#Media Matters in Colorado

#Media Matters in Colorado

 What can we do to nurture a healthy fourth estate in Colorado?

We think we can speak for you when we say the media fulfills an essential role in democracy – a free press is what makes our government accountable, speaking truth to power. Reporters are our institutional watchdogs.

Without it, we the people wouldn't have been able to end Rep. Joseph McCarthy's "Un-American Activities Committee" scourge, advance the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s, force the resignation of President Richard Nixon for the Watergate scandal nor rein in NSA intelligence gathering of U.S. citizens' phone records.

In between the allegations of "fake news," censorship, an iffy business model and brutal newsroom downsizing, journalism is in serious danger. 

Here in Colorado the situation is escalating at the Denver Post. Recently current and former Denver Post employees protested Alden Global Capital's abuse of our only statewide daily newspaper, as reported by the Colorado Independent and many other outlets. At this point, Alden Global is sucking the cash out of the Post to fund other investments as fast as possible, even as the newspaper has been profitable. As the Nieman Lab analyst Ken Doctor wrote, “Alden Global Capital is making so much money wrecking local journalism it might not want to stop anytime soon.” 

What does this look like? Censorship of opinion pieces critical of their management – which has sparked an exodus of top editors and even the DP board chair. The newsroom staff has shrunk from 200+ in the good old days to about 60 today, which means that coverage is spotty and copyediting is a joke. The editorial page has been shoehorned into one page of national wire columns from two larger-sized pages that were full of local opinions just a few years ago.

Every action Alden Global takes means we get less news and makes our subscriptions less worthwhile. Honestly, the paper could die, leading one legislator to quip, "Hey, that means we can do whatever we want, apparently gleeful that lawmakers might have the opportunity to run amok without scrutiny from the watchful media. This is bad for Colorado and our people.

How To Help: No one knows exactly how to save the Denver Post – but here are some initial ideas for concrete actions to help:
1. Sign a petition to Alden asking them to sell to Coloradans who want to run the paper – plus post on social media with #NewsMatters and talk to folks IRL to about the petition, too
2. Subscribe online to continue supporting the remaining journalists
3. Attend this lunch next week to learn how to survive the Colorado news apocalypse

It's up to all of us to protect local journalism (and our democracy) – do your part today.

New Yale Study: Op-Eds Work!

New Yale Study: Op-Eds Work!

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Have you ever wondered if people are actually persuaded by reading op-eds? Given the time and energy needed to write and pitch them, it's an important question for busy advocates. 

The good news is: YES! New research found that after reading an op-ed, Democrats and Republicans alike altered their views toward the piece's arguments. Even better, the effects were long-lasting among both the general public and policy experts.

As Alexander Coppock, assistant professor of political science at Yale and the study’s lead author, said, “We found that op-ed pieces have a lasting effect on people’s views regardless of their political affiliation or their initial stance on an issue. People read an argument and were persuaded by it. It’s that simple.”

More than 3,500 "everyday people" and 2,200 "elites" (like journalists, law professors, policy wonks and congressional staffers) were part of the experiment – half read libertarian op-eds on issues like climate change and infrastructure funding before being surveyed on their attitudes on the issues 10 days and one month later, while the half in the control group read nothing before their surveys.

While half of control group participants who hadn't read the op-eds agreed with the arguments, 65 – 70% of the op-ed readers reported agreement after reading them, after 10 AND 30 days. While the general public was slightly more likely to shift their opinions, that shift held for Democrats and Republicans alike. The bottom line: readers were persuaded by what they read.

So next time you're pressed for time and are wondering if you should just skip writing that opinion piece on your issue, thing again – op-eds work!

PS: If you're wondering what makes a powerful op-ed, get in touch – we're pros at writing and pitching op-eds around the state.

#NewsMatters

#NewsMatters

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On Sunday, The Denver Post’s Perspective section ran 10 commentaries on the impending death of the newspaper, both blowing our minds and calling us to action.

This wasn't the work of disgruntled soon-to-be-former employees. This was a display of passionate citizens defending the free press and advocating for an informed public.

The Post’s editorial board members are bolder and braver than many of us. Taking on the Post’s owner, the hedge fund Alden Global Capital, couldn’t have been an easy decision. The writers know that their heads could soon be on Alden’s chopping block, right alongside two dozen of their colleagues.

If you ever looked forward to the headlines on your computer, to the shared posts on Facebook, or to the paper on your driveway, then it’s time for you to take action. Let’s save our paper by selling it to an owner who cares about news, not just profits.

