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How brands must adapt to be seen in a shrinking media environment

How brands must adapt to be seen in a shrinking media environment

The recent news about major New Zealand media outlets collapsing and laying off staff as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown has sent shockwaves through the New Zealand public as well as the news industry.

Many of the country’s much loved and respected publications, including The Listener, North & South, Kia Ora, Woman’s Day, Your Home & Garden, NEXT and Kia Ora all closed earlier this month as German publisher Bauer Media announced it was exiting NZ, effective immediately, due to the Covid-19 crisis making business “untenable”. More than 230 jobs were lost.

Last week, we saw NZME – owner of Newstalk ZB, Radio Sport and the NZ Herald –  announce more than 200 redundancies and temporarily suspend some printed products because of the massive impact the lockdown has had on advertising revenue.

It’s devastating to see so many good journalists lose their jobs at a time when the public needs trusted, quality news organisations the most. It’s also really upsetting as a consumer – knowing that we may not ever pick up a respected glossy title containing entertaining and informative content again.

While some of the more lucrative titles may be revived under new ownership, there’s no question that advertising revenue won’t return to pre-Covid-19 levels – leading to fewer journalist resources and less space for a brand’s stories to appear.

Which begs the question, what does this mean for brands wanting to promote their products, services and messages in a shrinking media environment?

As a former journalist, I enjoy supporting media as a consumer but also as a PR and communications professional when considering advertising for clients as part of their overall marketing communications plans.

But the reality is, so many people are consuming their information online these days. Two winners that spring to mind are Facebook and the largest publisher on earth, Google. Even the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told journalists in a press conference on April 15 that the Government will continue to advertise with Google and Facebook because that’s where Kiwis are.

So, back to what the future holds for brands in the new media environment. Here are five predictions, tips and opportunities to consider:

Digital will be more important than ever before

Prior to the Covid-19 lockdown, people were already highly connected, always on and in control of where they get their information from. They were using multiple channels, on their own terms, to get it.

Now that physical distancing will be here for the foreseeable future, the ease and flexibility of people working remotely and using online tools will likely become part of our new normal. This means people will be using digital even more than before.

The challenge will continue be to engage your audiences online. We live in a ‘search and scroll’ society, where people are either in ‘search’ mode (actively looking for a product, service or individual) or ‘browse’ mode (think scrolling through social media feeds) when they’re online. The key is to create content suited to both ‘search’ and ‘browse’ habits of digital audiences.

Brands must focus more on ‘owned content’

One of our key recommendations to our clients has always been to “consider yourself / your business as your own publishing house”. Brands can’t solely rely on media as the main channel to reach their audiences. Plus, you want to be the source of truth and be able to control your messages.

A website is a critical brand asset, and publishing regular, relevant content on your own site (pushed out via social channels) will help improve your online authority and improve your search engine ranking against your competitors. Google’s algorithms are designed to reward brands for providing compelling content that people want to engage with.

‘Relevant’ content must not only be useful to your audience, it’s also got to make sense to search engine spiders (so you can be found when people are in ‘search’ mode). Think about what your audiences/customers/clients need – what are their pain points? – and publish authentic, quality content that will help meet their needs. This goes a long way towards building brand trust as well as mindshare.

More brands producing their own special publications or magazines?

We’ve got a soft-spot for magazines and special publications at Scope Media – so we think there is still definitely a place for them in a marketing communications strategy.

If your marketing budget permits, it’s worthwhile considering producing your own magazine. You’ll need a solid editorial strategy before you start – so you don’t just churn out any old article that you think is worthy of writing about. Every story, photo and page has to speak to your audience. Take a look at some examples of projects we’ve been lucky enough to work on.

You can’t just rely on organic alone

I said before that Google and Facebook are the winners out of the shrinking media environment. That’s because paid advertising is generally so much cheaper on these digital platforms and, set up properly, you are able to see goal conversions and ROI. With the algorithms built to favour paid content over organic, you need to ‘pay to play’ in order to reach as many eyeballs as your advertising dollar allows.

Sponsored content on traditional media platforms is also another option worth considering.

When you’re using paid advertising, it’s important to remember what stage of the funnel the promoted content is – is it trying to build brand awareness, or sell a product? This will determine the audience (or market segment) you target.

Be where your audience is

This is the bottom line: If your customers and clients are listening to the local radio station or local community news app as their main source of information – then be sure to be there. But if they’re mainly on TikTok, SnapChat or Instagram – then that’s where you need to be. And make sure your messaging is quality, authentic and on the level of your audience. It doesn’t necessarily have to be blatantly talking about your brand.

We’re living in unprecedented times where change is probably the only certainty for many businesses. If you need to adapt your messaging or marketing strategy for a post-Covid-19 era, feel free to get in touch.

Celia Crosbie
Written by Celia Crosbie
Celia is an award-winning former journalist who has worked for newspapers and radio stations in New Zealand and magazines in the United Kingdom. She has worked in public relations in both NZ and London. Celia also specialises in digital media strategy and website copywriting for SEO.