As Media Continues to Fragment, Communications Pros Take Note

Funnyman Jay Leno's recent announcement that he's leaving his late-night throne for a prime-time spot on NBC has all media buzzing about the move's larger implications. After all, it's the first show of its kind to land in prime time--usually real estate reserved for sitcom or drama behemoths like Friends, Seinfeld and CSI-- signaling (or, more likely, reaffirming) a drastic shift in the way we consume media.

Indeed, media's fragmentation and the growth of digital platforms is redefining television, with industry executives looking for ways to override the powers that DVR technologies and downloaded Web videos grant viewers to digest content (and bypass advertisements) at their leisure. The results of a joint survey conducted by PR News and DS Simon Productions reflect this reality in the context of business communications, revealing an ever-interesting use among public relations executives of channels like online video, social media and blogs to reach and influence target audiences (see page 6 for full results).

"In 2008 the PR community began to understand the need for online video and social media. The survey predicts unprecedented growth in the use of these tools in 2009 despite the economy. [For example,] more than two out of three PR pros rated some type of Web video their most important video need for 2009," says Doug Simon, president and CEO of DS Simon Productions. "They recognize where the ROI is."

Online video, social media and blogs consistently comprised the top three platforms that executives most depended on in the past, and that they will most actively implement more in the future. When asked what areas of Web 2.0 they are looking to actively use for their organization or their clients, execs ranked the top three within fractions of one another (77.2% blogs, 71.7% video and 70.3% social media).

PR pros seem confident in these channels' value to their overall communications strategies, though their belief in the degree of importance remains somewhat hesitant: When asked how important it is to reach Web influencers as part of their earned media strategies, only 27.2% said "extremely" important, with 39.6% and 30.2% saying "important" and "somewhat important," respectively. Perhaps that is because the effective implementation of these platforms is still a challenge for many professionals, especially as more and more look to create and execute strategies in-house.

"With more than half of those responding looking to create the ability to generate the content in-house, they are going to be looking for support to get the content in circulation online," Simon says.

For agency executives, this means equipping internal teams with the skill sets needed not just to create compelling content for online audiences, but to physically get that content on the appropriate Web channel in the most effective and visually appealing way. Many firms have already done this by hiring professionals with experience in computer programming or video production.

Another option for those without the budget to hire a full-time expert: Invest in basic training, or partner with other organizations that possess the capabilities you don't (just be sure you can bring something to the table, too, or clients will flock to them and them alone).

Another noteworthy survey finding is the importance of different types of media Web sites to earned media strategies: 76.7% cited newspaper Web sites, closely followed by Web media such as MSN, Yahoo News, and WebMD (75.7%). Magazine, television station and radio station Web sites trailed with 66.8%, 47.5% and 36.1%, respectively.

Regardless of your intentions for Web 2.0 platforms within earned media strategies in 2009, these results, coupled with news headlines like Leno's move to prime time, reinforce the ever-changing consumption habits of audiences. Failing to adapt will mean failure in no uncertain terms. It's just a matter of how quickly and painfully that failure comes.

"Online video and other social media tools aren't a luxury add-on anymore," says Simon. "They are at the center of successful PR initiatives." PRN


Doug Simon, [email protected]

PR News/DS Simon Online Video Survey

1. What areas of Web 2.0 are you looking to actively use for your organization or your clients?

Blogs 77.2%

Online video 71.7%

Social media 70.3%

Podcast/vodcasts 58.4%

Webcasts 54.5%

Twitter 44.1%

Video blogs 24.3%

Internet media tours 23.8%

No response/other 3.4%

2. Are you using these tools internally or externally?

Both 52.0%

Externally 42.6%

Internally 4.0%

No response 1.5%

3. How important is it to reach Web influencers as part of your earned media strategy?

Important 39.6%

Somewhat important 30.2%

Extremely important 27.2%

Not important at all 3.0%

4. Which of the following are important to your earned media strategy?

Newspaper Web sites 76.7%

Web media (MSN, Yahoo News, ?, WebMD, etc.) 75.7%

Magazine Web sites 66.8%

TV station Web sites 47.5%

Radio station Web sites 36.1%

None of the above 1.9%

5. What ways do you think online video can be most effective as a communications tool?

Direct to consumer ?communications 60.9%

B2B 20.3%

As an internal/training tool 17.8%

No response 1.0%

6. Are you looking to create the ability to utilize Web 2.0 in-house, or partner with an outside resource?

In-house 53.0%

Work with a consultant to set it up, ?and give me the tools to then ?do it in-house 24.8%

Outside resource 21.8%

No response 0.5%

7. Which of the following did you utilize more this past year than in 2007?

Social media 55.4%

Blogs 52.5%

Online video 48.5%

Podcasts/vodcasts 28.2%

Twitter 26.7%

Webcasts 19.3%

Video blogs 9.4%

Internet media tours 4.5%

No response/other 3.1%

8. Which of the following will you be including in your 2009 communications plans?

Blogs 74.3%

Online video 72.3%

Social media 71.3%

Webcasts 51.5%

Podcasts/vodcasts 49.5%

Twitter 45.0%

Video blogs 28.7%

Internet media tours 21.8%

No response/other 2.5%

9. What will be your most important need for video in 2009?

Online video 27.7%

Viral campaign 21.8%

Corporate communications 13.4%

Targeted placement 7.4%

Earned Web media 6.9%

Webcasts 5.4%

Video blogs 4.5%

Internal communications 3.5%

Earned broadcast media 2.5%

No response/other 6.9%

Source: PR News/DS Simon. Based on 202 responses.