Start here with signing this petition started by Digital First Media journalists – and don't forget this Change.org one, too

Consider keeping or starting a subscription. The truth is, it's only about $12 a month for a digital subscription, but they'll knock it down to less than eight bucks if you let them drop an honest-to-goodness newspaper full of coupons on (or near) your driveway every Sunday. Either way, the first month is just 99 cents.

Or hold a really big bake sale and buy the darn thing: For only $100 million, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune was saved by a local supporter!

It’s up to all of us to do our part to protect the reporting that brings the truth to light, educates the public and generates grassroots responses. 

Capitol reporting still robust despite newsroom cuts

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It was heartbreaking to learn that the hedge fund Alden Global Capital is cutting almost one-third of the Denver Post’s newsroom staff, especially when put in historical context. 

Just four months ago, Alden laid-off 12 Post employees, four from the newsroom -- and there have been similar layoffs and buyouts for years. In fact, as Mike Littwin writes, a decade ago there were over 400 newsroom employees between the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News and the Post. Now, there are just 70 or so in the Post’s gaunt newsroom.

Trying to put the brakes on our despair, we looked into the state of political coverage at the Statehouse. Believe it or not, it could be worse. While Capitol bureaus have shrunk and some political reporters’ cubbies are unclaimed, there is still a significant core providing a large quantity of political journalism.

Colorado is better off than many other states who have lost all or almost all of their Capitol reporters. We’ve lost on-site coverage from many papers from Durango to Fort Collins and the AP bureau is now down to one – but the sizable gang at Colorado Politics manages to fill much of that void. The Grand Junction Sentinel has kept their reporter for nine years; The Denver Business Journal and the Colorado Independent provide a diverse range of journalism, each with just one designated reporter on hand; and for the moment, the Post has a bureau of three. Denverite and Westword occasionally step up to cover legislative action, too.

Broadcast-wise, each Denver station has a least one Capitol reporter, and most have a team. Telemundo and Univision do yeoman’s work, especially when provided a Spanish speaker. When stretched thin, TV stations share a pool camera to cover rallies, press conferences, hearings and votes. Two on-site journalists provide stories for 2 different public radio networks, and KOA’s reporter might as well have a desk in the Capitol. 

We’ll admit these are dark days for print journalism but appreciate the many reporters -- print, online, TV and radio -- who are still shining a light on Colorado politics. And allow us to remind you: it’s up to all of us to support local journalism, so please subscribe and pledge to your favorite outlets so they can continue to cover the stories that matter to our state and democracy.

What Your Digital Strategy Should Look Like in 2018 (and beyond)

What Your Digital Strategy Should Look Like in 2018 (and beyond)

With a new year, there are many new developments for nonprofits to debate when strategizing their online outreach and communications plans - luckily, we’re putting all of digital strategy news in one place to make it easy on you.

Don’t be overwhelmed! One trait remains consistent among all platforms: quality (shareable) content = quality engagements with your supporters = impact and results. Each platform has the same goal: to keep you on their site longer and to keep you coming back; they each just have a different way of going about it.

M+R Mediamarks: What's Working in Media Attention

You probably know we’re big fans of the annual M+R Benchmarks Study released every April analyzing how nonprofits use social media most effectively – if you missed it the first time around, you can check out our take on the 2017 report here

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This year’s M+R  Mediamarks Study on nonprofit traditional media trends was released today. While much of the information is geared to large nonprofits pitching national media outlets, there’s still plenty to apply to smaller local, state and regional organizations.

Who’s Getting Media Attention

Nationally cultural nonprofits attracted the most attention in 2016, followed by international, environmental, health and social service organizations (which are really underrepresented when you consider that culture scores almost 20 times the stories!).

The report shows that groups getting the most media attention have these characteristics:

  • “Broad Scopers”: More projects/campaigns means more opportunities for coverage.
  • “Report Releasers”: Signature reports showing strong connections to timely issues get noticed.
  • “Crisis Responders”: Wildfires, refugee emergencies and other disasters generate stories
  • “Media Advocates”: Those who actively pursued the media made news more often

Where They’re Getting Attention

Newspapers are still the number one media “channel” covering nonprofit organizations. TV, digital and online sources round out most of the other sources. It looks like magazines are on their way out for nonprofit coverage, except for culture-related coverage.

Why Are They Getting Attention

In 2016, awareness was the outcome cited by most nonprofits, followed by fundraising; at just two percent overall, advocacy came last. But awareness is really important – you can’t motivate activism or donations until folks know and care about you do!

