Brexit, terrorist attacks and a fire in a high-rise building claiming the lives of many; the UK appears in the headlines on a daily basis. Despite the financial crisis and the gradual decline of its traditional industry, the country remains Europe’s second largest economic power after Germany. For communicators the island presents an exciting field of action, especially with regards to its technical sector. What do PR professionals have to know about the media landscape of the United Kingdom? TREIBSTOFF spoke with Giles Peddy, Senior Vice President of the EMEA and Managing Director UK for LEWIS.
TREIBSTOFF: Could you give us a sense of the current media landscape in the UK?
PEDDY: There continues to be shifts in media in the UK. Numerous media continue to struggle, consolidate and eventually close down. Paywalls are increasing in national media, growing a little in light of the increasing “fake news” phenomenon. During our recent General Election, despite the majority of mainstream national newspapers – The Times, The Telegraph, The Sun, Daily Mail – supporting the Conservatives, they did not persuade the country to return a majority. The Tories won, while in the past this unstinting support would have delivered a majority. This shows the rise of social media and, with a higher turnout of young people than previously, demonstrating shifting media consumption habits.
TREIBSTOFF: What are the challenges and opportunities for the British media?
PEDDY: Young people don’t read newspapers as much anymore. Instead they have social networks, chatrooms, forums and social messenger services. This is giving rise to more “fake news”, which in turn is seeing more people paying to access mainstream media like the Guardian, Times, FT, for news and opinions that are more trusted.
TREIBSTOFF: What implications does the rise of mobile communications have for PR professionals in the UK?
PEDDY: There are huge implications. Nearly all demographics are online in some capacity and the number of additional channels increases the need to generate more content tailored for that audience. This development leads to the content delivery mechanism becoming more complex. What we also see is the emergence of Chatbots, aiding in the delivery of information. This is especially relevant for brands planning to go global or trying to find ways to automate mundane tasks to free up their people. This helps brands becoming more strategic and creative.
TREIBSTOFF: Which social media channels are primarily being used in the UK?
PEDDY: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, WeChat, Snapchat, Instagram, Tumblr, Reddit, YouTube, Vimeo, Slideshare.
TREIBSTOFF: How are UK companies and PR agencies using social media in their communications?
PEDDY: It’s embedded now in our communications and we actively use many of the social networks.
TREIBSTOFF: Is the UK different from other (European) countries in this regard?
PEDDY: Perhaps the adoption curves are different, as we have embraced certain platforms faster. There are also some local platforms, such as Xing in Germany, that are different from our own.
TREIBSTOFF: Could you specify a little more the dos and don’ts for PR professionals when communicating with British journalists?
PEDDY: Don’t ring them 30 seconds after sending a press release asking it they have seen it! Don’t tell them it’s a great story and they need to write about it, if it’s not really an amazing story. It’s the journalist who decides whether the story is interesting or not. Know their deadlines and don’t call them all the time. Recognize that they get 400 pitches a day and need to write between 5 to 10 articles. Time is precious.
TREIBSTOFF: What do PR professionals need to know when communicating to the British public?
PEDDY: You must understand your target audience at a granular level. If your target audience consists of 18-24 year olds, then you must understand the various demographics within that group. They are not all the same. The same goes for B2B buyers of say 35-50 year olds. They have different buying needs and trigger points, along with different readership interests.
As such, PR professionals must become much more granular on an audience level, releasing stories, messages and channels to the right markets. Then they can reach and engage those groups. This is why Audience Intelligence is becoming such an important analytical function and the foundation of data-driven storytelling.
TREIBSTOFF: Fake News: How does the British media deal with this phenomenon?
PEDDY: It’s always been around, just in different guises and names. Propaganda is an example of „fake news“. This is why the mainstream media encourages you to read them, because they are the arbiters of more truthful stories, whereas „fake news“ sprout and spread online. So they handle it in the same way as before, but also incorporating new ways by looking at how they can be relevant to both traditional and contemporary audiences.