BitDepth 731 - May 18

The end of the traditional press release in the Internet era.
The slow death of grip and grin
On Thursday, I revisited one of my earliest talks, one that explores the new role that photography can play in corporate communications in the 21st Century.
Preparing for the talk, I remembered 1990, when I finally joined the Trinidad Guardian as an employee, the paper’s first Picture Editor. One of the first things I did back then was to ban PR presentation photos from the paper’s front page. It seems odd now, but it wasn’t unusual then for the front page of the nation’s bestselling newspaper to present, as its lead photograph, above the fold of its considerable front page, a picture of two people handing each other an object in front of a corporate banner.

It was just one of those things. The news business is coming to that kind of place again, I think, as corporate communications professionals wrestle with new challenges in delivering their messages in traditional media and in a new media landscape which is changing with startling speed.
When I first gave this talk in 2008, party gallery sites ruled in Trinidad and Tobago. Way back then, local newspaper websites were visited dominantly by readers outside of Trinidad and Tobago. For every local reader, four arrived from offshore. The viewership profile of many of the social gallery sites has now almost exactly inverted.

Alexa’s picture of that consumption pattern has changed substantially since then. The growth in local Internet use over the last 24 months and changes in local content consumption patterns have almost completely reversed those numbers for the Guardian, Newsday and Express.
In 2008, just 17.5 percent of the Guardian’s Internet traffic came from Trinidad and Tobago, with 43.9 percent coming from the US. Alexa’s traffic ratings last week identified 39.8 percent of the website’s visitors coming from Trinidad and Tobago with 21.6 percent clicking in from the US.
So where should corporate communications professionals planning to place images in the media for public consumption?

In many ways, that’s the wrong question. Photography doesn’t play a pivotal part in the online presence of any local newspaper on the Internet today, but opportunities for creating galleries capable of drawing a relevant audience abound.
At the heart of that thinking is the difference between push and pull information flow when it’s applied to the highly lubricated medium of Internet communication.

Traditional principles of media relations are based on push theories, supplying filtered information to the press when it’s required or advantageous to the person in control of the information.
Creating a viable presence in the pull-based flow of the Internet means not just posting photos or news release on the web, but committing to a regular information feed that reflects an honest picture of a corporate entity living the principles it espouses.

That demands a coherent narrative, supported by visible, identifiable evidence, communicated regularly and eloquently to the publics interested in the company’s execution of its social responsibilities.
That’s a commitment that goes well beyond trying to push broadcasts into a realm of continuous communication. Engaging web audiences consistently means understanding the steady drip of relevant communication that fuels social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and countless popular blogs.

It is, in short, publishing and broadcasting, the role of media waiting to be adopted in microcosm by aggressive communicators interested in amplifying the opportunities for their voices to be well placed in the chorus – some might call it a cacophony – of conversation that fuels mouseclicks on the web.

My Thursday presentation on this subject is available as
a vidcast here.
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