Archive for April, 2009
PR consultancies are notorious for not applying their craft to building their own brands.
I’d like to think we’re an exception to the rule.
Equally important, we strive to bring the art of storytelling to our own communications as well as our clients.
As a result, we’ve enjoyed attention in publications ranging from the New York Times to CFO Magazine to USA Today and one my favorite passages (related to conducting business in China):
“It took us a good two years to get our WOFE in place in China. The twists and turns to the finish line were Kafkaesque. As part of the application, they ask for three potential names for the WOFE. Of course, the government ends up selecting a completely different name (from what we submitted) that sounds like a dim sum restaurant. Fortunately, with the right connections behind the scenes we were able to secure the right name.”
Thanks to the rise of digital media, the corresponding demand for content opens the door to more opportunities for contributed pieces.
Toward this end, today’s BusinessWeek (of the digital variety) features my op-ed entitled, “Small Biz to Washington: About Those Promises…”.
I discussed the importance of storytelling in an op-ed using AIG’s contribution to the Washington Post as an example. I’m a big believer in keeping the narrative conversational and having fun with language which hopefully comes out in the BusinessWeek op-ed with phrases such as the following:
“President Obama campaigned on an I-Will-Help-Main-Street platform”
“… to borrow from Shakespeare, here’s the rub on the $15 billion package.”
“If we learned anything from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) last year – never a good sign when an acronym rhymes with carp – it’s that pumping large sums of money into the banks by itself is not the answer to the credit crunch.”
“If someone wants to take on the burger chains with yet another beef-between-bun venture I can appreciate taking a pass on funding.”
“… regain the black on the balance sheet.”
I wanted to work in “Brother can you spare a dime” but decided it fell under the category of “cheap parlor tricks” so took a pass.
I have to give credit to BusinessWeek’s Executive Editor John Byrne.
He got the engagement religion and has never wavered in prostelyzing the message.
While the BusinessWeek pages — both print and the digital variety — serve as the pulpit for most of Byrne’s communications beyond the BW corridors, he penned a op-ed for The Christian Science Monitor last September. It’s a revealing look at a philosophy in transforming BusinessWeek.com into a platform in which community, not content, is really the lead pin.
The CSM piece takes us behind-the-scenes in the creation of BusinessWeek’s workplace issue last August which was largely reader-generated. Naturally there were lessons learned, not the least being:
“… a reader’s ability to offer a smart, impassioned response to a problem, especially about something as personal as their job and career, rarely translates into an ability to write a long-form piece. Remember, they’re not pros.”
I might have overstated the same issue calling it “amateur hour” in my July post “Transforming the Engaged Reader Into a Journalist,” but the point remains it’s all a bit of an experiment.
Last week, Byrne joined in the Twitter #Editorchat with a full transcript available of all the participants.
To make it easy, we’ve isolated Byrne’s comments at the end of this post with what I consider to be the most noteworthy ones in bold.
A couple quick comments –
Byrne’s remark that “…journalists aren’t creating enough gold which I define as original, unique stories that really add value” represents an opportunity for communicators.
But a news release that sits in the public domain the minute a distribution service cuts it loose is not gold. It’s not even copper. The gold comes from the varied elements of storytelling, which requires a different approach (and different mentality) in the creation of content.
I also like Byrne’s imagery of an “intellectual fireplace around which the most meaningful conversations occur.”
For communicators, the opportunity lies in participating in the conversation as a peer and facilitating the engagement of companies.
Needless to say, such a scenario is more satisfying than “pummeling” a reporter to cover a news announcement.
Byrne’s Twitter #Editorchat
1. That’s all very exciting and challenging. Opportunity exists when things are growing or when they’re falling apart. #editorchat
2. You can become an entrepreneur. You can engage your readers as true partners. You can change the very nature of journalism. #editorchat
3. We spent too much time whining about the changes out there and not enough time taking advantage of new opportunities. #editorchat
4. Never before have journalists had the advantage of having their own printing presses to do their own thing. #editorchat
5. Never before have journalists had access to so many tools to perform their jobs more creatively than now. #editorchat
6. Despite all the turmoil and pain, this is an incredibly exhilarating time in journalism. #editorchat
7. One last thought, unless you have a few last questions. #editorchat
8. @fixin2 I’m afraid you won’t have to. There time is limited. They’ll be gone before you know it. #editorchat
9. You already have a good group of them, showing us the way from the HuffPo to GigaOm to Drudge, TechCrunch, GreenBiz, Politico. #editorchat
10. There will be many Born to the Web enterprises over the next few years that will teach the mainstream media a thing or two. #editorchat
11. @jeffjarvis True but there are a lot of other ideas that we’d be better at. #editorchat
12. @dkemper They will thrive because publishers will have money to pay them. Google part is connecting customers with merchants. #editorchat
13. @MaryKnudson That’s the role of an editor. #editorchat
14. So figuring out how to use smart phones in an interactive way is an important part of the future. #editorchat
15. @MikeLizun Mobile is key. I can foresee a day when most people will get their news via mobile device and not TV. Not far away. #editorchat
16. @RBLevin Totally agree. Media brands need to become direct marketers and also create new products that people will pay for. #editorchat
17. @BaileyMcC Not really. Under sponsorship, you may get more coverage of this or that. But it shouldn’t be influenced by a sponsor #editorchat
18. @shortformblog I pretty much agree with you. Our brand still stands for something but the competition is amazing now. #editorchat
19. It’s a very different competitive world. #editorchat
20. And, of course, WSJ, Fortune and Forbes online. Also The Economist, The Financial Times, the biz section of the NYT, etc. #editorchat
21. The biz sections of the HuffPo, Salon, The Atlantic, biz & economic blogs, AmericanExpress Open, etc. #editorchat
22. Today, we compete against Yahoo Finance, MSN Money, AOL Money & Finance, CNBC.com, Reuters.com, Bloomberg.com. #editorchat
23. We used to live in a nice little world with finite competition: WSJ, Fortune & Forbes. #editorchat
24. BW is not about hyper-local. We need to provide original, useful analysis that helps people get ahead in biz. #editorchat
25. @amandachapel I know a highly experienced journalist who now works for a monthly $500 draw and is paid by page views. #editorchat
26. HuffPo’s plan is a smart one. If the local newspaper doesn’t do it, they will. But local entrepreneurs will have the advantage. #editorchat
