In News Marketing Cont_ _t Matters

May 16

Read the phrase Cont_ _t Matters.  How did you fill in the blanks?  If you’re like most news people, you’ll see the word “Content” because it’s been beaten into your head. And it’s where we’ve strayed as news organizations, because content was always our strong point. We didn’t need to learn something we already knew and something that had long been our unique selling proposition. Content Does Matter. But it’s not all that matters.

Journalists are trained from Day 1 in J-school that content matters. And if journalists weren’t steeped enough in tradition and silo’ed thinking, the onslaught of social media hasn’t helped. The social media drum beat consistently repeats that “content matters.”  It’s an important drum beat for the average blogger, tweeter and poster because, unlike journalists, they tend not to understand content and post everything from spammy sales pitches to this morning’s breakfast menu.

In contrast, news posts on Twitter and Facebook tend to be shortened headlines and more shortened headlines and more shortened headlines. It’s content on steroids. If the goal is to drive freeloading traffic to news websites, they’ve succeeded. But if the goal is to create community, they’ve failed.

Social media is just another marketing channel and as such should be treated with due marketing respect. This means that in addition to content, two other words need to be considered – ConTEXT and ConTACT.  With context, the market wants to know “Why they should care.” And, with contact, they want to know why they should trust you as the source.

This last piece is critical to understanding why the industry has lost credibility. A 2011 Pew study in September 2011 found that “75% of Americans say journalists can’t get their facts straight.” 1 With readers and audiences losing trust in legitimate news sources, it’s hard for marketing folks to put out ads with taglines such as “Your Trusted Source,” or “News You Can Trust” and yet those are the slogans you continue to see around the country.

There are likely many reasons why trust levels are falling, but at least one is the failure to build community, or ConTACT. It’ s the industry’s true weakness.In the desire to be objective, we’ve failed to connect. We appear uncaring and aloof. We judge political stories as more important than high school plays, and good news as less valuable than hard news, an increasingly couched term for news of bad events.

And this is where news marketing plays a key role. Of all departments in a standard news organization, it’s marketing that goes out into the market to participate in events, listen to the voice of the customer, and manage community service programs. Without marketing, Content is not balanced with Contact, and without key touchpoints to keep customers and readers engaged, Content loses Context and Trustworthiness.  It’s no longer coming from a good friend or neighbor.






What Editors Can Learn From Mothers

May 12

It’s Mother’s Day 2013 and as auspicious a day as any to discuss newspapers and News Media Marketing. Why? Because newspapers, sometimes chastised for being old and irrelevant – just as mothers worldwide are chastised by their kids – is truly the mother of all media. Just like mothers worldwide, newspapers continue to serve an important function in helping those they most care about – citizens near and dear frequently called “local” – better understand the world to which they were born, live and must function within.
Unlike mothers – newspapers are not parents and this is likely where (if they’ve gone wrong anywhere) is where they’ve gone wrong. The editing function has been defined as a professional filter where editors pick and choose the stories, their length, and time of arrival. If editors, largely male, were as smart as most mothers, they’d realize:womanreading

  • You have no control over who your baby is or becomes
  • You may have been told a due date, but babes don’t understand deadlines either at birth or anytime thereafter.  Just try getting a kid to any practice on time.
  • You never have your kids attention. Everyone else is always smarter, hipper, more expert, or just more prestigious to be seen with in public.
  • Parental controls don’t work. You can’t edit what people hear and see. You can only hope to stay part of the conversation and add perspective.

If you don’t allow a teen boy to see Penthouse in the house, he’ll most certainly see it outside. Best is if he sees it with a trusted relative or friend who can talk about what is both enticing and degrading about portions of it, and help the boy to verbalize his own feelings about sexuality.It’s not the initial viewing that matters. It’s the ensuring conversation.

Years ago,newspapers were the original social media allowing readers to write in to discuss views and concerns. Unfortunately, some editors along the way, decided it should be a one-way conversation. We print the news. You respond, and we don’t respond back. If others respond back, great, but we won’t comment back even on our own commentary.

