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.
For this guest blog I asked Dick Jones of Dick Jones Communications for his thoughts on newspapers as the agenda setters and who sets the agenda as they continue to lose circulation. Here’s Dick’s response:
While most people no longer get their news directly from newspapers, the papers retain an important role as the agenda setters of the news. That’s why it’s still essential for college and university publicists to get their stories into the newspapers.
At the local level, your TV assignment editors are taking many of their cues for the day’s news coverage from the stories in the morning newspaper—at least the stories that they think have some “visual” potential. The stories that do not have video appeal turn up in text on the station’s website. Zoning ordinance changes make bad television.
Too few local radio stations retain independent news operations anymore. Where local radio news still exists they are reading wire stories (many of which were re-written from newspapers) and cribbing shamelessly from the local newspaper for others. Sometimes this is done with attribution. Not always.
Bloggers commenting on the foibles of the school board may have attended last night’s board meeting. More likely, however, they read about it in the morning newspaper. Or if they are commenting on a national issue, such as the relief efforts in the China earthquake, they got their info from a Google search which turned up a host of stories from newspapers and wire services.
It’s not much different at the national level. The producers of the network television and cable news programs are scanning their agenda-setting newspapers for story ideas. These include The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and USA TODAY.
More often than I can count in my career, a big broadcast score has resulted after the story was covered by a national agenda-setting newspaper or a major wire service. One of the more recent examples is a professor who wrote an op/ed for The Chicago Tribune about Presidents Day in February. After it appeared he was interviewed on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation.”
So newspapers still matter even though fewer and fewer people read them. That’s one reason why the collapsing economics of the newspaper business is a concern. If the newspapers go belly up who will be the agenda setters?
Something will fill the vacuum, of course. Something will serve as the agenda setter for the news. Something always has; always will.
As media relations professionals we will have to find whatever it is and successfully pitch them.
Posted in blogging, higher education, marketing, public relations, university, writing
Tagged agenda setters, bloggers, cable news, dick jones communications, network tv news, new york times, newspapers, public relations, publicists, radio, tv assignment editor, usa today, wall street journal, washington post