Traditional Media’s New Role In A Digital World

You can look at the last cover of a news magazine like Newsweek and wax nostalgic about the good old days if you like. I prefer to think of the positive of what a final cover represents in choosing to use but only a simple hashtag of #lastprintissue.

Newsweek's last issue in print

Newsweek’s last issue in print

It’s not a period of finality on a brand. It’s an acknowledgement that the brand will be conversed about in other ways. Digital ways. And that it can continue to have relevance – maybe even more than it has recently. It will be read on a laptop, on a tablet, on a smartphone. It will be shared faster rather than lie exclusively on the coffee table of a physician’s office.

Yes, of course we can see this giant shift to digital all around us – we’ve seen it for years.

And yet, some operate as if digital isn’t the new norm of communicating across most demographics. As if every fourth person on this planet isn’t using a social media network. Is it any wonder why those are the same people who go kicking and screaming into obscurity?

But you won’t count me as one of those who say the ways we’ve known are dead. Instead, I see them as shifting into a new skin that may feel funny and different at first, but is necessary for the long haul.

To survive, traditional media should embrace its new role as not necessarily the end-all, be-all of the conversation with the buyer but instead the media that drives the buyer online to learn more, build a long-term relationship and encourage greater sharing across the web.

TV can do this. Print can do this. Radio can do this. Direct can do this. And in certain instances, they have. Beautifully.

It’s too bad that it just isn’t sold this way enough by certain reps of this form of media. They choose to sell their channel as an alternative to digital media instead of selling the concept of how the entire lifecycle can potentially begin with them and integrate into the digital world. Many choose to ignore the reality that their customer has to diversify their marketing mix and that, yes, that should likely include digital. Those that do operate as if we live in a print or digital world of absolutes when we don’t. We watch TV and use iPads. We read magazines and use smartphones.

Our lives are integrated. Brands must be too.

Imagine if someone could show you not just the typical demographics of their publication/station but actually showed an ability to drive traffic to a website. Then you’ve got something. If that commercial drives people to explore your Facebook page in greater detail where you are running a contest, then you’ve got something.

Drive them to a Facebook page. Add a hashtag. Continue the story that was begun in a traditional media setting on a YouTube channel. Could the conversation that begins in print then advertise an upcoming chat on Twitter at a select day and time?

Yes, I realize some of the responsibility here lies not only with who sells the media but also who creates it.

Guilty as charged. I’ve created ads in the past that pretty much had the logo as the call to action.

But it becomes an increasingly expensive proposition when all we ask people to do is notice our logo and little else (I’m getting much better about changing this mindset in myself).

Or when we ask prospects to spend thousands on one ad – if I’m going to do the equivalent of going to Vegas and letting it all ride on one hand, can you give more information on my odds first so I can feel really, really smart about what I’m about to drop on the table?

I once had a client who was in this situation, didn’t have a ton of money in the ad budget and was being solicited for business by a radio station asking him to advertise during a rush hour time slot. After explaining the client’s goals for the brand and the audience we were targeting, I was looking for some extra justification on why we should drop thousands on a small window of time.

“Everybody listens to him. He’s a former Dolphin and we’re in Miami so there you go.”

Um…no. There I don’t go.

She couldn’t explain how that ad would work for my client in any kind of customizable way (when did this become too much to ask?). She could only talk about listenership in broad terms that couldn’t help my client make a decision he’d feel good about. Asking her about online conversions? Ha. I’ve seen deer in headlights with more clarity.

And yet, we know the opportunity for conversion to online after engaging with traditional media first is there for those who craft messages and sell advertising around it accordingly.

Consider the findings of a report by Deloitte earlier this year called “State of the Media Democracy” in which 2,276 respondents in the UK between 14-75 years old were surveyed.

64% of respondents visited a website after seeing an advertisement on TV.
61% visited a website after seeing a magazine ad.
59% visited a website after reading a newspaper ad.

Here’s the shocker – guess how many respondents visited a website from a mobile app ad.

A whopping 12%.

