Category Archives: public relations

In the online world, which function should lead?

Is public relations about controlling the conversation, and therefore antithetical to social media, or does PR play an important role in shaping brand message? Not surprisingly, the panelists for the “Facebook for Public Relations,” weren’t in alignment. Some were associated with online marketing companies while others represented PR companies. A woman in the audience from Fleischman heatedly told the panel that PR should lead the parade because PR had been successfully managing content for 65 years. Hoo boy.

From crowd comments, it was pretty clear that PR is not well understood. One guy went so far as to say that his attitude toward PR was “meh” because he got plenty of press releases.

Adele Cehrs of Epic PR Group made one of the better comments by noting that PR can play a critical strategic and tactical role when bad things happen, whether to your company or to a competitor’s. Companies have the potential for thought leadership across channels by paying attention to conversations on and offline.

Why bother with traditional media at all, an audience member asked. “Third party credibility,” Adele suggested. Chris Brubaker of Roost noted that traditional media may have a more immediate and material impact on sales than social networks.

“PR has a certain smell to it,” one person said. Sally Falkow of PRESSFeed acknowledged that there is good PR and bad PR. People expect 2 way channels with real people, not with the PR people. Authenticity is critical. That means admitting if there’s a problem with your product or service.

Cultivating relationships with journalists and bloggers, in advance of need, is a precondition for effective PR. That requires not only knowing who they are, being familiar with what they write about, and being helpful. Sally noted that many journalists actually post about what they’re researching.

The speakers mentioned several tools for finding bloggers and writers who have an interest – and following – for a particular topic for example, Socialmention and tracker.

Is this the end of PR, the moderator asked, or at least the name of the function? A journalist commented that he didn’t want to be bulldozed; he would write what he wanted and, good or bad, it would be better than a news release.

“The Internet is another medium. We have to learn how to deal with it,” concluded Sally.

As a former senior marketer, strategy officer and senior leader in a national PR firm (three different hats, three different companies), I found the whole session SCARY.

(live from All Facebook Expo from my iPad with apologies for errors)

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The new PR for non-profits: an emerging model

What will PR look like when it emerges?

Yesterday I posted about changes in the media landscape and suggested that PR is still a viable and important activity for non-profits wishing to build their image and reputation… but it is not PR as we’ve loved and known it.  Taking a page from the strategic planning toolkit, I thought it might be useful to contrast features of traditional PR with emerging PR approaches with a “to” and “from” chart.  Caution:  I may revert to using the phrase “paradigm shift” again (JK)!  And forgive me for not creating and embedding a Powerpoint slide (I tend to agree with an quote from an Atlantic Monthly article, “Before there was Powerpoint, there were conversations).

The “to/from” chart below isn’t meant to be definitive.  It’s intended to provoke your thinking about your choice of tactics, what skills you hire for, and how you measure progress and success.

FROM — > — > TO

PR pros’ value based on: reporter relationships — >knowledge of channels for distributing messages

A big win with the boss would look like:  positive newspaper feature — > audience exposure across traditional and online channels, comments, sharing, response

Communication direction:  mostly one-way — >two-way (not broadcasting, but conversing)

Channel size:  big audience conduits  — > communicating to smaller audiences, even individuals

Message control:  controlling the message  — > adapting the message, sometimes watching the adaptation

Approvals:  clear top-down sign offs  — > more flexible guidelines and autonomy

Spokespersons:  clear, controlled messengers  — > collaboration with constituents who have relationships

Materials:  one statement or release  — > story adapted and pushed across many channels

Medium:  written (narrative)  — > shorter texts, even fragments; video, photos

So, PR and non-profit friends, what do you think?  How will PR need to evolve?  Throw in some attributes of your own!

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More about changes in the media landscape, from Pew

Post-before-last, I took stock of changes in the local media landscape over the past year and made some observations about what those changes mean for nonprofits that must vie to build awareness of their missions.

This week, the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism, one of seven initiatives of the Pew Research Center, produced its sixth annual report on the State of the News Media and it’s a must-read.  The business model for news gathering and reporting continues to founder, leading to what the report calls “chilling” numbers for newspapers, local TV and the ethnic press.

