Posts Tagged ‘Story-telling’

How the Digital Era Redefined PR Story-Telling

January 1, 2013

Story-telling has always been the core of any company’s public relations. But a lot has changed in recent years as news and interpersonal communication have been digitalized: the way companies’ stories are told, who tells them, what channels are used to tell them, the time frame in which they are told and the amount of control a company or other organization has over the telling.

Here’s a summary of the way the traditional “who, what, when, where, why and how” of story-telling has been affected by the digital era.

Stories are passed around, from one computer to another

Stories are passed around the digital campfire, from one computer to another.

Who communicates about the company

The old way:  

  • Company spokespeople – CEO and other selected senior executives
  • PR/corporate communications department, investor relations staff

The new digital way:  

  • In addition to those above, any employee can communicate and has easy access to worldwide audiences to do so, whether or not the company approves
  • The company’s various audiences share information and opinions with each other constantly

How they communicate

The old way:  

  • Mostly via traditional mass media, filtered by journalists – news reported by newspapers, magazines, radio and TV news
  • Via analysts

The new digital way:  

  • All of the above plus online, via web versions of traditional media outlets, newer online-only news outlets and bloggers
  • Increasingly companies also filter data to micro-target their desired audiences one-on-one directly via email, texting and social media networks

What to communicate

The old way:

  • Companies communicated what they wanted people to know

The new digital way:

  • Companies must respond to questions, rumors and incidents that they previously could refrain from discussing

Decision-making process about what to communicate

The old way: 

  • Company management and PR professionals decided what to communicate
  • Professional reporters selected and developed stories using both company announcements and their own investigations

The new digital way:

  • Company engages in a conversation with its target audience to tell them the company’s news
  • However, the audiences have their own agendas, are super-critical and powerful enough to demand information they want. There is no use in trying to hide bad news, because in today’s digital environment, it always comes out
  • Self-proclaimed journalists – bloggers without credentials – select what they want to communicate about the company

Where to communicate (which channels, which geo. areas)

The old way:

  • Company management  and PR team decided which communications vehicles to use to tell their stories
  • Company chose which countries it wanted to communicate in

The new digital way:

  • The company is still often able to choose what publications to use to break a story, which can influence the way the story is reported, not only by the media outlet that breaks it, but by others who are influenced by the first media outlet
  • Stories are picked up by media from other media and reported almost instantly
  • News reported in one country can spread globally freely and instantly

When to communicate

The old way:

  • Company chose announcement time frames
  • Time frame could be planned over the course of a week, a month or more

The new digital way:

  • Company prepares announcements and selects optimal timeframes, but must be prepared to answer questions as they arise, anytime, due to the buzz that social media can generate online
  • Time frame may be instantaneous because information can be spread to millions of people at once

How the  target audience is selected; how much is known about the target audience

The old way:

  • Companies selected general demographic groupings, such as young males in their 20s, retired couples, people with incomes above $X, women with children under 12, etc.

The new digital way:

  • Companies micro-target their audiences, using the ability to manipulate data to finely target individuals they want to reach, one-on-one
  • Companies use digital data to gather large and complex profiles of individuals, ranging from standard demographics to previous buying habits and likes/dislikes that will influence future buying

Next blog post:  do’s and don’ts to make the best use of digital communications

Lucy Siegel


%d bloggers like this: