Monday, February 2, 2009

Old Media: Yes, It’s Still Relevant

We’ve had a couple of posts regarding “new” media. Wonderful advice on how to build SEO rankings and using social media sites to connect and engage. There will be more discussion on this blog as I have asked a range of nonprofit managers and advisors to weigh in on how they are using technology, especially in this down economy.

For a moment, I want to turn attention to “old” media and it’s relevancy. Every time a new way to communicate has come along, people have heralded the death of the incumbent technology. Radio would displace newspapers. T.V. would replace radio or T.V. would replace the movies. The internet would replace everything. Social networking would make in-person conferences obsolete. The truth is we add tools to our battery of communication, but we don’t necessarily get rid of the old tools altogether or we integrate the new with the old to create an even more robust platform.

At the core of old communication is building relationships between your organization and those who would pay attention to them. That requires a good list of T.V., newspaper, periodical and radio reporters. It requires making sure you are always pitching them what they can use, and being straight to the point about it. It also requires developing a relationship over a long period of time until you or your organization become the one they turn to for an opinion, quote or contacts.

There was a very expensive daily industry publication (the kind where the subscription is $3,000 per year) with which I developed an important relationship. I started by inviting the editor to one of our conferences and followed up by having an in-person meeting with him and a few staff. I made sure they got every press release we sent out. It didn’t take long until I was being called on a regular basis to comment on an issue or a story. And given this publication ended up on the desks of staffers on Capitol Hill, our having a presence in it was a coup.

And while new media, especially the blogosphere, has enhanced print publications, the concept is the same. Organizations now require a good list of reputable, reliable bloggers to get their message out and organizations need to develop relationships with bloggers in the same old way, personally and one at a time.

If you don’t have a list of old media reporters and writers, get one. If your organization is strictly local, that shouldn’t be too hard. If your organization is national in scope, there are companies that will sell you a list. The bloggers require a bit more work because you have to go looking for them and sometimes you don’t always find their contact information readily available.

If you’re tired of waiting for T.V. to discover your organization, I have the perfect solution. There are literally thousands of Public, Educational and Government access television stations in this country. These stations are filled with local producers and loads of talk shows. Contact your local stations and ask for producer contacts; who might do the kind of public affairs show that will fit well with your organization? How can you become a guest on that show? Larger organizations with more capacity invest the $15,000 to $20,000 to produce a thirty minute segment and then distribute them to access stations all over the country. One of my clients, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, has programming on addiction out on 457 access channels nationwide. Each of these channels air the programming an average of 12 times per month. The return to the federal government is now over $10 million per year in free airtime. Access channels are always looking for content and nonprofit organizations have plenty of content.

I love all the new ways we can communicate, there are so many new tools that are changing the way nonprofits do business and how they get their unique stories out. But, while we celebrate the amazing world of cyberspace, we must never forget the power of old media, the necessity of the well-written press release and imperative of forming solid relationships with those work in it.

So...what does your media list look like?


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