ING, the Dutch finance and insurance giant, released a report on the effect social media is having on mainstream media. The memorably orange ING knows media–it introduced itself in the US in the1990s with one of the most effective corporate brand awareness campaigns in history. Yet despite being a savvy media user itself, ING might at first seem an unlikely investigator of this trend–wouldn’t a media company be more likely? Or Pew Research or some like-minded think tank? But ING’s interest here further proves what’s become a new reality: every organization today is a media company–and their ability to use the multiple communications tools at their disposal is vital to success.
ING’s a smart company that knows it’s suddenly in some new businesses, like media. (It just announced a new Chief Innovation Officer, Brunon Bartkiewicz, who built the company’s exemplary direct business.) ING’s corporate DNA says it’s determined to empower “sustainable progress…driven by people with imagination.” Where do you find those people, and engage them? Social media is driven entirely by people with imagination. (Sometimes wild and fanciful imaginations, which nevertheless are the source–according to the report–for 50% of journalists’ information.) Understanding the new landscape and how it functions is critical to a company like ING. The study itself collates lots of unsurprising but cumulatively intriguing results. The speed of social is dooming the fact check, alas, even in mainstream environs. (See the New York Times‘ David Carr’s whopper of a correction at bottom here.) The difference between PR and news is harder to distinguish. Journalists also now have the job of promoting their own stories. 78% of journalists use social media daily. 85% of PR professionals do, too. (What are the other 15% doing, one wonders?) Here’s one more reason to admire ING’s thinking: plenty of companies have done internal studies trying to find the recipe for social media secret sauce; they keep these documents to themselves hoping to find gold there. ING knows that if you have information in 2014, you set it free. If it comes back to you, as the old saying goes, it’s yours. Along with lots of new customers.