Rethinking Media Strategy

By Joy Muruku

Impact Africa’s approach to communication strategy is strongly founded on research. As such, various forms of studies among them analysis of media content forms a critical part of all our assignments. On several occasions, my colleagues and I have presented reports to our veteran manager and were particularly excited when we found that a client had recorded high media coverage.

Initially unexpected and disorienting was the constant question, “so what?” See for me, my train of thought was fixed on numbers; they speak for themselves and if anything, isn’t that what most clients want to see?

Experience has however exposed my handicap, which in my opinion holds a vast majority in the industry captive. We have worked for a number of clients for whom we have undertaken extensive research to establish the drawbacks to the success of their communications. In most cases, we have found target audience awareness to be below average.

Going back to the issue of media coverage, the facts on brand awareness have often contradicted the volume of media outputs. Simply put, we often find that brands exhibit low awareness levels while at the same time exhibiting an impressive parade on media.

Any critical professional would stop and question the contribution of media coverage to a brand’s visibility or awareness. This forms the basis of our misguided notion on numbers. While they are undoubtedly useful in demonstrating Return On Investment (ROI), they blind us from thinking about the end goal. Did the numbers inch a client closer to realizing their objectives?

So fifteen journalists attended your press briefing, how many of them published your story, what percentage of your stakeholders got to read the story and what proportion acted on the information? This serves as a reminder that numbers especially in Public Relations are not the homestretch. It is further to urge industry practitioners to be very critical and deliberate about their media strategy.

Think about journalists’ interests, how they fit into your client’s puzzle, the possibility of coverage beyond news and creating media advocates on the issue that your client strives to address. Think long lasting impact over a fleeting media presence.