Whether we like it or not, news is in the news: accusations of fake news, stories of rising subscriptions, and questions about the media’s role.
It’s not a time to be angry about the accusations. It’s the perfect time to reﬂect and not react, but to look at ways to be proactive.
We can use the current climate to re-engage with people who feel they’ve lost their voice, and gain a better understanding of our coverage area.
We can focus on being proactive in marketing while staying true to our core. Here are four suggestions how.
1. Develop a differentiation marketing campaign
Newspapers and word-based reporting websites would be well served to create campaigns that separate them from other media, such as “We are not media. We are newspapers. Trusted, read, etc.”
Results still show newspapers are the most-trusted media source; however, that number is dwindling. Part of it is we can always do better. Part of it is we’re being drug down by the mistrust of other mediums.
Several papers are using house ads to promote their work. Some are national campaigns, such as the New York Times “Truth. Discover it with us,” and the Washington Post’s “Democracy Dies in the Dark.”
We also have Colorado campaigns such as the Gazette’s “News changes. Good journalism doesn't.”
This is encouraging, but could more be done?
This should be a question for all departments of a news organization: Can we do a better job of telling our story, and what is the best way to do so?
We hope so and want to help. Colorado Press Network and the Colorado Press Association are creating a house ad campaign as part of this concept, based on “We are community.” If you have ideas, let us know so we can share.
2. Be innovative but stick to our historical core
There is no more exciting time to be in the industry in terms of how we can report the news and promote our clients. With digital innovations, there are a variety of ways to tell these stories.
With innovation, however, we should be reminded of our core: fair, trusted and balanced reporting blended with great storytelling.
When we do that, our reporting can be community-changing. Whether it’s a major metro paper like the Denver Post’s coverage of fingerprint-based criminal checks in healthcare leading to legislation, or an editorial from the Craig Daily Press being passed around on the legislative floor and impacting a vote, what we write matters.
And we don’t have to be cute about it.
Integrity is our core. Don’t be tempted to follow the cable TV format of adding opinion to everything. Let good journalism speak for itself.
Also avoid click-bait headlines. The latter might provide a short-term bump in click-thrus but it creates a long-term problem of lost trust.
3. Be social but be careful
Many news consumers are on social media, and it’s a great way for us to connect. But it can also be dangerous.
I was stunned during the election by how many newsroom folks were writing about their political views on Facebook. They would slam a candidate, or simply repost a slew of one perspective, but then be upset when some questioned if the coverage was fair. While I know it is possible to have an opinion and still provide fair coverage, not all in the public see it that way.
Criticizing a politician online is the same as walking into a room, blasting said politician before he or she speaks, and then telling everyone in the room you’re going to write a fair story.
Would you believe that person if you were in the room?
4. Be more transparent and engaged
The more we can do to be transparent about the news, the better. Columns and editorials explaining the process of how a story came together are great. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been thanked when we wrote such a piece.
One of the best ways I’ve found for papers to be engaged with the community is to have an active community editorial board. Invite one of your harshest critics to be on the board, and from my experience, you will likely see an amazing transformation.
Many times, they will go from being critics to becoming your biggest supporters. Why? Because they got to see firsthand the deep thought, ethical decisions and dilemmas editorial boards face, and at the same time, a glimpse into the newsroom thought process as well.
Jerry Raehal is the CEO of Colorado Press Network and Colorado Press Association. He cares deeply about journalism and the future of media, notably newspapers and word-based websites, as they have a special connection to community.