On the other hand, the stampede to online sources means that audiences now consume news in new ways, leading the report to observe, “They hunt and gather what they want when they want it, use search to comb among destinations and share what they find through a growing network of social media.”  Alternative news sites also continue to grow (although many have a beat that focuses on government and politics, with limited interest in nonprofits per se).

Two special reports that were included in this year’s Pew analysis may be of particular value to nonprofits:

Based on the study and my own local observations, I’m sticking with my opinion that is is difficult but not impossible to employ public relations techniques to build awareness of nonprofits in this post-apocalyptic news media period.  The trick is that they’re not the same old public relations techniques.  Maybe I’ll post more about that tomorrow!

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One year later: media changes and what it means for non-profit PR

Jordan Blair, Board member, has helped develop RCFB's social media capability

Last year, I wrote a series of posts on the good, the bad and the ugly, referring to the virtual collapse of the news industry and what it means for non-profits that rely on “earned” media for exposure.  As I reflect on the success of yesterday’s Empty Bowls event benefiting River City Food Bank here in Sacramento, I thought I’d pass along some observations about what worked and why.

But first, some trend info.  Two months ago, Vocus*, a program that integrates news monitoring, media targeting/list management and other tools, released a free analysis called “State of the Media.”  A few highlights:

  • 230 newspaper weeklies shut down in 2009 along with 14 dailies
  • TV stations that didn’t close sought ways to cut costs.  They began sharing news footage and cut to skeleton crews.  To retain viewers and fill content holes, Vocus media analysts suggest that stations will gravitate toward a less news-based format
  • Radio stations’ advertising revenue has fallen short, causing stations to reduce local programming and rely more on syndicated shows.  On the other hand, streaming has grown by leaps and bounds.
  • Newspaper, magazines, TV and radio began integrating with social media.  Hard to find a reporter who’s not blogging, tweeting or on Facebook.
  • Online, locally focused news media will continue to crop up – some as non-profit journalism projects like the Bay Area News Project (just launching) or citizen journalism sites like sacramentopress.com.

Despite all of the gloomy news, Empty Bowls continues to gain momentum in terms of news coverage and participation.  Mind you, this isn’t a giant fundraiser backed by a non-profit that’s a household name here.  This is a scrappy fundraiser organized by a scrappy organization.  This year the event expanded and attracted an estimated 1,100 participants and raised $80,000.

Here’s the approach that Susan Bitar, PR chair, Jordan Blair, Board member in charge of PR, and 3Fold Communications (with a little help from yours truly) took, with good success:

  1. The organization made good use of its website, e-newsletter and its network of friends.  E-newsletters about the event achieved open rates ranging from 35-38%, with up to 40% clicking through to the website to do something (like buy tickets).  45% of attendees were first timers, and many said they heard about it from friends, the website and the e-newsletter. By the way, draft email messages were shared with the Board and committee and they were encouraged to send them to their friends.
  2. Most of the PR resources were focused on an event created for purposes of pre-publicity.  The Vocus report notes:  …”you need to be willing to bend over backward to accommodate (journalists) so they can easily meet their constantly impending deadline.”  No kidding.  We were able to get high school students to show up for media activity at 6 a.m..  One got up at 3 a.m. to do homework and get to the school in plenty of time.  (Wow, WAY different than my high school aged son!)  Around here, local news happens early.
  3. 3Fold arranged a collaboration with Yelp, which distributes an e-newsletter to more than 38,000 locals in the area.  Yelp deemed the event a sponsor (and gave it nice positioning in its newsletter) in exchange for placing Yelp logos on the website and writing about it in the e-newsletter.  3Fold also created an event in Yelp, which brought in at least two new people who heard about it that way (according to comment cards collected at the event).  Two attendees wrote glowing reviews about the event on Yelp.  And, of course, Yelp is regularly crawled by Google and Bing – so that content may end up going far afield as people search for related information.
  4. News articles were provided to organizations that are involved in some way with the event, from churches to schools.  Many people also noted that they heard about the event through their child’s school or through their church.
  5. Local celebs were invited to participate.  Not only did KCRA’s Edie Lambert delight the crowd, she brought a news camera and talked about her participation on several news cast.  But you might not have caught this:  she also did a “raw” video that was posted on the website, a wonderfully compelling testimonial.  http://www.kcra.com/video/22789636/index.html.
  6. Of course, the event was pushed through Facebook.  Photos of the event were posted immediately, along with two rough videos taken on an HD Flip Video.  (The fan page administrator just uploads into the “video” tab on the fan page site, and then clicks “share.”)
  7. The event did the basics, too, calendar listings (three months in advance), media advisories, fact sheets, specialized pitches, and so on.

