
There is an argument that with the rise in influence of social media, mainstream journalists are now almost irrelevant to a successful media strategy? Some even argue mainstream media is dead.
Media strategy: Corbyn gave priority to social media
In the UK, the recent election also provides evidence that the mainstream media have lost their influence. Since he became leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn faced hostility, even derision, from much of the traditional media. Whether by choice or necessity he placed his faith in the power of social media.
And that faith paid off – with a much better result in the election than virtually anyone predicted. (Though still winning more than 50 seats fewer than the Conservative Party.) All a long way from The Sun newspaper’s gloating headline after the 1992 election: “It’s the Sun wot won it”.
Can you now drop traditional media from your PR strategy?
So does it matter if companies and organisations antagonise journalists they don’t like?
I would argue that that would be a risky strategy.
Firstly, a recent study by Reuters concluded that mainstream media stories are the lifeblood of topical social media conversations in the UK. Social media amplifies mainstream media even if it sometimes eclipses it.
Secondly, politics is a very different environment to the corporate/business world. Trump and Corbyn have built their personas on being outsiders – there to challenge the system. There are very few companies or organisations who can pull this off successfully over years and years.
And that is the key difference between business and politics: the need to build – and maintain – a much longer-term reputation. Warren Buffet has frequently warned employees: “lose money for the firm and I will be understanding. Lose a shred of reputation for the firm and I will be ruthless.”
Here are two contrasting examples which show the positive advantage of “playing the game” with journalists and the perils of not doing so:
Richard Branson has for years had a good relationship with journalists and has made himself available for interviews, both on his businesses and as an industry expert. And his companies’ reputations have emerged relatively unscathed despite being caught up in crises such as the price-fixing scandal with BA and the West Coast Train crash in 2007.
In the world of sport, as a result of what Tiger Woods felt was an unfavourable interview early in his career, he virtually shunned all contact with journalists, apart from what he was contractually obligated to do at tournaments. And for much of his career he was untouchable, based on his performances on the course. However, when the scandals hit, journalists took great pleasure in settling scores and indulging in a large slice of schadenfreude.
Building relationships with journalists takes time. It never guarantees you will be immune from criticism but it does mean you have ‘credit in the bank’ and will get a hearing when things go wrong.
Other people’s thoughts on this:
And for the long read here are two Reuters reports on disruption of mainstream media by social media. They seem to suggest more of a coming together with social media amplifying stories from the mainstream at least in the UK.