A Disconnect? Journalists and Influencers Say Audiences Are More Responsive to Cold, Hard Facts Than to Emotional Content

katrina craigwell, ge, john avalon, daily beast, digiday, richard levick

Journalists and influencers believe that factual content ranks higher with online audiences than emotional content, according to Cision's recently released State of the Media report. Yet at a panel discussion in New York this week hosted by Cision/PR Newswire, communicators said that emotionally driven content has undeniable power to attract audiences and can even build trust in a brand.

Three of the panelists—Richard Levick, chairman and CEO of Levick, Katrina Craigwell, VP of marketing innovation at GE Digital and John Avalon, editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast—agreed that in order to meet the challenges posed by the media landscape in 2017, brands need to focus on three main areas: authenticity, emotional storytelling and placing value on meaningful engagement over large-scale followings.

"Influence is more important than scale for scale’s sake," said Avalon, referring to brands' tendency to measure success based on number of impressions, rather than the quality of individuals' engagement with content. Craigwell agreed: "It’s not just a game of how many eyeballs are looking at your content, it’s how you use that content to drive business."

Wading into emotional topics related to current politics can be driver of engagement with brands, but there are obvious dangers.

"Capitalism has always been an emotional game, it’s just more so now—more angry," said Levick. "The current generation has entered a time where wearing Nordstrom or drinking Starbucks is a political statement; that didn’t used to be the case."

"It’s still incredibly dangerous for brands to veer into all emotions, no facts," Avalon warned.

The report also found that, in contrast to what audiences may be looking for, the news media still places a high value on accuracy—92% of respondents said that being right is more important than being first in the news cycle. And Facebook still reigns as the top platform for engaging audiences of both the news media and brands.

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