Why Traditional Media Still Matters to Associations
Sometimes things change around us so quickly that we do not spend enough time thinking about the impact of those changes. From time to time it helps to survey our surroundings and figure out what’s changed and, more importantly, how it affects the association world.
Case in point is the state of traditional media in Canada in 2017. Over the last decade, we have heard stories of journalists being let go from newspapers and television and radio newsrooms, along with gradual reductions in the information offered. Each announcement becomes another brick in the wall of the methodical shift to digital journalism. When you look at the big picture, you soon realize that thousands of journalism positions in Canada's traditional media were cut in the last decade.
Another change I have noticed, although it is not as obvious, is a need for television reporters to fill additional content. In most of the large markets in Canada, TV stations now have an hour-long 5:00 pm newscast, leading into the traditional 6:00 pm dinner hour news slot. In some cases, the length of the noon program has been extended to an hour, not to mention the duration of morning news shows are often now up to three and a half hours.
Newspapers are trying to dig up as much content as ever, but have far fewer reporters to get the job done. While most news programming left FM radio stations a few years ago, AM stations are still pumping out almost as much. There are more all-talk stations around then there were 20 years ago.
What many people have not noticed regarding traditional media is a huge drop in the number of journalists, and an increase of content reporters need to churn out, especially on television. It is a media double-whammy.
What Does This Mean to Me?
The first result of the current state of the media in Canada is that reporters do not have as much time for investigating. That does not mean investigation legwork does not happen anymore, but it does mean it is mainly restricted to bigger stories.
When I do media training sessions for associations, I hear comments from board members concerned about reporters who may be looking for a negative story angle. I tell them to stop worrying about that and focus on getting ready for the interview. Simply put, most reporters do not have time to do the investigation legwork they did a generation ago. They need to get a sound bite or two from an association spokesperson and move on.
Keep in mind that some traditional media outlets also have more time to fill, so they get hit with the impact of fewer reporters having to produce more content. If an association can supply a good spokesperson and have some visuals to help the journalist, such as images or video for the story's background, there’s a good chance the interview will go well, or that their story pitch will be successful. If it is a more negative story for the association, there’s little chance the reporter will have the necessary time to dwell on that aspect.
Try These Four Steps when Dealing with Traditional Media
I encourage association leaders to get aggressive when it comes to telling their stories through the media. Now’s a great time to get story pitches together, but first do the following four things to make sure you are ready:
1) Do an Inventory
Decide what stories you would like to have told about your industry. Also, think about the types of stories that your spokespeople could provide some thoughts on to add value to the conversation.
2) Build Relationships with the Media
Although easier said than done, find traditional media reporters who are interested in your industry and get to know them. There’s a higher chance they will cover your story.
3) Get Media Training
I know I am biased because this is what I do for a living, but make sure if you are going to send somebody to be the face of your organization to the general public that they know what they are doing.
4) Develop and Follow a Plan
Decide, and then put in writing, what story ideas you have, who your spokesperson or spokespeople are, what background information you have to assist the media, and how you will leverage the coverage in social media. Others need to know what you are hoping to accomplish and how you will go about it.
From There …
Of course, it is also important to determine a budget for this traditional media exposure and have a plan to measure your success.
While there are fewer traditional media reporters to work with these days, they have just as much time to fill as ever. This creates an opportunity for an association with stories to tell and a plan to make it happen.
Have you seen Grant's book, The Honest Spin Doctor, published by CSAE? It is a step-by-step guide to effective media relations that expands on what he has addressed in this blog.