Recently, the Indian Readership Survey (IRS) data was released. It is not surprising to see, barring a few newspapers, other top publications across languages report a decline in their readership. For some years now, experts have cautioned print media’s doom days are here and happening.
However, in our profession, we come across situations where companies and spokespeople still insist on “print coverage”. It’s the mindset of only when it’s in print it is good coverage. Otherwise, it’s job not done well. On the other hand, the media asks, when online is reaching more folks than print, why insist on print?
Mindset is hard to change. It does not happen overnight. It takes persistent effort and time before one starts seeing some results. Also, changing mindset is not one size fits all template or solution. It has to be customised.
PR in marketing stack up
A good place to start is understanding where PR is stacked up in the overall marketing mix and why? If it is stacked low in the pecking order with advertising, lead generation, and promotions ranked higher, then chances are PR is there as checkbox activity. It is there as a good thing to do and not a must-do priority. Considering the spends are lower compared to advertising and promotions, it gets fitted easily. What the objective is, who evaluates, what are the evaluation parameters all tend to be a bit hazy.
Print coverage becomes the easiest reference point. With a printed paper to showcase, it is easy to tick the activity. The onus is on the communications team to change this perception. The effort has to be gradual and consistent.
Their perception is your reality
Unfortunately, the perception of a company or a spokesperson about the power of the printed word is the reality we have to accept first. For those who have lived most of their life in the digital era, this is a hard task.
The younger generation does not understand the fascination for print. They tend to see this as ‘old school habit.’ Old school or not, it is a habit and habits are difficult to change. Accept it and have a plan that is long term. More importantly, have patience.
Your word vs stakeholder’s word
There is only that much data can do. Throwing up numbers of reach, page views, clicks, shares, circulation or readership apart, what helps in changing perception is voices from the community and stakeholders.
It may be tough but getting your spokespeople and leadership interact with media, outside of the story discussion and presenting ideas from a cross-section of industries and geographies, aids a lot in this journey. It tends to have a FOMO (fear of missing out) effect.
This also serves as a reality check for us, communication professionals. It helps to understand if we are right in our thinking. India is a diverse country with varied habits and preferences. In some markets and for some target segments, print is still a preferred medium of information consumption. It helps us adopt a flexible approach.
The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.