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. Continue reading

With Earned Media Changes, Brand Journalism is Critical

I spent six years as a daily newspaper reporter covering cops and courts, city councils, legislatures in three states, Congress the White House and various crooks and scoundrels on the investigative beat. My parents met in a newsroom where, it was said, journalism was known as “the last refuge of the vaguely talented.”

I mourn the decline of newspapers, but I’m not bitter. As time passes, I’m less inclined to view reporting as some sort of calling and more as a skill with many applications, and one that is critical to organizations in the form of  brand journalism.

Political Scientist Daniel Hallin in his book The Uncensored War defined three “spheres” of journalism. The first is the Sphere of Consensus, where the topics include issues like genocide, slavery, and childhood obesity. In this sphere of topics, journalists are under no compunction to present differing points of view. They can take a side confident that their objectivity is intact.

The second sphere – that of “Legitimate Controversy,” is the journalists’ wheelhouse, where objectivity is the definition of the profession and those who want the title devote significant effort to balance. The third is called the Sphere of Deviance, where aliens, talking dogs and legitimate rape reside – the ridiculous and irrelevant, considered unworthy of legitimate attention.

Dallin’s key point is that the explosion of new media has not only fractured traditional coverage of events, it has changed the definition by certain journalists and audiences of all the spheres and greatly expanded that second sphere. What is “Legitimate Controversy” is in dispute. Continue reading

The Farmer and the Cowman Should be Friends

(In 2008 when I ran the National Education Association’s media production and advertising shop, I was asked by the IT director to talk about – and help shore up – the bridge between technology and creative operations, to give them a brief look into our evolving world, growing more in sync with theirs every year. The audience was 40-50 IT folk at their national conference. It wasn’t a lion’s den, not even a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical feud: I had worked with several of them and attended their gatherings to learn as we built NEA’s first online video channels and web advertising. But in a meeting primarily about technology and assorted products and challenges, let’s just say my assigned topic was fresh.)

Farmer-Cowman hoedown from “Oklahoma”

“I’ve been coming to the IT conference for several years now and I have always come to listen. This time, they asked me to describe our work in more detail, to share some of what I’ve been hearing from colleagues involved in multimedia and basically to make a pitch for wider collaboration. This is different than cooperation and support; we get that in spades from our IT colleagues.

First, a quick look at Advertising & Broadcast Services. We are a unit inside NEA Public Relations with six media professionals. We shoot in Betacam and mini-dv format; edit in both Avid and Final Cut. We have a small studio for multicamera live-to-tape, switched productions and a sound studio with Pro Tools. We can compress media to multiple formats. I have a lot more detail on any of this and invite you to talk to me today or anytime. Our charge is basically to say Yes to any request for this work from the states and then to figure out how to make it work. This is sometimes a budgetary issue, but mostly a matter of scheduling. We typically work in some fashion with 15-20 state affiliates a year.

Only a handful of people in NEA and affiliates are full time multimedia production; video, audio web and integrated. More and more every day, this work is web-based. And I can tell you that many of them have hit the wall or are about to in terms of their individual knowledge and their capacities. In our own case, there is one person in all of NEA that understands multimedia compression well enough to post video to our website and our internet channels. At the same time, multimedia is rapidly becoming democratized and personalized. We’ve all heard the basics – YouTube, blogs, podcasts, search engine marketing, social networking, consumer generated media, sms, mms, virtual reality. There is a clamor out there for us to understand these and other tools and put them to work in order to reach our audiences. Let’s take a quick look.

Continue reading