The 3 key characteristics of traditional media and the 3 benefits of digital, and which one to use in your PR plan

By Jim James

Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of The UnNoticed Show podcast

How would you solve your headache and balance the challenges and opportunities provided by digital and social media platforms with the established advantages of traditional media to inform internal and external audiences? To answer this all important question, let’s have a look at the two different platforms: digital and traditional, and their respective opportunities and challenges. Also, let’s consider the audience groups, audience profile mix, and situation outcomes.

What digital media offers

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

Digital media platforms have various opportunities. It is real time, such that you can get it out there in a controlled way—immediately and global. It is also potentially universal and can be extremely well targeted. A huge plus is if you are working on public relations, at scale and at speed. Next, digital media has the element of attribution. It is where you can trace what has happened to that content: where it has reached, what is its performance, and what is its impressions to the viewers. Essentially, the opportunities of a digital media platform is that it is fast and everywhere, while you know how it is doing through tracking engagement.

However, there are challenges with digital platforms. First, it demands creativity because it’s a competitive world out there for content. Producing bad content may give you no guarantee that someone is going to engage with it. So, be creative with your content: text, still images, infographics, audio, or video, and remember that digital content also has a shorter lifespan online. A tweet can last for less than 60 minutes. A YouTube video may last for less than 5 days. A post on LinkedIn will give you 4-5 hours of engagement before it is off the feed. Another challenge is cost, which is related to the need for creative content and speed. Outsourcing the production of digital content is very expensive very quickly.


Why traditional media is here to stay


Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash


On the other hand, traditional media also has a number of opportunities. One is having all authority because traditional media carries editorial integrity, which gives this platform its credibility. This is the reason why clients like working with traditional media. It has this great effect in having testimony from a valued third party, thereby having a commentary to your own company, organisation, or product.


Another opportunity is of perspective. When  content is placed within the traditional platform of pages, frames, or podcast tunes, that content is embedded in and around it that is also the value of your audience. Your own content has context, and it creates a perspective for people.


An element that also provides opportunity for traditional media is the audience. This platform brings an audience which you may or may not have already. This is also the case for digital media; however, many platforms need the audience to be subscribed. Sites like YouTube and LinkedIn need you to be following somebody to see new content and other related content. In traditional media, like a newspaper on the newsstand, you can reach an audience that the company or organisation does not know yet, thus, it brings a new audience.


Next, consider your audience, and identify which audience you will address. If you do not know yet your audience or do not have a direct relationship with them, like a government, then consider using traditional media since this could reach those people in a way digital may not. For external audiences, traditional media could bring in new ones. Think about both current and future partners and customers, which are also external audiences. The other type of audience is the internal audience. Using traditional media to communicate with the members of your staff or team will carry that authority. However, there is information which is private company-specific information. The opportunity of digital to see what behavior is motivated by content is essential. So, look at your audience, the level of information (whether if you want disclosure), and the motivation you are looking to create.


Balancing the opportunities and challenges


Photo from 99Designs


How do you balance the opportunities and challenges? Think of the audience, the situation, and the outcome. These three dynamics will determine the blend of traditional and digital media to be used. A good practice is to have a mix of both digital and traditional media. It is not a case of using purely digital media and none of the traditional media, or vice versa. But it really comes down to your audience, whether they are external or internal.


The next important thing is considering the situation. An example is crisis management. The attributes and qualities of digital media like its speed and universality are key versus the qualities of traditional media (print or TV) which are its slow speed at which it is published and delivered and its incapacity to be tracked on how it is doing.


Lastly, consider the outcome being sought. If the audience does not understand the company, then they will be most likely not to be convinced by the social media campaign or company. The audience looks for the perspective or authority that is within the pages or news in the TV or radio station.


The balance of both digital and traditional media needs to be continually reworked. It depends on the audience, situation, and outcome. Then weight the opportunities and challenges of both media platforms. A great campaign will integrate both of them and introduce the elements of compelling content, creativity, and authority in order to encourage the audience to work in alignment with the goals of the organisation.


This article is based on a transcript from my Podcast The UnNoticed Show. You can listen here.



Cover Photo by Mattias Diesel on Unsplash