Ville Multanen, Media Management MA student, Department of Culture and Media, Arcada UAS
Supervisor: Dr. Nathalie Hyde-Clarke Examiner: Dr. Owen Kelly
My master’s thesis identified methods suitable for use by government security and public safety organisations in order to improve YouTube content so as to increase public interest and engagement. This was done through a literature review by exploring insights and best practices used by marketing, advertising and public relations entities based on existing research literature and YouTube content. Light was also shed on the rationale for said organisations having a presence on YouTube in the first place by studying the public safety and security challenges the organisations, as well as whole societies, are facing. The relationship between the societies’ strategic communications and organisations’ social media content, with an emphasis on YouTube videos, was also explored. YouTube as a medium was discussed and its unique commercial ecosystem examined. Within the platform, the cross-influence between user-generated and professionally generated content has created an amalgam of industry practices and amateur aesthetics. Intimacy and the feeling of authenticity is often pursued by commercial content producers.
Amongst the advertising banners, user-generated videos and commercial content lurk messages aimed at sowing discord and intended to destabilise democratic societies. The practice of disseminating deceptive messages as part of ‘soft power’ operations is done by several outside actors, some of the recent documented cases including Russia and the so-called Islamic State and the Levant (ISIL), for example. Different domestic conspiracy-theory fueled messages have also emerged or have been re-established with the rise of the social media. These include, for example vaccine hesitancy, also known as the ‘anti-vaccer’ movement, which has undoubtedly contributed to the recent outbreaks of preventable diseases (such as measles) around the globe. It is imperative for Safety and Security organisations to counter these deceptive narratives on all platforms, including YouTube.
The feeling of belonging to a community and the ability to share so called ‘private’ moments has created a successful relationship between YouTube’s ecosystem of user-generated content and advertiser friendly business models. In the age of social media, the citizens almost literally have loudspeakers at their disposal; a large portion of the media consumed by the public is also produced by the public. From governmental point of view, it is important to win the hearts, minds and voices of the citizens, and to have as much positive user-generated content published as possible to amplify the messages. It is imperative to gather subscribers, fans and sporadic audiences in order to make your own voice heard.
At the same time, traditional television viewership has decreased. The days when the whole of society could be reached with one main evening news broadcast are over, and this makes online strategic communication more important than ever. Government organisations have to be able to communicate their most important messages, values and goals to different audiences across several platforms, in a coherent manner. The fragmenting media sphere emphasises the need for expertise and coordination. Publicists and content creators need to be able to both broadcast and narrowcast their messages out. A multi-platform approach and comprehensive professional capabilities of public affairs and communications personnel are now more important than ever. If only traditional media approaches are utilized in government communications, a large and increasing proportion of the citizens is not going to be reached.
Similarly, if the potentiality of YouTube’s built-in culture of participation is not utilized in government YouTube operations, a large portion of potential audiences is not interested nor engaged, and opportunities are lost. It is advisable to study the organisation’s goals, target audiences and publishing platforms in order to produce the messages within parameters that would resonate better with the intended audiences and the chosen medium, and not produce content that is a poor fit for the platform and/or the target audiences.
It is also important to understand the peer vs. expert dynamics: YouTube creators are considered by their followers to be remarkably credible because of their amateurish and plain backgrounds, and at the same time they are considered to be experts in their own fields, such as gaming, lifestyle or health. This makes them very effective in disseminating messages and validating new ideas. Existing research indicates that perceived match of the content to its creator results in more trust than perceived expertise, notably among younger audiences who are ‘low-involved’ in the subject-matter.
A common and integral undertone in all my research’s findings is the importance of knowing the medium. Only by knowing the publishing platform, its culture, the audience and the constitution of the underlying commercial and social factors can effective content be produced. It is critical to be able to create clear and focused narratives as well as tell compelling stories.
Regarding the field of government communications and public relations, I hope my research identifies and offers tools for tactical level directors and producers, as well as the content creators at the operational level, or in the ‘field’. It also has implications for strategic communication planners, who can use its findings to better balance the resources allocated to necessary actions. Regarding my own work as a video and visual communications professional, I can say that studying in the Master’s degree programme in Media Management at Arcada University of Applied Sciences and working on my master’s thesis has been worthwhile (although sometimes challenging when combined with my very active career). Through studying, I have obtained tools for developing my analytical thinking and improving my ability to justify my position on a subject. It has been good to catch myself actually applying the lessons learned in my working life.
Brubaker, P. & Wilson, C. 2018, Let’s give them something to talk about: Global brands’ use of visual content to drive engagement and build relationships, Public Relations Review 44 (2018) 342–352
Khan, M.L. 2016, Social media engagement: What motivates user participation and consumption on YouTube? Computers in Human Behavior 66 (2017) 236-247
Kim, Jin, 2012, The institutionalization of YouTube: From user-generated content to professionally generated content, Media, Culture & Society 34(1) 53–67
Paek, H., Hove, T., Jeong, H. & Kim, M 2011, Peer or expert? The persuasive impact of YouTube public service announcement producers, International Journal of Advertising, 30(1), pp. 161–188
The full thesis may be downloaded from Theseus.fi (External link) from June 2019.
Are you looking for tools to manage the rapidly changing media industry? Or do you find yourself in the media industry struggling to see the bigger picture? Learn more about our MA in Media Management here: https://www.arcada.fi/en/master/media-management (External link)