Print v online company magazines? There’s room for both

Online threatens to consign much-loved inky pages to history. But is the writing really on the wall for print? Given the choice of apps and mobile devices available on the market, especially tablets, you might think so.

Figures from IDC show global tablet shipments surged 142% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2013. That’s 49 million tablets – more than shipped in the whole of the first half of 2012. Yet despite the rise of mobile devices, printed publications survive and thrive alongside digital versions. The online community debate.org records a fairly even split between yes and no to the question ‘Will printed magazines and newspapers dry up in the next decade as a result of the popularity surrounding online content?’.

In its annual industry survey the Professional Publishers Association notes that print is still massively important in terms of both revenue and brand presence. The enduring popularity of print is confirmed in consultant Deloitte’s annual State of Media Democracy survey on how UK consumers interact with media and entertainment, which found that 88% of people who read magazines prefer printed copies.

The significant advantages of digital include real-time information, handy links to useful sources and the ability to instantly track and analyse what is being read. A company’s Information Technology department will place equal emphasis on the security of sensitive information and how to control access.

What businesses need to decide is how best to reach target audiences. While online has immediacy and impact, hard copy magazines are still important as a company showcase, whether celebrating and supporting the achievements of its workforce or enhancing the customer experience.

You can pick them up, put them down, place them in reception areas and mail them to people’s homes. They create a warmth that digital can’t always replicate that is essential to good employee and customer relationships.

Hopefully, rather than fewer of either people will continue to demand more of both.

 

Is employee-driven social media a risky business?

Social media is driving a significant shift in the way companies communicate internally and with customers. But this dynamic channel causes corporate headaches when employees are unclear on best business practice.

Online internal communications, especially magazines and newsletters, generate an interactive buzz with Twitter and Facebook or Chatter and Yammer, the private social networks for enterprises. A survey by Towers Watson found 56% of employers now use social media as part of their internal communications. Their aim is to build ‘communities’ and a sense that staff and management are one.

Social media also gives employees a voice to represent their company to the outside world. A survey of office workers by Hyphen found that companies could be doing more and offers good advice on using social media to engage the business, promote products and build the brand. But if poorly executed, Hyphen paints a stark picture: “It can also serve as the fastest way to destroy all of that.”

Becoming advocates for your brand relies on positive employee buy-in. Hootsuite’s white paper points out that employees using social media are a company’s best advocates. But a potential problem is the audience knowing whether someone is using social media in an official capacity. There is a risk of blurring business and personal boundaries, especially in language and tone of voice.

In its useful tips on using social media to improve internal communications, consultant Social Media in Business highlights the importance of creating a common language and training everyone in it. A worrying statistic from Hyphen’s survey is that only one in six employees said they were aware of their employer’s social media guidelines.

The potential risks are confirmed by insurance industry analysis. Alarm bells rang as far back as 2011 in a survey that flagged up the fact that nearly half of respondents rated reputation risk from social media as a material risk.

To reap the benefits, companies need to keep pace with the opportunities social media offers internal and customer communications but also anticipate and avoid the likely pitfalls.