Category Archives: newspapers

Huge Shift in PR Speed, Responsibility & Accountability

In the previous post, I outlined our strategy for the president’s announcement about possible changes on campus.

Shortly after our announcement, a faculty member friend expressed concern about announcing the news on social media, feeling that the news was detrimental to the university.  She appreciated the administration’s transparency but felt we should be more cautious in what we “share with the outside world.”

Her concern is  legitimate.  In the mad rush of last minute rewrites to hit a 10 a.m. deadline we inadvertently posted the president’s letter to the campus community on our News site  instead of  the news release.  But the release exactly reflected the letter.  The information was the same.  But there was, to some,  the perception of sharing inside information.

I told my colleague  that in today’s  social media driven world, as soon as someone says something, whether it’s true or false,  it becomes public. People share and comment on it, spreading it whether it’s true or false.

As a PR department, we do have a need to be truthful, accountable and swift.

So it’s crucial to get the the institutional announcement out as quickly as possible.  In doing this, we own the news on this matter; we are the originators.

This was reinforced  when a reporter with a local daily tweeted our news with a link to our announcement.   The reporter had to do no work at all.  This is an ongoing, major  shift in journalism.

Gone is the the buffer of “according to PR spokesperson. . . .”  The reporter simply links our story — the source.

We are no longer PR Departments .  We are multimedia production agencies, creating news stories and distributing them to the understaffed journalism profession quickly and truthfully.

This is a huge responsibility.

More on this in the next post.

If you missed my previous post, check it out to see how we successfully minimized the sting of our announcement about possible campus changes.

Timeless PR Advice From Media Guru Dick Jones

Note:  Dick Jones is one of the most experienced experts in the higher ed communication world.  He’s also a friend and colleague who’s helped Mansfield University land stories and features in everything from The Chronicle of Higher Ed, The New York Times and USA Today to numerous AP stories and a couple prime spots on NPR. So when he sends a missive to his clients, I pay attention.  I also asked him if I could use his letter as a guest blog post.

Here it is.

It’s time to oversimplify; to be glib and shallow. Why, after all, should I be different from anyone else? In national media relations for colleges there are five over-simplistic formulae that guide our work. These are:

Results: good.

Process: bad.

Advice: good.

Qualitative judgments: bad.

Events: maybe, but probably not.

The news media like stories with results. A study published in a journal qualifies. So does a new book, if you discuss the substance of the book and not just the fact that there is a new book. Numbers help. Admission applications are up by X. Deposits are up by Y.

The news media usually yawn at process. The faculty is debating a new core curriculum? Wake me when it’s over. A task force has been appointed? Call me when they have a report. We’ve received an NSF grant. Remind me about it when you’ve completed the research.

The news media like advice from experts. And all faculty and staff are experts in their fields. If they aren’t, why do you allow them to teach and serve students who are paying for the privilege? Take every opportunity to make your institution advice giver to the world.

The news media aren’t interested in qualitative judgments. Your college has a better freshman year experience than your competitors? Maybe so, but your competitors claim otherwise. And the news media have neither the time nor the inclination to dig deeply enough to settle the question. Now if you are the biggest, the smallest, the oldest, the newest—something that can be quantified—that’s different. (Tip: use advice stories to advance qualitative claims. “Here are four things students and parents should look for in a good freshman experience program, says Dean of Students Joe Blow.”)

The news media are less interested in covering or publicizing events than you think. This was always true. Now that there are fewer people in newsrooms it is even truer. Getting coverage for (positive) news events is no slam dunk even if the president and the deans think otherwise. Under exceptions see “football teams—undefeated.”

Armed with these concepts you are now ready to go into any meeting with faculty and administrators and quickly make yourself persona non grata when you spout them. I’m just kidding. Sort of.

Postscript: Social media is maturing quickly and these rules apply to these media as well.

Newspaper Ad Resurgence? Not Likely.

