There’s Still An (Important) Audience for Print Media

I had a good reminder today about audiences and media. Before our bimonthly trustees meeting ,a trustee came over and said his subcommittee had talked about how we needed more publicity to acknowledge the fact that our chorus and jazz vocal group had earned two gold medals and a gold diploma at a recent competition in Austria.
It was, indeed, a huge accomplishment. They were competing against more than 400 groups from 93 countries. Nearly 20,000 singers were involved. Earning one gold is a huge accomplishment. Winning two is nearly unheard of. Taking an additional gold diploma was beyond even the directors’ wildest dreams.
The conversation with the trustee was amiable and I told him I agreed with him,
But it wasn’t over, as I was to find out after the meeting.
We had gotten a fair amount of print coverage, as well as headlining it on our news site and publicizing the blog that one of the choir students posted while over there. We’re also making it the cover story of our alumni magazine summer issue.
After the meeting two more trustees came over with their concern that we find more ways to publicize — in the print media — the victory.
One trustee had a contact at his city’s newspaper. Another trustee suggested hometown releases. I emphasize that it was a friendly but earnest discussion. Our trustees understand alumni and constituent relations. They know the important of PR in recruiting. They care about higher education and they care about our university or they wouldn’t give up evenings and afternoons studying reports and attending meetings.
Our trustees are successful professionals — judges, bankers, teachers, retired CEO’s, and doctors.
And they read the newspaper to get their news.
On my walk back to my office, I was having the same thoughts I had 25 years ago. How can we do more hometown releases?
It’s this steady tension between the traditional and the progressive that is fraying the nerves of PR folks across the country.
Newspapers continue their steady decline and I continue to give presentations about how communication is changing and moving with avalanche force to the Internet,
The bottom line is that print still has an audience.
In this case, it’s a very important one.

I’d be interested to hear the experiences of others in the higher ed field.


8 responses to “There’s Still An (Important) Audience for Print Media

  1. I actually think you said it best already. The usefulness of the medium depends on the audience.

    Certainly, print has its place, but with a certain audience. Whether that audience is based on age, geography, or other demographic, the selection of the medium, and to greater granularity, the publication, will be dependent on who you are trying to reach.

    Newspapers may be fine to reach judges and lawyers, but if the purpose of this particular message is to influence 16 and 17 year olds that your school is “the place to be” then certainly the newspaper is not “the place to be”.

    Noel Levitz reported, I think last year, that students 57% of students wanted to see information on websites rather than brochures. So, finding the ‘right’ publication tool is certainly a challenge…especially if targeting a generation that prefers information in 20 words or less on their iPhone!

  2. Dennis, I found your post fascinating; and not too surprising, given the ages of the typical trustee. But in this discussion about getting info from websites or newspapers, am I missing something? Don’t most newspapers also post their stories on their websites? Is it really the either/or choice that it sometimes seems?

  3. That’s a good point, Dick. But I think where most of us now get our news from various sites, I’m guessing the audience I’m talking about still gets their news from traditional print. Just as importantly, I don’t think news on the Web carries the same weight for this audience that traditional print does. If they read it in the newspaper and see it on a website, the newspaper article is more valuable.
    I’m guessing about all this but to be the subject of a subcommittee meeting and to have three trustees discuss it with me was a loud and clear signal that newspapers are important to them. In fact, I could find no signs of ambiguity.

  4. I often have these same thoughts when it comes to parents in the admissions process as well. Some times the print is not for the child but rather for the parent.

    Nice post.

  5. Hi Dennis…even though I’m a Web geek, I agree that print media are extremely important in swaying an influential group of constituents. So I look at how we can reach and influence the print media via the Web. The reality is that newspapers need online content, so one effort we developed was creating video content specifically for newspaper websites. Via this avenue, we were able to get our content online and simultaneously build stronger relationships with editors who desperately needed good content on their sites. We were building trust and partnership with editors in hopes that they’ll remember this when writing editorial columns read by the people we hope to influence.

  6. Excellent idea, Dave. Could you send me a couple links so I could see what you’re doing?
    Yes, you’re right about them needing content. At a conference last year, an editor at the Pittsburgh Post said exactly that. They’re desperate for online content. Thanks for your helpful response.

  7. Some very good points, thanks for posting! In my experiences international students were much more interested in viewing print pieces versus the online world. The reason being is that in some countries access to internet is scarce, expensive, and sometimes non-existent.

    for more info, please see my blog at!

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