By Scott Thompson, Chief Strategy Officer, Bastion Reputation

Latest research shows that one thing the pandemic hasn’t changed is the long-term trend away from traditional news channels and outlets to a fully digital news world.

And it’s more than simply social media – there is now a structural shift among all age groups where people want news and information faster, on only the topics they are interested in, on the devices they use, at the times they want.

Breaking news and information are increasingly curated through customised feeds that can be shared on any device because it has become an important way for people to stay connected on common interest topics that are relevant to their families, friends, and work colleagues.

So how do businesses or organisations wanting to advocate for change, have a seat at the table of important debates, or shape customer or stakeholder perception when they are now just one fish swimming in a digital ocean of voices, opinions, and information?

There are a few fundamentals that are important, but first, let’s consider some facts.

The University of Canberra’s Digital News Report, Australia 2021, says the use of print media as a primary news source has halved since 2016. Most Australians haven’t read a newspaper or magazine in the past week and only 4 per cent say they primarily get news from print publications anymore.

One of the drivers of this is the increasing use of digital devices generally, with 45 per cent of Australians now using mobile phones to access news and information – more than any other device including television.

While many of the people who access news on their phones are sourcing the news from news organisation websites and subscriptions, the shift to social media to access news is continuing with 23 per cent now accessing news via a social media channel.

Surprisingly though, Facebook is declining as a news source off the back of a decline in trust in that channel, down from 45 per cent in 2016 to 33 per cent in 2021. It has now levelled to a similar percentage to YouTube and Twitter as a preferred news source.

In this global shift in consumer behaviour, there are 6 key fundamentals which should be at the heart of any business or organisational communication campaign strategy.

  1. Communicate in your audience’s language

Whatever the message, the digital world demands more than ever that your communication is memorable, relevant, genuine, and motivating. Understanding what that means for specific audiences is critical to gain their attention and engage them to action.

  1. Target individuals directly, but target audience groups on platforms with reach

Sitting down and talking to an individual or individuals is still preferable to targeting them via a social media channel they follow. If you know who they are but you don’t have their contact details, there are digital platforms now which allow you to speak to them as an individual in a way which is personal. For broad audience groups, using platforms with the biggest reach is more effective than targeting them via a single social media channel.

  1. Stand out in the social media crowd by tapping into people interests

Communicating on social media is challenging these days because the volume of information on these channels – and changing algorithms by the social media companies – means your message can get lost in the crowd. Your social media strategy needs to be underpinned by research and clever use of hashtags and tagging so that your content aligns with audience interests and the people they follow to get their news and information.

  1. Your content must be in the format people want to consume

Every business or organisation thinks their message is important, but unless it is in a format people want to consume, they will just switch off. Digital content must be shareable on multiple platforms and convey your message in an engaging way such as through storytelling, preferably in video or short animation.

  1. Traditional media is still important, but eyeballs are everything

 Newspapers and their websites are still important outlets for announcing news, placing opinion articles, and responding to debates, but influencing perceptions and debates on a sustained basis often requires people to be engaged at scale. One story in a newspaper doesn’t impact like it used to. Now, influence is achieved by engaging media through multichannel strategies that increase the likelihood of reaching a larger audience, such as news aggregation websites and online publications that allow links to be promoted.

  1. Owned, earned, and paid content are tools, not a strategy

One of the biggest mistakes is to think that just by using owned, earned, and paid content that you’ll have impact. What’s important is to understand what you are trying to achieve and who you are trying to reach and why, and then tailoring the use of these content approaches accordingly. It’s not as simple as Facebook is for customer engagement and the AFR is for investors – an investor might follow you on Twitter and Facebook but never read the AFR. It comes down to understanding your audience, and how you can use all channels at different times to engage, promote, or to manage your reputation.

It’s a brave new world of digital communication, where analogue is not dead but is on life support. But with the right strategy and a digital-is-mainstream mindset, businesses and organisations can reach more people at a lower cost than ever to get lasting outcomes.