As Vocus acknowledges, it’s harder to develop trusted relationships with reporters.  There are too few of them, and they’re trying to cover too many bases given the news organizations’ limited staffing.  On the other hand, it’s easier than ever to become a “content pusher.”  Find the local outlets like sacramentopress.com.  Release information so it gets picked up by search engines and regional online publications.  Feed video and photos throughout social media.

It takes a lot of leg work, but it can produce results!

*I’m not sure I trust any company that uses “leverage” and “ubiquity” in one sentence, but that’s just me (small jest there)… but here’s a little more about what Vocus says it does (for a price, of course):  “provides the ability to leverage the ubiquity of the internet to interact with the media, publish their news online where it can be found by millions, monitor news and social media conversations from virtually any source and track their results to compare them with key competitors.”

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What to do when the news media doesn’t show

Sometimes you feel like Cinderella all dressed up for the ball, without the fairy godmother and carriage.  Promoting events for non-profits can feel like that, especially as reporters become an endangered species.  All it takes is a little rain or snow around these parts to send the few reporters and cameras scurrying everywhere but to your carefully orchestrated event.

What’s a nice non-profit to do?  Make the best of a disappointing situation.

Aggressively jump on every social media outlet you can think of, and give your followers the tools to tell their friends.

Case in point this morning:  a wonderful group of students came in at an hour when most of their peers were still in dreamland to finish up some bowls they were donating for the March 8 & 9th Empty Bowls event, which benefits River City Food Bank.  Heavy snow and rain sent reporters and cameras scrambling up to the snow or over to car crashes.  It was pretty lonely at Vista del Lago High School in Folsom.

Though it’s no substitute for mass media, here’s what we did.  (And I was kicking myself later for not bringing my high def Flip video, since a number of the news stations accept and post user-generated videos.)

1.  We quickly posted, captioned and tagged photos on the agency’s flickr account.

2.  Uploaded photos to RCFB’s Facebook fan page and encouraged fans/friends to tag themselves so that the photos get out to an even wider distribution, quickly.

3.  Posted Facebook status updates with links to photos.

4.  Published an article and photo on sacramentopress.com (you can check it out here at http://www.sacramentopress.com/headline/22532/Vista_del_Lago_students_bowl_against_hunger).  I talked about Sacramentopress.com last June, which seems thus far to be leading the race among various “citizen journalist” outlets.

5.  Posted photos an a brief description on the leading television news’ station’s “u local” social media component.  News stations’ website search engines are getting better and better, and my hope is that this story becomes “findable” when people look for related information in the future.  (Also posted photos on another news’ station’s “member” social media feature, but I can’t figure out how people would ever retrieve the information.)

So, it ain’t over when the news fairy fails to wave her magic wand in your direction.  Do-it-yourself distribution is never easy, but we have more tools than ever before to communicate with our networks of friends… and their networks of friends… and their network of friends…

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Hot post: 5 questions, 5 answers, from Sacramento Press

I’m a little bit embarrassed about this, but I actually had a nice email exchange with Ben Ilfeld of sacramentopress.com back in late April… and in an inbox cleaning frenzy, I apparently lost it.  Ben very politely reforwarded it to me.  There’s some good stuff in here so this is my last “philanthrophile” act before I pack for vacation.  Here are the answers Ben posed to my questions:

1. When did Sacramento Press start up?
  • Geoff Samek and I had the idea to start a local newspaper with an online component in 2003.
  • We decided on enabling citizen journalism as the dominant part of the model in 2003-2004.
  • We started our company in 2005. We hired full time developers in 2007.
  • We launched a small private beta in late 2008.
  • In November 2008 we began to market The Sacramento Press.
  • At the end of January we began to sell ads.
2. How is Sacramento Press funded?
We are funded by ad revenue and our own investment. Geoff and I have invested our own money. We have not taken any outside investment or loans and we do not plan to.  We have been selling advertisements for just over two months and business has been brisk.  We have about 20 campaigns running on the site right now.
We see ourselves diversifying our revenue model as time goes on and the needs of our customers change.  I would be happy to talk with you or anyone else about our plans and theories about the future business models for local media.
3. Does Sacramento Press have a focus?
Our focus is hyper local to regional news and information in Sacramento. In fact our mission statement is:

The Sacramento Press will be the most useful, comprehensive local news and information source for the Sacramento MSA.