Traditional media as online media driver has great power and potential. To declare it universally dead by any stretch of the imagination is just wrong. To pretend it works in exactly the same way in today’s world as it always did is just as wrong.

For all of our conversations about brand integration over the years, we can still integrate online and offline so much more. This is good for all media. Electronic and otherwise.

Why HR Deserves A Voice In The Branding Discussion.

I just finished Michael Lewis’ fascinating book, Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World about how international economies such as Greece, Ireland, Iceland and Germany dealt (or in some cases, never dealt) with the global financial crisis. What I learned was that my assumptions about fixing the economies of the world were way too simplistic and that it’s a whole lot more difficult than giving bailouts all the time.

Why? Systems are fixable – challenging but ultimately fixable. Fixing cultures so that the mistake doesn’t repeat itself? That’s actually a lot harder. 

You can invest in superior technology and fancy office space. You can move the same people around and around in a job carousel into different roles and tell yourself things are suddenly different as result.

These are moves intended to make you look good to the outside world, but until you invest in developing strategy, culture and people – the very things that drive a company’s energy and soul – something much deeper will remain broken.

Giving a bailout to Greece is like giving a chocolate cake to a 700 lb. person who promises they’re going to exercise right after they eat it. You’d like to believe they’re going to change, but there’s a lot of reason not to. Primarily because Greece as a culture has largely been ignoring its financial obligations in a corrupt economic system for years. Getting a monetary lifeline isn’t going to change history from repeating itself. The only way to do that is through sustained, monitored long-term cultural change.

Entrepreneurs can learn something from this painful lesson on the other side of the world. If we try to put band-aids over deeper internal shortcomings, we’re just going to keep bandaging the patient over and over. That is, if we even do that much.

It’s where you must look inward and begin to be honest with yourself as a company.

What’s your vision and does your staff buy into it, live it and preach it to others?

What do your processes look like? How efficient and productive are those?

Do they help your people accomplish their jobs or do they bog your people down in paperwork?

How’s your customer service – just addressing a complaint at best or turning it into a referral opportunity?

What’s the level of collaboration – is it seamless or do you have departments engage in so much turf war infighting that they might as well be separate companies?

External questions are challenging. I’ve wrestled with these questions for years on the outside as they relate to Advertising.

I find myself asking things in regard to clients like:

What target audience are we for (and not for)?
What do we want our brand’s message to be?

Do we want to be on Google Plus or not?

But that’s nothing compared to the internal questions.

The internal questions are the really hard ones to answer. They take time and they can be painful. They’re so painful that sometimes we’d rather ignore them and pretend they aren’t there (but yes, they still are). They force ego-minded people to address their shortcomings. They force entrenched veterans to admit times are changing and they’ll have to change with them to remain relevant. They force all kinds of people out of “we’ve always done in this way” comfort zones (if you’ve always done it that way and it sucks, then you continuing to do it that way doesn’t work, does it?).

If you hadn’t guessed already, this is where HR needs a more visible seat at the table in the brand discussion. From unique benefits to training programs to how your brand is perceived in recruiting new candidates.

Not enough companies think of this kind of stuff. They use HR as purely a compliance mechanism or view social media as a way to weed out candidates rather than hiring for passion. That does a nice job of preserving the status quo but a lousy job of building a culture – and in turn, building a brand.

Whether that’s a dedicated in-house resource or a consultant, designing programs that are built to reflect what the company stands for isn’t some hokey idea but a smart one. Because the upside for recruiting, retention and most powerfully, advocacy to others, is there.

We often speak about a concept of the brand advocate but it often is viewed solely in terms of the outside customer.

So don’t forget about another set of potential brand advocates that might be right under your nose – the people that work for you.

I didn’t say it was easy. Easy is ignoring the problem. But for the good of living up to how you portray your brand to the outside world, you have to have a conversation about the elephant in the room that is your culture’s current shortcomings.

And if it’s gotten to be so much of a mess by now that you need a bail out, I know a fellow or two who can come to the rescue. After all, if an entire country can get help, you deserve some to help change your culture too.