Who’s Sharing What Online?

Health groups are using Facebook to share media coverage like a boss – at more than twice the rate of international and environmental groups and almost three times social service groups. Culture and international nonprofits share journalist tweets the most – social service groups seem to avoid Twitter, perhaps because their audience/s aren’t there as much.

 

So what did the most shared articles across all the sectors have in common?

  • Cute animals: Yeah, it’s true – those puppy, panda and Harambe shares rocked.
  • Trump: Ugh, but you know – outrage!
  • Listicles: People still love ‘em, so feel free to continue to list fun facts.
  • Explainers: Folks click on the “What X means for Y” because so much news, so little time.
  • Corporate investigations: We’re hungry for stories exposing “bad actor” corporations.
  • Good news: Overwhelmed with global catastrophes, we need some sunshine now and again.

The M+R Mediamarks Report shows that nonprofit organizations are still putting a priority on traditional media in their communications toolbox. Pitching media stories is always a good idea to reach those elected officials and other “influentials” who still care about what’s on the front page and on the evening news – and you can also think about it as another source of content for your online communications plan. Read the whole report yourself here.

 

New M+R Benchmarks: digital ads growing

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Every year we're excited to read the annual M+R Benchmarks study report to see what nonprofit organizations across the country are doing in the digital space. It was released yesterday and there's a lot to learn!

  • We're still digesting everything but the thing that jumped out is that nonprofits of all sizes are increasing their use of online ads. In fact, overall spending on digital ads grew by 69% – and small and medium-sized nonprofits definitely are a part of this trend.

So what are nonprofits' goals and where are they putting their online dollars? And where are they putting their online dollars? About a quarter seeks to build awareness/branding, another quarter is to advocate for policy/legislation and almost half is devoted to fundraising. Display and search ads still dominate but social media ads are on the rise:

M+R Benchmarks can help you plan and evaluate your digital strategy – why not download the report today?

Firestorm in the Friendly Skies

United Airlines created a communications crisis for itself in a big way this week, that's for sure. If you enjoying time off the grid in an internet-free location, let me review the particulars:

On Monday, a shocking video of a bloodied United Airlines passenger being forcibly dragged off an airplane in Chicago became a viral sensation on the internet. Apparently airline staff decided to bump four paying passengers in order to get airline employees to Louisville for crew duty the next morning – and although three accepted cash incentives, a doctor declined and was summarily and violently evicted from his seat.

Wait a minute: there were SO many ways to solve this problem without triggering at $255 million stock nosedive, not to mention a crisis communications meltdown. As my long-time friend Diane Dillingham pointed out, couldn't they have offered $1000 or more to de-plane? What about a charter flight for the employees? Hey, a rental car or Lyft would have gotten it done in less than five hours. Hell, Chicago is their hub – wasn't there a corporate jet in a hanger somewhere?

Okay, let's focus on the communications lessons, not all the common sense prevention moves they could have made. Because honestly, every organization – nonprofit and for-profit alike – can learn from this case study.

The first rule of crisis communications is simple. It's to tell the truth, tell it fast and explain how the problem will be fixed and never, ever happen again. The reality is the United CEO was nothing short of a disaster for days after the video blew up the social and traditional media worlds. Check out how United's message evolved:

  • 2 hours post-video posting: We asked the customer to leave and when he refused, we called the cops but I guess we apologize for the overbook situation.
  • 17 post-video posting: We regret that we needed to "re-accommodate" the customers.
  • 21 post-video posting: We are more or less justified because the passenger was "disruptive and belligerent."
  • 42 post-video posting: We take full responsibility and we will work to make it right.
  • 68 post-video posting: This will never happen again and we are going to refund every passenger on that plane.

Yikes, what a P.R. disaster! It's hard to fathom how the United CEO (ironically) just won PR Weekly's "communicator of the year award" given his tone-deaf response this week – but let his misfortune be your guide.

Somehow United forgot that communications is no longer organization-to-target-audience any more; in fact, it's not only a two-way street, but more a network with the potential for explosive reach. Virtually everyone has a phone camera now and you should expect their photos to appear on multiple platforms, tagging decision-makers, influentials and media outlets as a matter of course. Folks are content creators and will show off their sense of humor at your expense like these folks at #NewUnitedAirlinesMottos.

Be truthful, authentic and above all, be human. Own your mistake, genuinely apologize and explain how you will make it right. If you do this while being contrite and real, your supporters will not only get over it, but most will stick with you for the long haul.