Editors love to hang their hats on objectivity. Take another lesson from mothers. Great mothers are never objective.They care too much, have distinct point of view, and are shamelessly prejudiced about their flock. They will fight to the death to protect their own, and work like demons to help them progress. If they chastise and punish, it is generally in private, although a good lesson in public is not out of the question. But, you don’t embarrass in public for embarrassment sake. That only serves to turn family members more inward, and drive them away.

Here’s what every mother wants – families who grow up happy, healthy and successful well into old age. Hopefully mothers get to see their children grow old, and stay around long enough to see the next one or two generations also make an appearance. And, every mother knows sometimes you need the previous generation to help bridge the gaps and fill in because age does bring wisdom and perspective.

As newspapers become the grandmothers of all media, we still have a great function to fulfill. Relevance is not the issue. Communication and caring to be a part of everyone’s lives is what keeps us in the game.

Back to the Facebook

Mar 29

Social media, like Marketing, never lets you rest on your laurels. No matter how expert one may be in a medium or field, changes require constant updating, relearning, and re-honing of skills. And yet, the basics always remain the same. Yes, it’s always Back to the Future, or this week Back to the Facebook.

On Friday, March 30, 2012 Facebook is forceably changing all business sites over to its new format. The change has been a boon for the webinar industry, with every social media consultant offering tutorials on how to switch a site from the old to new format. So for all of us who believed we had mastered Facebook and were on to Pinterest, Tumblr, Wanelo, or Spotify, it was, instead, of week of back to the drawing boards on Facebook.

Back to the drawing boards must be taken literally as a key change in Facebook was the need to create a cover. Yes, all of our mothers advised us not to judge a book by its cover, but our marketing professors taught just the opposite. Packaging, aka covers, is a key marketing component, without which success is less likely in the marketplace of goods, services or ideas.  Consultants were proliferating on how to create a cover that best represents your company when Facebook rules exempt most items a classic marketer would include — namely contact info and Calls to Action.  “The cover photo is the new landing experience,” states the SocialMouths blog.  I think experience is taking it a bit far, as it’s really a pretty picture indicative of our increasingly graphic age where people seem dazzled by image rather than substance.

Speaking of serious marketing – Facebook should, in many cases, be part of the mix, but let’s stay focused on marketing that works. In a recent sales seminar given by Mike Blinder, he unequivocally noted that for most small businesses Facebook is like a billboard in a basement. There’s tons of hype and, therefore, a strong sense that a business owner should somehow be involved in this Facebook thing, but with 25-125 followers, largely of relatives and friends, the marketing potential is limited. Blinder (pronounced Blyn-der), doesn’t wear blinders.  He calls himself a street fighter and is one of the most motivational, clear sales trainers I’ve ever heard.  As a street fighter, he believes in qualifying prospects, having a clear story to tell, doing homework on a client, and closing sales. Anything that helps him do that more successfully is marketing, but his marketing is his story of success. There’s no better kind.

There are exceptions to any rule, and Facebook marketing does have its place for some entrepreneurs– namely realtors.  Many, if not most, are women, who thrive on personal connections and local contacts.  Facebook has evolved from a teenage silo with as many moms and a growing number of grandparents Facebooking to keep up with the kids, if nothing else.  I get personal pleasure on watching my own young adult kids suddenly delving into my professional arenas on Twitter and LInked In.  If you’re talking business to business contacts, these latter two have much more to offer.

So lets Facebook the facts. Facebook was not started to be a marketing tool, but a social interaction tool. If you’re young, single and on the “meat ” market, yes it might help you market yourself.  If you’re a serious, committed entrepreneur or small business owner, it’s really the minor leagues.  The majors are playing in larger arenas, to bigger crowds (called reach), and on a consistent basis (called frequency).  They are packaging themselves as serious players, commanding well-deserved prices, and have followings that many Twitter and Facebook dabblers would crave.  Find them, and watch what they’re doing. They are your true North stars.