Monday, April 6, 2009

Evolving from old media to new media

The folks at Kitchen Sink have been kind enough to let me riff a little bit about the current media and communications environment in Arizona on their blog here. By way of introduction, I'm a public relations and communications professional with more than 14 years in the business, six of which I've owned my own company.

I was working on a political campaign last year -- my first comprehensively statewide effort in a few years -- when I was smacked across the face with a new reality.

There is almost no local media left in Arizona anymore.

We've all read plenty about the struggles of conventional media in the new age, especially those of newspapers, but interacting with the media drove it home in an alarming way. I had a story to tell...there was simply no one in the conventional media to tell it to.

Don't believe me? Guess how many newspapers in Arizona have a dedicated presence at the Arizona capitol? The answer The Arizona Republic, of course. (CORRECTION: I was wrong about this; it was pointed out in comments that the Daily Star has one as well. I had heard that they pulled their presence but was mistaken. Apologies.) The rest of the state relies on two wire services for any capitol news. That means that for any given press release, there were only three beat reporters in the print market to send it to.

What about radio? Well, with the rise of syndicated talk radio shows, there are now only a handful of live, local-issue talk radio programs in the state that air on a regular basis. The two big Phoenix talk stations have a handful of shows each; the Tucson market has a total of two, and there are maybe two or three more statewide. The same holds true for stations that actually do their own news -- almost all the others rely on wire sources.

Television? Good luck. The competition is so cut-throat, and the stations are so short-staffed, that unless you have a truly compelling visual angle or sensational story, it's not going to happen.

So now what?

Good marketers and public relations professionals are increasingly learning how to master new media, including the ever-so-trendy social networking sites and blogs. Any good PR pro's distribution lists now include relevant blog sites that cater to the target audience. In politics, that's easy to find, but for traditional or product marketing it can require some diligent research.

And while everyone seems to have a Facebook or MySpace or Twitter presence these days, the key is to get people to follow you. So there are a few cardinal rules you have to follow:

1) Just building a page doesn't ensure people are going to see it.

2) In order to keep people interested, you have to continually feed the content beast. And don't make it dull, or people are going to drop you.

3) Have an endgame in mind. "Increasing awareness" is not it. Social networking programs work best when they "drive" the user somewhere, such as to your organizational/product web site. Once there, you have an opportunity to make sales pitches, capture data, or interact with the consumer in other ways. If you don't do that, the effort is pointless.

Even in the new age of media, there is no magic bullet -- although if you have the budget, Facebook and MySpace's advertising programs allow you to target your audiences extensively. It's still a mixture of savvy, creativity and luck to start a viral marketing phenomenon.

But by opening up your marketing and public relations programs to new media outlets -- with a few key caveats in mind -- you can overcome the shrinking of traditional media outlets by maximizing your new media opportunities.


Jim Small said...

You are mistaken that the Arizona Republic is the only newspaper with a full-time presence at the Capitol. My paper, the Arizona Capitol Times, has covered the Legislature and state government in one form or another for more than 100 years.

Additionally, Tucson's largest daily paper, the Arizona Daily Star, has a full-time reporter at the Capitol. And the two wire services you mentioned -- The Associated Press and Capitol Media Services, which is operated by Howie Fischer -- do yeoman's work covering the daily machinations at the Capitol.

While the number of outlets and reporters based at the Capitol is certainly fewer than it was in decades past, it is not correct to say that there are virtually no professional journalists watching the government.

Anonymous said...

nice article. regarding a Facebook budget...what kind $ do i need if I'm trying to market a website/ product for the design professional through a website (

Tom Evans said...

Jim: You're obviously correct on the Capitol Times and I didn't mean to forget you...the thinking was more though about reaching out to broader audiences, and the venerable Capitol Times' circulation is mostly among Capitol types. I had heard that the Daily Star was pulling their legislative coverage but will correct that in the blog now. But the point wasn't that there are no journalists watching the government, it's that the media is shrinking at an alarming rate and there are far fewer outlets to reach out to the public using conventional means than in the past. Thank you for the comment.

Tom Evans said...

Anonymous: Facebook pages are obviously free, but if you want to hire professional help to pump it up a little bit there's obviously a fee involved there and that would vary due to a number of factors. And/or, you can do a Facebook ad campaign, where you can target Facebook users based on keywords (i.e. graphic design, art, etc.), and pay based on either number of impressions or actual click-throughs to your site. You sort of barter the price of the ads but it's usually $.50-.75 per click through, and probably less for an impression.

Virginia Green said...

Great article, Tom. Thanks. I've been an advertising professional for 35 years, and it's so true -- ways of communicating have changed drastically and are morphing rapidly. It's hard to keep up, especially for us more 'seasoned' ad people who are so good at the traditional stuff, to have to learn the new stuff on a daily basis! Keep writing, it helps...