An article in Ad Age says Newspaper Ad Revenue to Recover is yet another article that gave me hope from the headline.

Then I got depressed.  Then angry.
The article starts out, “Sorry, haters of traditional media: Newspapers’ slide is going to end.”
Sorry, Nat Ives, cheap lead.

I don’t hate traditional media. I began my career with the Star Gazette  back in the late 60s  when reporters had strove hard for objectivity in lean, accurate writing.

The Ad Age article looks at a Borrell Associates forecast that says ad revenues will be up 2.4% next year and up to more than 8% by 2014.  In his blog, Gordon Borrell goes into detail and hedges a bit on this forecast.

I buy the hedge.

Newspaper are desperately needed, along with magazines such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Wired, and others.  Listen to just a few episodes of Fresh Air, Terry Gross and Dave Davies rely heavily on reporters from The New Yorker, New York Times, Washington Post and a handful of others.
But to say that ad revenues are going to increase and people are going to start buying newspaper is wishful thinking.  Just keep clicking those ruby slippers.
Massive communication revolution = print  free fall.

Our local paper, The Star Gazette, was the first Gannett Newspaper. Today it’s a skeleton, its muscles ripped away by the corporation.
The folks at the top (print, radio, TV) saw the rise of the Internet and either ignored it, didn’t understand it, or did not find the right way to generate revenue.
They never dreamed  that people would actually choose other ways to get their news and entertainment.

Look, corporations, greater numbers of people are not  reading newspapers. Don’t tell me you’re going to have a smaller, educated audience. That continues to smack of elitism, self-aggrandizement, and, frankly delusion.
I want to say that no one under the age of 40 reads newspapers, but you know what? Fewer and fewer people under the age of 50 are reading newspapers.
Habits are formed in our first 18 years. If teens are not reading newspapers now, they are never going to.
I do see hope for well run local weeklies.  They’ve maintained a sense of community.  They’re the place where you can find wedding announcements, little league pictures and articles about local events and concerns.  Local businesses continue to advertise.

Why do I rant?  Because I’m very divided.  I grew up with newspapers and depended on them.  Now, as a PR person of 30+ years I need to know where my marketing, advertising and PR are most effective.

It’s not in print.

More in the next post.

Marketing in a Post Media World

While I spend my time and research on what’s happening with traditional media and how I can best market our college to our various audiences in the wake of media implosions, here are a few articles that give some insights into the near future of marketing and advertising.

In the April 2 issue of Advertising Age, Steve Rubel interviews Jeff Jarvis on his new book What Would Google Do? While Jarvis mainly talks about the role of ad agencies and PR agencies, the insights for all of us into the direction that marketing and advertising is taking is fascinating.

“Google sells performance instead of scarcity (a lesson the rest of media must learn in this post-scarcity economy),” Jarvis says. ” Because it rewards relevance, it encourages better, more effective advertising.”

While author Bob Garfield’s commentary piece is long, “Chaos Scenario” gives a great overview of the demise of traditional print and broadcast media, as well as the slight decline in value of such online monsters as Yahoo and Facebook.  There are a lot of good –and startling– insights into what’s happening and what’s about to happen.

Meanwhile, if you ever wondered if blogs would really replace newspapers, here may be the answer, or at least the direction.  The Huffington Post says it plans to hire a group of investigative journalists.  Thier first job will be to develop stories about the economy.  It’s not hard to envision thousands of laid off reporters virtually lining up for online journalism jobs that actually pay.  I found this report in Podcasting News.

Finally, Google is using Twitter to sell ads.  After you read that, you can visit writer David Berkowitz’s musings on why  Google should buy Twitter.  Both are in the April 4 issue of Ad Age.

NOTE:  I posted this Sunday, April 5.  On Monday’s  The Times Leader ran a story that CBS affiliate WYOU in Scranton, PA is scrapping its news department, laying of 14 reporters, production and promotion people.

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.