We believe that neighborhood level news is important and that for various reasons it is not regularly reported. We started The Sacramento Press because we wanted to fill in those cracks in the media landscape. Of course, during development of our site the problem has gotten significantly worse and we will attempt to grow into a larger role providing city and regional news as other organizations cut back their coverage of critical issues.
4. How is Sacramento Press better than outside.in?
There are lots of ways, but I will stick with two: we are local and we are a content creator more than an aggregator.
If you want to do local, be local. Trust me this works. Our ads are all local, our content is all local and the people on the site are the same people you run into on the street. Our advertisers and readers appreciate this. We meet people face to face and ride bikes labeled with “sacpress.com” all around town. We attend key events and we speak with local stakeholders.
The job of getting everyday people to write is tough. Getting people to commit acts of journalism is tougher. We offer face to face support, copy editing and regular workshops on journalism, ethics, interviewing skills, social media and the tools on our site. We have a full time employee dedicated to journalism support and part of my role is “recruitment manager.” This is hard work and it can only be done living in the community.
This brings me to the second major difference. We felt there was not enough local reporting, so simply aggregating the other reporting wasn’t going to solve the problem. We wanted to enable people to report what they knew was going on in their neighborhoods. We have since expanded and we do have a mix of staff writing, interns, public information officers, and mostly volunteer citizen journalists (I hate that term, but you know what I mean by it). The goal is to tell stories and have conversations. Nationwide operations like outside.in have their place as wonderful aggregators, but they do not seek to report stories and this is reflected in the lack of discussions on their site as well (at least for Sacramento).
5. What is the best way to contribute?
 
The best way to contribute is to sign up (button above the masthead) then start writing (“write” button above the masthead.  We only allow local content about Sacramento on our site and we ask our writers to be transparent about who they are and who they represent.
(Apologies for formatting glitches; that happens when you paste text from another program into wordpress – the codes lurk and it doesn’t necessarily publish like it looks in preview!)

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Will sacramentopress.com be the hyper-local media of my dreams?

sacramentopress.com's home page

sacramentopress.com's home page

As someone who supports organizations that are struggling to raise awareness of their worthy missions, the strangulation of local traditional media is my personal nightmare.  It’s still possible to reach people who may be interested, but through channels with much narrower audiences.  In my last posts, I’ve explored several new channels that are trying to win a position as the “go to” source for very local news.  Thus far, I haven’t been too impressed.

I’m probably most intrigued by sacramentopress.com, an online newspaper that aims to be the most comprehensive local news source about the Sacramento Metro area.  I learned about them in late April through a Google Alert.  While there’s no Pulitzer material here, the news channel is building its content and some of the writing is surprisingly good, considering that the “paper” says that it has no full-time writing staff (or had – I’m going by what it said on its website).  It has an editor in chief, (Geoff Samek), managing editor (David Watts Barton), a staff writer who covers the politics beat (Kathleen Haley) and an editorial apprentice (Jonathan Mendick).  And just last month, it hired journalist Suzanne Hurt.  Oh, and at least two interns!

Perhaps the coolest thing about sacramentopress is its openness — even dependence — on volunteer contributors.  In March, “Stina” asked, “Can we submit a story idea?”  Ben Ilfeld, the Chief Operating Officer, explained that anyone can contribute by registering (click “sign up”) and then submitting (click “write”).  Stina also wanted to know if there is a section for posting volunteer opportunities.  Ben responded that people can submit announcements and stories and then tag them as “volunteer opportunities.” 

