Tom Foremski: Corporate Media Could Displace Traditional Media But Must Be Audience-led

Corporations have spotted a gaping hole in the market left by traditional media and are attempting to fill it with their own forms of corporate media.

But according to former-Financial Times journalist turned media entrepreneur Tom Foremski, corporates are failing to connect with their audiences and there are very few successful examples of the genre.

Foremski was interviewed by communication consultant Stuart Bruce at a CIPR PR Thought Leader briefing in London last week.

Corporate Media Must be Audience Led

“Publishing content doesn’t [count for anything]. It doesn’t necessarily result in an audience,” he said.

Organizations are obsessed with pushing brand and product messages said Foremski. They want to appear cool and feel good about themselves rather than engage with their audiences.

His lesson was clear: organizations must avoid vanity media and report and share stories that engage their audience.

Leading Media Change

Foremski’s career follows the story of changing media over the last decade. He moved from Computing in the UK to the US, worked for a West Coast news agency, and then the Financial Times in 1999 as the West Coast editor.

In 2004 he left the Financial Times to launch media and technology blog Silicon Valley Watcher and has since worked as a blogger and consultant.

Foremski said that he saw the writing on the wall for tradition media, shackled to legacy organizational structures, and infrastructure, while at same time giving content away for free.

“Now anyone can set up a publishing platform and be up and running within 24 hours,” said Foremski.

Foremski isn’t optimistic for the future of the traditional media. He said that many of the legacy practices from print journalism remain, calling out the obsession with page views.

“If you’re chasing page views you lose any kind of editorial distinction other than populism,” he said.

Foremski is equally gloomy about the future of investigative journalism as newsrooms are stripped back to the bone. “Where are the hardened newsroom hacks with 20-years experience of rooting out stories going to come from in the future,” he said.


Public Relations: Work to Do

The public relations profession, like the traditional media industry, is struggling to modernize according to Foremski.

In February 2006 Foremski wrote an infamous blog post titled Die! Press release! Die! Die! Die! In which he called time on the press release. It has been circulated around communication teams and PR agencies several times over during the intervening period.

“Press releases are nearly useless. They typically start with a tremendous amount of topspin; they contain pat-on-the-back phrases and meaningless quotes. Often they will contain quotes from C-level executives praising their customer focus.”

Foremski called for the press release to be deconstructed to factual blocks of information and quotes so that the blogger or journalist can build a story.

Seven years on change is coming but it’s slow. “I’m still getting PDF press releases without links by email,” he said.

Foremski’s call to action for the future of media and public relations remains consistent and inspiring.

“Come and help me figure this out, I don’t have all the answers, I’m making it up as I go along,” he said.

The CIPR’s Thought Leader events hosted by the CIPR are aimed at senior public relations professionals, providing an opportunity for discussion, debate and networking on topical subjects.

I’ve created a Storify post of the conversation between Bruce and Foremski.