Today’s media landscape has been transformed beyond recognition, and the long-term implications will be profound.
The media, political elite, and public previously sought out – and mostly accepted – the opinions and reporting of mainstream news outlets. This is because these outlets had a monopoly on information sharing.
Online media platforms and social media have shattered this monopoly. News and opinions are now developed and sealed based on Tweets and Facebook posts. The Reuters Institute Digital News Report reported in 2017 that 41 percent of people in the UK now use social media as a news source – reflecting the dramatic decline in traditional outlets.
Traditional media will always have a place in a communications strategy. Technology has, however, fundamentally changed the shape and extent of its influence. Ensuring clients can communicate their message directly – using social or digital platforms – is integral to managing their reputation.
The future is closed
The impact of technology has not only affected open, public platforms. A major shift that has been less commented on is the introduction of closed networks.
Closed networks are self-contained systems in which people connect directly, and which can only be influenced from the inside. Such systems have flourished on platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp.
A leading media agency reported in 2017 that four of the five most popular social platforms worldwide were insular messaging apps. This new, network-based model – which allows people to shelter in communication silos – creates clusters that can be wholly distinct from one another. This has drastically diminished, and in cases eliminated, information flow across groups. It is a setting based primarily on personal preference, with little-to-no guidance or moderation from the traditional media elite.
Influencing narratives now requires an ability to ‘get inside the loop’ by going where people are, rather than relying on them to seek you out. This means that maintaining a good reputation is no longer solely dependent on certain individuals or media spreading your message, but ensuring that you are connecting directly with both open and closed networks.
Reaching the right audience
Social media is not just a platform for information sharing. Technology advances have allowed us to target more effectively who we share information with. Used thoughtfully and ethically, and in line with all relevant regulations, a data-driven, digital-first strategy can help ensure that your client’s messages are being seen by the most relevant audiences.
In group litigation for example, a traditional communications approach might have been to place an advert in a top-tier publication to notify a class of a potential action. This was expensive and difficult to measure. Using social media platforms, you can now choose to target an advert or message to the likely class members – based on their demographic information, location and interests.
In complex, multi-jurisdictional litigation, there are often a number of key audiences. This means a number of different tactics are needed to reach each group of people. From the general public, shareholders, regulators, investors, political parties, the media and think tanks – creating a strategy that reaches each audience in the right way is the only way to achieve success, from a reputational point of view.
Traditional techniques for managing reputations are no longer sufficient. As with changes to the litigation landscape, the communications landscape has evolved.