From a non-profit’s perspective, some of sacramentopress.com’s contributors seem to be interested in local causes, and that’s good news. Tina Armour’s last two pieces have been about local non-profits, the Sacramento Celebrity Chef Challenge benefiting InAlliance, and the Sacramento SPCA.  As I write this, she says she’s working on uploading a new article on the HIV/AIDS rally today.  She says she’s always interested in story ideas.  [True to her deadline, Tina posted her article and it’s the front page feature this morning… a lot more interesting than yesterday’s building demolition piece…]

Kati Garner is another community contributor who writes about community happenings and has written recently about services for Sacramento’s homeless population.

I don’t know how many volunteer contributors there are, because there’s no centralized list.  But when you see an article that interests you, click on the story author and you’ll be taken to their profile page.  Besides the profile information they’ve chosen to list (sometimes very cryptic, as in occupation:  “n/a”), you’ll see a thumbnail of their most recent stories and comments.  I also like the inclusion of their personalized tag cloud.

Community involvement is one of the things that makes Sacramento special.  I hope that sacramentopress.com continues to follow local non-profits and causes — and gains a loyal following for doing so.

As a source, they don’t yet have the credibility of a fact-checked newspaper, although they say that they are now doing some fact-checking of stories submitted by community contributors.  Because profile information is so cryptic, we don’t know if these volunteer writers have a vested interest in the organizations they write about.  But I’m still thrilled to see sacramentopress.com in the local media mix, and picking up steam.  I’ll sleep easier.

By the way, you can follow sacramentopress.com on Twitter (@sacramentopress – with about 2,500 followers and people they’re following).  They post most of their headlines so you can easily dip into your tweet stream and pull out something they posted.  (see ya there – @philanthrophile)

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On the hunt for hyper-local online news outlets (and content generators)

Last month in my March 15 and 17th posts, I put some thought into the collapse of traditional news media and what it means for organizations that still need to spread the word about their causes.  I said it would become more important to find purveyors of local news — some of whom would be connected individuals who blog and twitter, and some of which would be online news-gathering/reporting sites that purport to focus on communities and neighborhoods.  In my last blog post, I reported on outside.in and concluded that it just isn’t there yet as a source of local news.

As for the present state, I couldn’t agree more with the conclusions of Esther Thorson and Margaret Duffy of the Missouri School of Journalism, who recently reported their research finding that “despite ongoing reports of financial troubles and cutbacks, legacy media are more comprehensive and more technologically advanced than citizen media and bloggers.”  Duffy, faculty chair in strategic communications of the Journalism School, noted that “topic coverage on blogs and citizen new sites is generally narrow and the sourcing is light.”

I am, however, hopeful, that local alternatives will emerge to shore up shrinking traditional news resources.  Here is my progress report on two sites that are trying to become portals for local news (“hyper-local”) created by locals (“user generated content”):

Newsvine.com says it is “updated continuously by citizens like you…an instant reflection of what the world is talking about at any given moment.”  Newsvine consists of links to articles “seeded” by individuals in the community.  Here in Sacramento, those stories come primarily from the Sacramento Bee and Associated Press.  Only one of the “top seeds” comes from a blog, one devoted to music, Two Songbirds Press.  The columnists are a little more interesting – although not necessarily in a good way.  Here’s a verbatim excerpt from Ms. V’s column (she writes with that alias and no photo thumbnail), writing about “Working Under CPS Rules“:

I am a licsenced home daycare provider iam writing the article so the outside could look in.
I’ve been licencsed since 2006. During that time until now i’ve been lie to lied on ducoments have been falsefied to cover others behind.

(Another aside:  I actually stumbled across Newsvine by noticing the widget on Sutter Medical Center’s website (www.checksutterfirst.org).  I find it curious that Sutter picked this site – even more curious that they posted a widget for reddit.com, which is outright foul about half the time.)

Patch.com, in beta testing, is a platform that can be used to create “comprehensive and trusted local coverage for towns and communities.”  I heard Jon Brod, their CEO and founder, on NPR.  It’s promising – but it’s not here in Sacramento yet.  I do like what they’re doing in towns like Maplewood, but I really, really hope they include more info about opportunities to get involved in local non-profit causes! (“Volunteer” and “Essential Maplewood” might include these opportunities but I’m not sure these category labels would jump off the page for someone who is enthusiastic about making a difference locally; instead they may turn to portals like volunteermatch.org, or charity navigator.)