27. People want and need that information in a timely way and a hyper-local site can do it.
28. And then there are local sports–high school, college, Little League, soccer, etc. #editorchat
29. Parents want to know how their children are being educated. #editorchat
30. In every community, taxpayers want to know how their money is being spent. #editorchat
31. @AlbertMaruggi The salaries will be lower, except for the entrepreneurs who start these sites. #editorchat
32. @colorsign You’re talking ideology. We have no ideology at BW. #editorchat
33. They have to acquire enough information about the community & people that they can deliver leads to local businesses. #editorchat
34. Ultimately, I think local newspapers can only largely survive if they become local Googles. #editorchat
35. Some of that content will be produced by citizens. Some by professional journalists. #editorchat
36. I think hyper-local sites have a good future and that should mean more community journalism. #editorchat
37. Right now, though, it’s hard to imagine us having a media boom, no less a media bubble. #editorchat
38. And it will result in a media bubble. Part of the logic is based on the removal of the big costs of production & distribution. #editorchat
39. A new generation of entrepreneur/journalists will emerge to lead this boom. #editorchat
40. It will largely occur through entrepreneurship and the ease of entry into the business via the Net. #editorchat
41. He maintains that within three years, there will be a media boom. #editorchat
42. I had a fascinating discussion this afternoon with our chief economist Mike Mandell. #editorchat
43. Transformation is really hard and painful. That’s why a lot of players aren’t going to make it. #editorchat
44. All these things prevent incumbents from embracing the transformational changes they need to survive and succeed. #editorchat
45. And they think that their competitors will die and therefore they’ll be able to charge for content. #editorchat
46. They think that some day online advertising will offset the print decline and help support a broken print model. #editorchat
47. So they cling to the hope that print advertising will come back. #editorchat
48. Problem is, most people in media cling to those three absolutes as if they are white lies and don’t change. #editorchat
49. The upshot: Nothing less than radical transformation is necessary to succeed in the future. #editorchat
50. 3) Subscribers will generally not pay for content unless it’s original, unique value-added. #editorchat
51. 2) Online advertising cannot offset the print decline or save a print product. Too much online inventory from too many rivals. #editorchat
52. 1) Print advertising will not come back. That means single-digit declines from here on in represent victory, with some exceptions. #editorchat
53. I think there are three absolutes in today’s media world. You can argue any of them but I maintain they’re pretty much true. #editorchat
54. @a2editor And what’s surprising is that it had served a smart and vibrant community in Ann Arbor. #editorchat
55. It’s a tough time to be a journalist today. So there are a lot of very worried people in the biz. #editorchat
56. An individual slideshow generates the most traffic largely because there are more pages to see. #editorchat
57. But newspapers and magazines that deliver unique value will make it. They just have to change–dramatically. #editorchat
58. Last year, more than 500 magazine titles in the U.S. went kaput. #editorchat
59. That said, we’re going into a very painful and difficult transition that will see a lot of newspapers go out of business. #editorchat
60. Denver & Seattle were two-newspaper towns and the fattest ones won the war. #editorchat
61. We had victims of what Warren Buffett called “The Survival of the Fattest.” #editorchat
62. I think it’s premature to write the obituary for the American newspaper. In both Denver and Seattle….#editorchat
63. We’ve been able to quadruple the monthly video streams with this new strategy with no increase in resources & fewer videos. #editorchat
64. If you put the video in your most highly trafficked stories and you make sure it’s not redundant, you integrate it all. #editorchat
65. We’re trying to integrate video with text, placing complementary videos inside stories to change the user experience. #editorchat
66. I think they use the computer screen like a 1950s TV set by siloing off video clips. #editorchat
67. We have an interesting video strategy. Most sites silo off their video into some sort of ghetto. #editorchat
68. Good question on what becomes a story, a video, a slideshow, a podcast, a narrated photo essay, etc. #editorchat
69. Online, you can keep coming back as if you were writing for a daily newspaper. And you can do more series reporting online. #editorchat
70. Most magazine writers tackle a topic in one story and walk away from it for space reasons. #editorchat
71. I think one secret of online journalism, at least from the perspective of a magazine writer, is that it allows you to cover every twist. …
72. Online only stories are usually shorter and more to the point. But that’s not always true. #editorchat
73. If we’re quoting from a Tweet stream, our policy is to ask the user if we can do so–particularly if it’s a non-public person. #editorchat
