By: Melissa Coon
This past winter, I had the wonderful opportunity to venture to Europe with a few of my fabulous journalism counterparts. The experience proved to be truly rewarding and one that I would not have given up for the world. I learned a lot about myself, my field of study and European culture in general.
During our time overseas, my peers and I spent two and a half weeks traveling through Prague, Paris, Brussels and Rome. We visited a variety of media outlets and universities along the way, some of which included:
- McCann Erickson, a global advertising agency and a branch of the McCann Worldgroup, located in Prague, Czech Republic
- France Television, a state-owned broadcasting company located in Paris, France
- Slate.fr, the French version of Slate, an online magazine that focuses on current affairs and politics, located in Paris, France
- Hill + Knowlton Strategies, a full service public relations and public affairs agency located in Brussels, Belgium
- Vatican Radio, the official broadcasting service of the Vatican, located in Rome, Italy
One thing I noticed during our time spent at these outlets was the difference in the use of digital media in the United States and Europe. While digital media is an important aspect of American journalism, it is not as prominent in European media. In fact, as one of our lecturers in Prague informed us, with the exception of Great Britain, many European countries have been slow to adopt digital media tactics.
As I learned in most of my strategic communication and marketing courses at Mizzou, digital marketing provides a great deal of benefits to marketers and consumers. It is infinitely more affordable than traditional offline marketing methods and allows marketers to better reach consumers through interactive techniques. In fact, according to a recent article by BusinessZone, an email or social media campaign can transmit a marketing message to consumers for the smallest fraction of the cost of a television advertisement or print campaign, and potentially reach a wider audience than traditional methods. Moreover, as the article states, digital media makes it easier to track and monitor results. Rather than conducting expensive customer research, advertisers and marketers can quickly view customer response rates and measure the success of their marketing campaigns in real-time, enabling them to plan more effectively for future campaigns. This makes digital marketing an ideal tactic for many marketing and advertising professionals.
With this in mind, I found it surprising to learn that most of Europe has been slow to adopt digital media—especially as someone who is planning to pursue a career in public relations and/or account management. In fact, while interviewing for full-time employment opportunities, numerous employers have asked me about my background in digital media. One employer, in particular, told me that she was looking for a candidate with a significant understanding of digital media who would be able to “dive right into social media and online tactics full force.” After hearing this, I took it upon myself to sign up for as many digital media classes as possible in order to make myself more marketable to employers. My strategic communication professors have also emphasized the importance of digital media in public relations and advertising. They stressed that far too often businesses fail to adapt to the new marketing climate and, as a result, risk going extinct. As a result, they suggested that I become familiar with search engine optimization, analytics and social media sooner rather than later if I want to stand a chance with any major public relations or advertising firm.
In addition to a variety of media outlets, we were also able to tour the European Parliament and European Union during our time abroad. We were able to gain a better understanding of political communications and public affairs, an area that Europe frequently excels in. Because of its connection to the European Union and European Parliament, I have always viewed Brussels, in particular, as a powerhouse for public affairs and public relations. Therefore, I was surprised to learn digital media does not have as much of a presence in Europe as it does in the United States.
Why, then, has most of Europe been so slow to adopt digital media? Well, it is certainly not because people are offline. In fact, according to the Office for National Statistics, over 82% of United Kingdom adults went online in the first three months of this year—that is more than 40 million individuals. The real reason European journalists and communication specialists have been slow to adopt digital media is primarily due to the lack of trust many of them have in technology, according to one of our guest lecturers in Prague. The lecturer also noted that privacy and security are key concerns as well, especially in light of the high-profile hacking cases that have recently transpired in much of the western hemisphere. Moreover, Internet capabilities and technological advancements are not quite as up-to-speed as they are in the United States. Wi-Fi access remains limited in certain areas of Europe and, as the guest lecturer at McCann Erickson informed us, 4G capabilities are still not available in most of Europe. This, of course, I also found surprising since 4G is so common in the United States.
Overall, I enjoyed my time abroad and learned a lot about myself, European culture and journalism in general. Europe is a powerhouse for fashion, finance and communications. Yet, it falls short when it comes to digital media in that it has been slow to adopt digital tactics. Nevertheless, as the guest lecturer at McCann Erickson informed me, many advertisers and communications professionals are taking steps to implement digital media into their campaigns. They see it as an important component to successful communication, but they do not yet have the means to fully engage in digital media the way the United States has. This is something I must keep in mind as I continue applying for full-time employment. I plan to discuss this topic and similar ideas with potential employers when asked about my experience abroad.