Until better local portals develop, my strategy is to actively scan for locals who use social media to comment on opportunities to get involved or support causes.  I’d love to find some who are gathering a following.  To find them, I’m using:

Twitter, which has a search function that allows you to identify Twitterers who say they Twitter about where you live.

WordPress‘ tag surfing function, which can deliver blog posts where Sacramento has been tagged.

Got great local sources re: Sacramento?  Philanthrophile wants to know!

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Oh, gag. Will celebrity endorsements really become vital to non-profits

In a recent blog post, I mused about the radical changes in news media (and budgets) and suggested potential strategies for non-profits who want to raise awareness of their cause or organization.  My beloved former colleague, James Jennings, now evp of Communications Pacific in Hawaii, the number one PR firm in the islands, sent this comment along via email based in part on his perspective about the success of Brad Pitt’s recent promotion on behalf of The Make It Right Project in New Orleans:

I wonder what all this shifting will do to the power of celebrity endorsement or advocacy.  With all the broadcast news outlets fighting for a new nugget of a story every waking hour, will it mean celebrities will become more important. 

For local non-profits, this development would certainly fall into an Eeyore* scenario.  I hope it doesn’t come to pass, as it will be very hard for locally-focused organizations to compete on that basis.

*Eeyore was known to say (rather ironically, with his characterically down-beat voice), “If I didn’t have high hopes, I’d be depressed all the time.

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The “good”: 5 emerging opportunities for non-profits from changes in mass media

My last post appealed to the Eeyore in you.  This one appeals to your inner Tigger.  (I can’t write that without hearing Tigger’s voice:  “T-I-DOUBLE GUH-ER”)

Unfortunately, it’s hard not to imagine the continued collapse of traditional newspapers  (read the Bee’s lament, here – which, tellingly, was a reprint from another publication).  As Sandy (she with the fresh new media graduate degree) pointed out, “The real estate and automotive industries have basically been the only thing supporting the ‘meatspace’ newspapers but as money gets tighter in those industries they also have been moving pretty quickly to the online environment.”

So here’s what I would consider a “good” scenario for news distribution.  And why do I consider it optimistic?  Because change shakes up the hierarchy.  Organizations that don’t “get it” will lose ground with their intended audiences, and organizations – even small ones – will gain ground if they are fast-moving and seize upon emerging opportunities.

  • Some newspapers will be left standing but they will become regionals or nationals.  The New York Times is certain to be among them.  With a strong national content delivered both print and online, these stalwarts will be positioned to expand online into large metro markets, a la   www.chicago.nytimes.com.  (Don’t try to follow that if it appears as a link – I’m hypothesizing!)
  • Likewise, there will be at least one strong news-oriented radio station and relatively strong TV news program.  (The economics of radio are more favorable for radio than TV, but I expect at least one TV news program to survive.)
  • The Jon Stewartization of news will continue, merging somewhere along the way with personality-based radio shows.   Just imagine the opportunities associated with juxtaposing info about your favorite cause alongside the banter of morning radio anchors,  such as Mark and Mercedes’ recent discussion about what proportion of people will pee in the shower or use the “farmer’s hankie” (100.5 The Zone, here in Sacramento).
  • On television, look for a similar “View-ization” or “Oprah-ization” of local, personality-based shows that incorporate current issues and events.  In Sacramento, Good Day Sacramento probably is the furthest along in this direction.
  • News outlets are all aggressively trying to incorporate the other mediums for communications, and to prompt dialogue.  The Sacramento Bee now has a small battalion of bloggers that they’ve recruited to blog about everything from sports to technology to non-profits.  (Watch for United Way’s Gabrielle Stephenson’s posts.)  “The Swarm” blog is aimed at letting you “mix it up” with The Bee’s editorial board although it sure looks like more telling than listening to me.   The Bee’s Forum has an online component where the editor moderates discussion each week. CNN is turning the we’ll-tell-you-what-we-think-and-you-comment model on its head with ireport.  CNN is using a website and a Facebook page as a way of collecting ideas for stories directly from the audience and then turning it into a news report.  While the show is on the air, they show comments coming in from these live sources as they speak.  The proverbial tail wags the dog.
  • People who really need to understand something deeply will find good sources.  They’ll find bloggers or publications (online or offline) that they trust.  Or hire consultants to acquire and consolidate good information as a time-saver.  Most likely, they’ll pay — or at least pay more — for the access.
  • They’ll also find sources that cater to their specific interests.  They might subscribe to an online political publication, a car e-newsletter and a local restaurant review blog.  (And they’ll miss the convenient good-old days when they could get most of that in the local paper.)
  • They’ll also turn to people that they trust.  Opinion-leaders will be the people with lots of followers on Twitter, large numbers of readers to their blogs, and so on.  Sure, they’ll be the standard cadre of grass-tops (people who know people in office) but we’ll also be looking for people who just seem to know what the heck is going on with respect to social and demographic trends, technology, the economy, politics and so on.

