New Year’s Resolution for Advocates: Stop Complaining About the Lack of News Coverage

The old model of public relations involved hiring flaks and marketers to persuade print, TV and radio journalists to cover you. Hiring one set of gatekeepers to guide you through another made sense back in the day. In a three-channel TV town with two dailies, maybe 3-5 weeklies, several radio stations and a monster-sized market share of consumer eyes and ears, you needed all the help you could get.

They called those pieces of media by names that indicated the scarce resource they controlled. Print filled its newshole and display space, radio the quarter hours and television by daypart. And almost everyone paid attention.

And now…not so much. Now the audience is spread across hundreds of locations. The scarcity is a glut and the eyes and ears have moved on; but with a critical difference. They don’t just watch or read what’s set in front of them. They aren’t sick and tired of paid messages about you and your causes, issues and competitors, the messages are simply filtered out.

Audiences know what they want and can get what they expect from media. They pride themselves on the ability to navigate around the interruptions traditional PR and Marketing operations throw at them for products and services and a share of their civic and cultural attention. Maybe taste hasn’t improved much when fake eagles snatching fake children from the lawn are watched and believed by millions, but audiences are maturing when it comes to filtering sales and persuasion to arrive at real information.

Enter Brand Journalism, the craft or making your communications and outreach function a modern newsroom, with crisp, factual and helpful multimedia products delivered to targeted audiences across multiple platforms of social media.

The key is Content – education, narratives and human lessons and experience revealed in a compelling way via storytelling. Brand Journalism is uniquely yours, developed specifically for your audience, credible in a way no Paid Media can ever be and focused on interaction the way no Earned Media ever was. Brand Journalism pulls your audience together from across multiple platforms in real time as they learn, make choices and engage in ways that matter to your organization.

The challenge you face in building your organization and reputation isn’t met by a louder shout of “ME” in a crowded marketplace. It requires a return to journalism – basic reporting and storytelling, case studies and testimonials in all sorts of media from and about real people who believe that your work is making a difference in their lives in a way that moves others to understanding, adoption and loyalty.

None of this is new to people who need to move products in order to make a living and grow their businesses.

Among the most prominent leaders in Brand Journalism is Intel, with their Free Press site. Most of the stories aren’t about Intel. They cover technology and business topics any first-rate publication would and include Intel organically as a player in the stories.

Intel first focuses customer eyeballs on its business category and then keeps them engaged by playing the honest broker when it comes to its industry, then customers will be more willing to believe that the good things you say about your own brand are true.

Three links show some variations. The Cisco site is blended between PR and articles and blog material, including straight news. The HSBC site is more obscure, huge leap it seems, but cool stuff that doesn’t even mention their financial services, but then it’s all about financing human activity.

This JWT site explains branded journalism as a service the agency provides clients.

The top organic search site for Kraft Foods is its recipe site with links to its Food & Family Magazine, with more than a million paid subscribers. Its content brief is simple – “Create delicious meal solutions that inspire amazing food stories which spread to drive sale and create value for Kraft Foods.”

Finally, if you have 17 minutes and 46 seconds to watch Coca Cola explain it’s new commitment to content (in two parts on YouTube) you won’t have wasted a second.

Why content? Because it’s authentic; the appeal and credibility of news and information with the imprimatur of a trusted source – you and your organization telling real stories about subjects you know well; compelling stories that could never be considered marketing or advertising, told on multiple platforms, including video. (Remember, YouTube is a powerful search tool.)

This is called a “pull” strategy as opposed to a “push” strategy. The people who come to your content are predisposed to read, to watch, to listen. They are pulled in, not pushed by the interruption of banner ads, phone calls or other forms of conventional advertising and marketing.

For nonprofit and advocacy organizations and the foundation, membership and charitable organizations that support them Brand Journalism across social media platforms is expected to grow rapidly.

More than 70 percent of non-profit organizations expect to develop social media strategies in 2012, according to a survey conducted by Charity Dynamics, a consulting service for non-profits. These organizations recognize the power of social media to develop their profiles as advocates and recruit volunteers and donors.

So it’s time to stop complaining about the lack of news coverage for your organization and letting communications folks get thrown under the bus when your latest splash makes nary a ripple in the local news. Newspapers always focused first on news as discord (“if it bleeds it leads”), so they wouldn’t be covering your story even if they weren’t in steep decline. While we’re at it, you have almost zero chance of getting on television for even extraordinary occasions of your work.

How about advertising and traditional marketing? In addition to audience fatigue and mistrust, search engines like Google and Bing and YouTube now base their own credibility on devaluing marketing and elevating genuine content. Even the old new media rules don’t work. Unless you have a communications plan that executes just fine thank you out of a Nigerian internet café, you need a better way to get the word out. It’s called Brand Journalism.

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