The Move Towards Digital Media Continues

Thirty years ago, the job of a construction marketer was quite straightforward. There were a few key publications to target for PR, and getting editorial coverage for important stories in those magazines pretty much hit the spot each time. Ditto for advertisers. Circulations were large, reach and industry influence was significant.

Is it still the case today? If not, where do the sweet spots still lie, if any exist at all? If we need to reach parts of the construction industry with important industry news, where do we go? These are some of the key questions that the Construction Media Index research is trying to understand, and the results raise some key issues. This year’s respondents tell us once again that the overall move towards digital media continues apace.

A few pockets of the industry still love hardcopy publications – the long-heralded ‘death of the traditional media’ is not actually true, at least not just yet – but most of us are definitely now consuming a lot more of our news and information online.

Much of that consumption is us simply scanning headlines or the top line of a story. And much of those headlines are the ones we see in our social media streams or in email newsletters.

It’s not just in UK construction. This trend is felt across all industries and in all countries. And it raises some interesting questions about trust, accessibility and the effectiveness of our industry communications.

The latest Ipsos Mori report on trust (Trust: The Truth?) argues that there is not a long term, global crisis of trust in all media, as is sometimes suggested. Some traditional and online media in the UK are thriving, are trusted and maintain loyal readerships, in particular those that genuinely invest in quality journalism. I think we see that reflected in some of the results from the Construction Media Index research too.

But as online media grows, it is too easy for a web-based industry news channel to turn into a vanity publishing platform. As Ipsos Mori says: “There is clearly a role for media owners to be more transparent and more honest about how they work and how they are funded. Digital brands need to address the issue of trust head on with more transparency, better tools and a renewed sense of purpose.”

I think we also need to be worried about access to important news and analysis for younger professionals in the industry, many of whom do not read any trade press at all. We discovered this when Liz Male Consulting did some research into where young people under 30, already working in construction, were finding out about the aftermath of the Grenfell Fire tragedy, the Hackitt Review and the subsequent policy and legislation changes. Answer: they weren’t. Well, certainly not through the industry media. A similar picture about the audience for public service news was published recently by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

This problem is exacerbated by paywalls and a reducing willingness for employers to provide paid-for subscriptions to publications, and it’s a trend we need to watch carefully.

My view is that we need all four aspects of the modern PESO (Paid, Earned, Shared, Owned) model of marketing and communications to work effectively if we are to improve our information sharing, our business performance and our industry image. The media gives us most of our Paid and Earned opportunities. So we need to support reputable media and publishers, increase access to those channels to all parts of the industry, and maintain trust in the critical information and insights they provide.

Liz Male, MBE – Liz Male Consulting

Liz Male Consulting

To learn more about the use of social media in the construction sector see the Construction Media Index.