And I’ll throw in some related trends that may smerge with these media developments:

  • Search(a la Google) will continue to be massively important because people will have to seek and find information.
  • As people get back to basics in a down economy, they will continue to try to support the things they already care about — education, for example.  They may try to give more to offset those who are giving less, or they may volunteer more to make up for what they cannot give.
  • After years of “thinking globally” messages, a “hyper local” trend will emerge.  More than local-vores or buying local, this will be an upsurge in concern about one’s own community as economic threats to local communities become more evident.  One doesn’t need Oprah to notice the shuttered storefronts.
  • The use of “readers” and personalized home pageswill grow.  If you can’t get the information you care about in one convenient cover, or through one news outlet, you’re going to have to find multiple worthwhile sources.  But managing them through your email inbox will quickly become untenable.  Imagine a home page with blocks you create where you can see the headlines from all of the sources you care about.  You’d read it in the morning, like a Kindle, but with customized content.  (And, PS, you’ll be able to use your Kindle or your iphone if you don’t want to sit at your computer screen.)

Here are some strategies that a non-profit might pursue in this new post-newspaper world.  But before I do that, refresh your memory with the list of strategies in the “bad/ugly” scenario post (you should see a line at the top of this post with yesterday’s title and an arrow point to the left).  THOSE STRATEGIES ALL APPLY HERE, TOO.  And here’s that tip again:  you can’t do all of these; choose those you think could differentiate your organization and would deliver the greatest impact for the least amount of time and money.

  1. Ugh.  (I recoil a bit at this one.)  Start thinking of news-light ways to get your message across.   If you want to reach a younger demographic, how can you create an activity that is quirky, fun or just plain silly enough to warrant people posting about it on their Facebook wall or talking about it on The Zone during the morning hours?  Almost every single news outlet right now is actively looking for “silver lining” or inspirational stories to offset the doom-and-gloom stories that are making their audience tune out.
  2. So the news media wants to start a conversation with us.  Be prepared with spokespersons – some staff, some volunteer – who are familiar with your message and facile in particular formats.  Have your “fun, hip” spokesperson ready for news-light TV and radio.  Have an expert ready for more serious news features.  Have a Spanish-speaking spokesperson prepped for Univision.  Have a left-leaner and a right-leaner (looks like some of those who have given up on newspapers felt they weren’t balanced and were too liberal.)  Have someone else who’s a whiz with blogging tracking and jumping in on news websites (and have them do it often).  Seems to me it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to find one or even two spokespersons that are attractive to, and good at, the full range of formats from radio to TV to print and online.
  3. Anticipate that more unauthenticated negative comments will be made about your cause or organization and ramp up your organizational listening.  More self-published reporters mean fewer editors – editors who used to insist on fact-checking.  Come to an internal point of view about when you will correct the record and when you will simply count on short attention spans and let stuff slide (for example, when you are dealing with a blogger who likes to rant – or Rush Limbaugh).
  4. Make your website more of a destination – which means enhancing content.  If you’re a food closet, for example, can your website become a credible source of information about hunger in general?  If you’re United Way, how can you showcase the many causes and organizations in a local community?   Can you recruit citizen journalists to help you develop a stronger voice for a particular group or cause?  Or maybe pay some of those unemployed journalists as freelancers?
  5. Start thinking about who the new local opinion leaders may be, and cultivate a relationship with them (ideally:  a face-to-face one).  Whose emails are often forwarded to you?  Who gets quoted in conversations?  How can you make them knowledgeable about your cause or organization?  (PS one of the best approaches is to ask for their input or feedback.)

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