74. I’m greatly influenced by reader feedback. We’ve corrected stories on it. And we’ve done many stories based on reader ideas. #editorchat
75. We don’t have a formal policy on Twitter and some writers prefer to keep their accounts private and personal. #editorchat
76. And we’re employing everything from Ning to Facebook, Flickr and YouTube to engage and interact with readers. #editorchat
77. We now have nearly 30 blogs, over 40 editors and writers who tweet, 4,400 videos on the site, a dozen podcasts. #editorchat
78. @rebeccalweber The beauty of online is that there is no limit to the voices or people who can participate in “letters.” #editorchat
79. That’s another reason engagement is key. The closer you get to your audience the more likely you are to make better judgments. #editorchat
80. Editors are constantly screening ideas and stories to get more gold but it’s an imperfect process. #editorchat
81. Of our total audience, about 38% are online only; 31% magazine only & 31% are both online and print. #editorchat
82. Online readers also earn more than print readers and are more likely to be female. #editorchat
83. There’s overlap in our print and online readers but generally our online users are 10 years younger and more highly educated. #editorchat
84. You can’t expect to be paid for commoditized journalism. How many Bernie Madoff pleads guilty stories can anyone read. #editorchat
86. User engagement has become a buzz phrase of sorts. But few are really walking the talk. #editorchat
85. I think journalists aren’t creating enough gold–which I define as original, unique stories that really add value. #editorchat
87. We need to understand the people we’re writing for and open up the process of journalism to improve our ability to serve them. #editorchat
88. Most journalists get their respect and their reinforcement from colleagues–not the people who consume their writing. #editorchat
89. It’s really not about getting free content as much as it is about having respect for your audience that u want them as partners. #editorchat
90. The result: all that interaction was used to inform the reporting of the story and we ended up w a cover that really resonated. #editorchat
91. Their feedback was played via hyperlinks in the old story as he began reporting his new piece on social media. #editorchat
92. Steve used his own blog to ask readers how things had changed since that last cover. #editorchat
93. It was actually an update from a cover he did more than three years earlier on blogging. #editorchat
It was the most successful story of the year for us, generating the most traffic and comments–well over 4,000. #editorchat
95. Another great example from Baker was his cover story last year: “Social Media Will Change Your Business.” #editorchat
96. What digital journalism really does is allow journalists to have a different and transformed relationship with readers. #editorchat
97. I also think the single biggest misconception about digital journalism is that it means multi-media. #editorchat
98. Editors and writers need to understand how to create and build communities and then how to serve them. That’s part of the job. #editorchat
99. It created terrific engagement among readers, seeded an audience for the story, and was truly innovative. #editorchat
100. Early last year when he did a story on Twitter, Steve tweeted the topic sentences and asked tweeps to fill in the rest. #editorchat
101. My favorite example is from one of our senior writers Steve Baker who has a blog called blogspotting on our site. #editorchat
102. And encouraging reader ideas for stories does indeed give you smart insight into what your readers are keenly interested in. #editorchat
103. You’re right. There is no such thing as a static story anymore. Every story is alive and extended by virtue of this partnership. #editorchat
104. Deeply engaging readers and converting them to partners is essential to induce loyalty and return visits. #editorchat
105. 2) Behavioral targeting advertising–which undermines contextual advertising that has long supported journalism. #editorchat
106. 1) Search–which is transactional and undermines the relationships that media brands have with their audiences. #editorchat
107. People often ask me why this is important. It’s simple. There are two trends out there that will make media brands extinct.
108. Those discussions, involving readers and an editor or writer, are as valuable as the journalism that is produced. #editorchat
109. And at the end when the story becomes an intellectual fireplace around which the most meaningful conversations occur. #editorchat
110. To the middle where you tell your readership what you’re working on and ask them for suggestions on sourcing and other issues. #editorchat
111. To a process that embraces the user at every stage, from idea generation when you ask your readers for their best story ideas. #editorchat
112. For us, this is all part of how journalism is changing from a product handed down by reporters to an audience. #editorchat
113. “You often tweet about user-generated story ideas. How important are blogs and user comments in generating topics?” #editorchat
114. I’m happy to take questions but let me start the ball rolling with one from Editorchat’s blog. #editorchat
115. I’m reminded of chats I moderated back in the mid-1990s on AOL when BW first went online and we did a lot of B-school things.