The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

PR | Advertising

October 2013
A shift in media consumption means companies must better connect with consumers to maintain relevance

By Deborah Hayden

In Japan, public relations is viewed as a loss-leading service performed by the mighty advertising giants, a reactive service that does exactly what the client asks, and gives little in the way of strategic advice.

Advertising has traditionally driven the solution to any marketing campaign. Solutions include the 30-second TV commercial that Dentsu Inc. and Hakuhodo Inc. do so well, or the print advertising that is keeping Japanese media afloat while international competitors are drowning in red ink.

However, the elusive key stakeholder that is the target of advertising and public relations campaigns is changing.

She—the consumer—is now busier than ever and is rapidly devouring multiple news, commentary, and social media sources on her mobile device during her morning commute.

More than half the world’s adult population read a daily newspaper, with 2.5 billion doing so in print, and 600 million (and growing) in digital format, according to the 2012 World Press Trends survey by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers.

And people are watching less TV. According to Nielsen data for the first quarter this year, those in the 25–34 and 35–49 age groups watched about an hour less TV per day. The biggest drop was for the 18–24 age group, while the over 50s were watching more TV.

So what to do with these expensive advertisements? Are they reaching their key stakeholders? Nielsen’s Global AdView Pulse shows global advertising spend is struggling; print advertising decreased around the globe in the first quarter of 2013 (-2.8 percent for magazines, -4.7 percent for newspapers). Meanwhile, TV spend was up (+3.5 percent), as was non-traditional spend on outdoor advertising (+4.3 percent) and the internet (+26.3 percent).

In addition, we are seeing a shift in how companies react with stakeholders in campaigns. In traditional public relations and advertising campaigns, key stakeholders were “told” about new ideas and products and why they needed them. With the shift in media consumption comes a change in how key stakeholders relate with companies: they want to engage and be heard.

To maintain relevance in the marketing and communications world today, companies need to engage in conversations with their key stakeholders. This means telling stories that resonate and elicit a reaction, rather than simply “informing.” Compelling content has never been more important in this two-way world.

As companies strive to be creative, meet their business needs, and stand out from the crowd, they need to factor in this new marketing and communication landscape.

But the challenge is even greater for the marketing, public relations, and advertising agencies. No longer can a communications campaign be run on instincts alone. What worked in the past—as the statistics show—is not necessarily going to result in wider public engagement today.

To be more impactful, more inspiring, and more engaging, campaigns need to be driven by well-researched insights to engage in conversations with key stakeholders to create a reaction.

Communications campaigns need to tell compelling stories and public relations companies must move outside their comfort zones and go beyond the simple press release.

To stand out from the crowd, the storytelling and engagement with key stakeholders will be driven by creative ambition and must encompass all media.

Companies must rely on their communications advisors to get the strategic advice they need to ensure that campaigns are created to be ahead of the curve.

Campaigns need to be based on compelling stories, those that engage with their important stakeholders. This requires a new relationship with media. As the media landscape becomes more diverse and fragmented, communications advisors need to navigate this complex evolving landscape to benefit their clients.

It’s an exciting time for communications—a brave new world. As Japanese companies look to increase their footprint on the global stage, they will need to seek the best advice available to ensure their messages and stories are heard.

Relying on the safe, traditional approach will be akin to throwing money away by telling consumers things they don’t want to hear.

It is time to move outside the comfort zone. The rewards of a new level of engagement with key stakeholders will be well worth the effort.

Deborah Hayden is co-chair of the ACCJ Women in Business Committee and regional director of Edelman Japan.

Deborah Hayden is co-chair of the ACCJ Women in Business Committee and regional director of Edelman Japan.

The elusive key stakeholder that is the target of advertising and public relations campaigns is changing.”