Are You Caught in a Media Paradigm?
Not only is the media shrinking, but the trust of your audience is as well.
In 1991, a franchisor feature story with a fabulous photo appeared in both Entrepreneur and Inc. magazine in the same month. Two months later a different story about the same company, Juice Club, appeared in the Los Angeles Times. Within six months, the small juice company received a significant investment and became Jamba Juice. Where have those days of powerful media placements gone?
Nothing tells the story of a company better than, well, a story. Advertisements can offer messaging and allow people to see the brand and hear what you have to say, but can people really decipher who you are from an ad? During the 1980s and 1990s there was no doubt that publicity was the tool that delivered the most leads in the franchise community. However, not only is the media shrinking, but the trust of your audience is as well.
A recent blogpost on Gawker.com quoted an executive from Chipotle, a company considered to be one of today’s social media darlings. He said Millennials “are skeptical of brands that perpetuate themselves.” This is all the more reason to be aware of shrinking traditional media and a decreasing number of future customers who have no desire to see commercials or ads they don’t believe are true. Instead, companies are learning that traditional marketing techniques aren’t getting the job done anymore when it comes to new generations. And with more ways than ever to receive and share news in today’s world, the importance of what to share, how to share it and where it should be shared has become the differentiator between brands that are evolving and those that are getting left behind.
Traditional Media Changes
The changes to traditional media have been enormous. Here are just a few examples. Since 2008, more than 166 newspapers in the United States have closed down or stopped publishing a print edition, according to Paper Cuts, a website dedicated to tracking the U.S. press industry downturn. Since March 2007, there have been nearly 35,000 job losses or redundancies in the media field.
Gannett, a media company that publishes 82 U.S. daily newspapers, laid off one-third of its staff in August 2013. The news giant also began laying off hundreds of reporters and staff members at newspapers such as Arizona Republic, Cincinnati Enquirer, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Des Moines Register, Green Bay Press Gazette, Indianapolis Star, Kentucky Enquirer and the Tennessean.
In addition, Gannett recently reported that total revenues fell from $1.31 billion in the third quarter of 2012 to $1.25 billion in the third quarter a year later, a loss of 4.6 percent that reflects lower revenues in both its publishing and broadcasting divisions. The company’s newspaper publishing revenues fell more than $890 million to $858 million over the same period, a loss of 3.6 percent, and its ad revenue declined nearly 6 percent to $520.2 million. Furthermore, circulation revenue fell $1.7 million to $275 million, according to MediaDailyNews.com.
Closures, Frequency and Online-Only Adaptations
Local daily newspapers that have closed since the start of the recession include the Albuquerque Tribune, Baltimore Examiner, Cincinnati Post, Halifax Daily News, Honolulu Advertiser, Kentucky Post, King County Journal, Rocky Mountain News, San Juan Star, South Idaho Press, Tucson Citizen and the Union City Register-Tribune, to name a few.
Dozens of major metro dailies have cut frequency or adopted online-only models, including the Ann Arbor News, Birmingham News, Bucks County Courier Times, Burlington County Times, Capital Times, Christian Science Monitor, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Detroit Free Press, Detroit News, East Valley Tribune, Flint Journal, Kansas City Kansan, Minnesota Daily, Mobile Press-Register, New Orleans Times-Picayune, Portland Oregonian, Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Washington Times.
Bankruptcy, Reorganization and Technology
And finally, the following newspapers and newspaper chains have filed for bankruptcy reorganization: Tribune Company, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Philadelphia Newspapers Co., Journal Register Co., American Community Newspapers, Freedom Communications, Heartland Publications, Creative Loafing and the Chicago Sun-Times, which eliminated its photography department in 2013.
It’s not just newspapers either; major newsweeklies such as U.S. News & World Report, Time, The Economist, and Newsweek have cut spending and space significantly. Time, the only major print newsweekly left standing, cut 5 percent of its staff in early 2013. With broad staff reductions, publications are now replacing people with technology. Forbes magazine, for example, now produces content by way of algorithm – no human effort required.
Buzz: Content Marketing
What does this mean for companies trying to get the word out about their brands? Now, more than ever, an expert is needed to navigate the media minefield and help position a company and control its messaging. It is a mistake to think that just anyone can post messages to a few social media sites and have a meaningful public relations program. The latest buzz term is “content marketing.” But who is creating that content for you and where is it going? More importantly, who’s reading it and is it affecting your audience in the right way?
Content marketing is created when a company develops its own content in the form of articles, blogs or videos featuring the business, but this must be done carefully. The content must be professional, honest and not self-serving. It should capture readers’ or viewers’ attention within seconds and share the right messaging in a skillful way. This is when storytelling and sharing inspirational or compelling information become crucial.
There are now fewer reporters or producers staffing the remaining media outlets. Since these companies don’t have the personnel or time to interview people and send photographers, newsworthy material contributed by a strong writer, with sourcing, statistics and colorful imagery might be considered for publication. This is when a solid partnership with a public relations firm or expert who understands how to manage the changing media landscape becomes especially useful. These professionals can incorporate a good social and online publicity program into marketing and lead-generating budgets, and effectively evaluate ad buys in specific media.
Bloggers are becoming increasingly credible and popular influencers. One may have bypassed them a few years ago, but with so many media outlets gone there is no choice but to browse, read and get familiar with bloggers who might influence customers or potential franchisees. Engaging bloggers with tailored events and campaigns can be an effective way to reach an audience without relying only on traditional media.
There is still nothing better than personal relationships. Company executives who are responsive and help feed journalists good and timely information will be considered great sources. This also makes reporters’ increasingly hectic jobs a bit easier. And who doesn’t want that?
Rhonda Sanderson is president/founder of Sanderson & Associates PR, a public relations firm that has been specializing in franchising since 1986. Find her at fransocial.franchise.org.