The full report is available exclusively for members of the Communications Leadership Council, but Insiders can see some secrets now.

Figuring out the best medium for reaching external audiences is never easy. There are so many factors to consider: who you’re trying to reach, the messaging, the timeline and the budget.

But when we take a step back from specifics and look at the big picture, what are the best tools for reaching an audience?

This is one of the dozens of questions the Ragan Communications Leadership Council Benchmark Report answered. Hundreds of communicators shared their insights into all aspects of their practice, from how their teams are organized to their views on AI. Ragan’s Communications Leadership Council members can view the full 66-page report. But as an Insider, let’s give you a little, well, inside scoop.

Social media still reigns supreme

The survey asked respondents to choose the three most effective tools for reaching external audiences. Perhaps unsurprisingly, social media remains the No. 1 way of reaching a broad audience. Seventy percent of respondents said it was the most effective tool for reaching external audiences. It’s logical, of course: More than 62% of the world’s entire population uses social media, and 91% of Americans do. Given the wide variety of social platforms, it’s all but assured you’ll find a niche that your audience calls home and where you can deliver effective messaging.

However, there are drawbacks to social media, too. X has been in a constant state of upheaval for more than a year now; TikTok’s continued existence in the United States is in peril; and other platforms leave communicators scrambling to adapt to changing algorithms.

In other words, never put all your eggs in one basket.

That, perhaps, is why the second most effective method of reaching audiences is the much-maligned press release at 43%. While perhaps not as effective as it was in the glory days of media relations, this is still a tried-and-true method of getting important news out to a large number of people quickly, whether that’s through the press, by posting on a news wire service or putting it on your own website.

Going one step further and into owned media, brand journalism storytelling/website were the third most popular methods for reaching external audiences at 28%. As traditional media has continued to decline, creating avenues for artfully telling your own stories has become more important. Using SEO, social media and other techniques for helping audiences discover your content gives you a unique sense of control over your own story without the need for a middleman.

Rounding out the top five responses were speaking opportunities and conferences (22%) and email (20%, notably down from 25% in the 2023 survey).

All of these platforms give strong opportunities for storytelling and drawing audiences into a deeper, more intimate connection with your brand.

From Ragan's Communications Leadership Council Benchmark Survey 2024

Which of these media do you find most effective for reaching external audiences?

To view the full report, become a member of Ragan’s Communications Leadership Council.

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