Cecil the lion

Cecil the Lion & the Power of Media

By: Chris Austin

Prior to a few weeks ago, I had never heard of Cecil the lion. I actually couldn’t name a single lion anywhere, for that matter, outside of the Cowardly Lion. Now, like the rest of America, I’m up in arms about the death of a 13-year-old lion at the hands of a dentist who wanted a trophy for his wall.

There are certainly several different topics of discussion on this front, but as a public relations professional, I’m intrigued by how this story disseminated and what it teaches us about:

  • The influential power traditional media still possesses.
  • The value of social media as a news aggregate.

A Story Roaring to Life

When news of Cecil broke, it was all over my Facebook feed. However, every post about the lion was a share of a story from a traditional news outlet—mainly TV segments and newspaper stories.

What’s significant about this is that it further illustrates where news is originating. I may have gotten my news from Facebook, but it was through links to traditional news outlets—which clearly shows that people still place a lot of value and credibility in traditional news outlets.

It also illustrates the power traditional media has over shaping a news story. Coverage of Cecil’s death surfaced an issue many would have been otherwise unaware of. Since the media told consumers that this was an important lion, consumers were outraged at what happened to this treasured beast.

A Mane News Aggregate

The idea that increasingly large margins of people get their news on a daily basis from social media channels is nothing new. But, Cecil’s story further proves that social media users rely on traditional media outlets to originate news. Social media channels are then the aggregates that further generate momentum and social awareness for news stories. Just look at the social sharing stats from the USA Today article linked to above: 44,390 Facebook shares, 1,050 tweets and 116 LinkedIn shares (likely more now since this post published).

A Paw-erful Combination

So what can business leaders looking to gain awareness and visibility for their organizations learn from this story? One critical takeaway is the fact that traditional media outlets still have the power to not only originate news, but shape public perception.

Another takeaway is the value social media provides in generating momentum for news stories. Without social media, you may have had some outrage, but users leveraged their social media channels to further perpetuate the lifespan and reach of that story beyond what TV stations and newspapers can do on their own.

The lines between traditional media, digital and social media continue to blur, but Cecil’s story shows how those mediums work together to originate and shape news, and then disseminate news to consumers at a viral level. For business decision-makers, it’s necessary to understand those interconnected workings and how to leverage it to successfully create positive awareness for your company.

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