2013 Public Relations Predictions: Trust and Segmentation

One of the principles we’ve advocated at SHIFT Communications for some time is that mainstream media and social media have more or less become one and the same. That position continues to get stronger. Here’s why:

According to a September 2012 Gallup poll, trust in the mainstream media has been on a slow decline since 2006, while mistrust of the mainstream media has been on a corresponding increase. If consumers are trusting mainstream media less and less, then what’s the point of public relations?

What has happened that isn’t illustrated in the Gallup poll is that trust has fractured. Social media has contributed to some of that, with networks like Facebook and Twitter supplementing or outright replacing traditional news sources for some consumers. The other fracture point is based on worldview. If you’re of a certain political viewpoint, you view only some news sources as trustworthy and others as biased.

What does this mean for your public relations and earned media efforts? The idea of a broad, untargeted outreach will continue to decline in effectiveness. In order to get maximum results from your public relations efforts, you need to spend a great deal of time and research on audience segmentation to identify the media channels that your audience trusts. Who are the buyers of your products? What political viewpoint do they have? What are their ethnic, religious, or cultural identities? The level of segmentation you’ll need to bring to your earned media efforts will be more granular than ever before if you want to reach the right audiences that your product will appeal to.

Google Display Network Ad Planner

That in turn also means considering niche channels that only digital media can provide. Your product or service may only appeal to, say, Hindu single mothers, and while there may not be a mainstream media outlet for that segment of the overall audience, there’s almost certainly a social media personality or group dedicated to this group, a niche channel that is trusted. Find them, reach out to them, and you’ll generate better results than a generic placement or worse, a placement in a media outlet that your audience does not trust.

How do you find these niche channels? Google for them, ask the customers you already have where they spend their time online, or, of course, get an agency to do the work for you.

Trust has fractured in the media landscape. Your audience has a specific view of the world that they get from the handful of channels, publications, and people they trust. If you want to be successful in 2013, you’ll need to find out who they trust and work with those channels the most.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology


Keep in Touch

Want fresh perspective on communications trends & strategy? Sign up for the SHIFT/ahead newsletter.

Ready to shift ahead?

Let's talk