Learning the comms ropes

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Even though I‘m the new Progressive Promotions intern, I’ve sort of been an intern my entire life. Growing up in a rabidly political household, I always knew the what was happening in the national, state, and local political scenes. My parents taught me to always take a stand.

My first protest march was to keep Walmart out of our neighborhood. I thought every preschooler held signs at 6:00 a.m. on election day. When I was 11 years old, my mom made me knock on doors for Obama every Sunday afternoon. As a teen, I interned at the Capitol in the House Majority Office and then canvassed all last summer. Now I’m majoring in political science at Metro and interning here three times a week.

Election night knocked the wind out of me. I pledged to fight for the rights of immigrants, minorities and the concept of a free press. So I reached out to the best fighters I knew, the warriors at Progressive Promotions so I could learn how to make real and substantial change in the world.

I’ve focused on issues that matter to people my age, like immigration and how our environment is in peril – and understand that the political process can be a long, hard slog. After two months, I also have learned a lot about making the case for progressive issues, including the need to do:

Research. Research is the key to any messaging campaign because statistics tell a story that no prose can tell. Stats ground what you're talking about and relate it to your audience. Using research educates your audience.

Messaging. Once you do the research, then you need a message. Your message is the frame you use to tell your story, capture what people care about and how you get them involved.

Storytelling. Even if you have a message and have done the research to back it up, you still need stories. While statistics ground your message in reality, stories give your message emotion –  which is what gets people to really care about your message.

Planning. This is maybe my fourth draft of this post, and that happened because I didn’t make a plan. If you don’t have goal and plan for what you are trying to accomplish, none of the other stuff matters.

Earned Media. Earned media = news stories, so when a camera crew comes to cover your press conference because you (or me) called them at least three times to let them know what’s happening. So you want to earn media to reach people who still consume news from TV, radio, newspapers and more traditional sources.   

Digital Strategy. In the 21st Century, any campaign needs to include digital strategies – social media, website, emails, etc.  Campaigns need to have a multifaceted approach with graphics, posts and videos to keep up with competing messages for people who spent time online.

The truth is change doesn't come easily – but we must persist in standing up for our values, like the equality that this country fails to fully grasp. So I’m learning to celebrate our small victories and how to fight on in the face of defeat. And more than anything, I’m grateful to work on issues I care about and to make a difference, one small step at a time.

 

KISS...and other lessons from the 2016 election cycle

 

Now that 2017 is here – and we’ve had two months to recover from what happened nationally on November 8 – we are ready to go forth and kick some @ss for our progressive clients! But first, we thought we’d share the three big lessons we learned from the wins and losses of 2016:

 

Lesson 1: Message Simplicity.

While we flinch at the content, Donald Trump’s message was short, clear and clean. He mastered the art of boiling down his positions into short, pithy catch-phrases like “make America great again” and “drain the swamp.” The Trump campaign didn’t care that immigration policy is complicated – they went with “build the wall” and let the details fall aside. In the lightning fast online world, Trump’s messages were so simple to retweet and share that they flooded our ever-shrinking attention spans and drowned out Hillary Clinton’s well-thought out strategies. So even though she’s far more qualified to lead, her message didn’t break through. Our take-away?

KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid is even more important than ever.

Lesson 2: Authenticity.  

Colorado’s minimum wage campaign was able to move the winning message by having real spokespeople from around the state to be compelling voices for raising the wage. Workers earning less than $12/hour, supportive business owners and respected economists around the state made the “fair, smart and modest” case for Amendment 70, heard by voters because they had “skin in the game.” It’s clear that authenticity is what our audiences crave, so it’s up to us to engage in a real away across all our platforms.

Lesson 3: Truth.

There was a virtual avalanche of falsehoods during the cycle, in Colorado and across the nation. Fake news was so pervasive online this election that there are now browser plug-ins to filter it out for you. NPR released a 12 point article on how to spot it yourself. The good news in Colorado is voters didn’t seem to buy the lies – Rachel Zenzinger DIDN’T travel to China on the public dime and research shows that modest minimum wage increases DO stimulate local economies, they don’t tank them. But trust in institutions like TV & newspapers is at an all-time low, so voters are turning to their computer screens for the latest information because it’s the medium they interact with every day so it’s up to us to continue building our digital presence

It is our job to create clean and “real” communications that appeal to what voters know to be true. So let’s use the lessons we learned in 2016 in the next 5 months to expand opportunity in Colorado, over the next 23 months to change Congress and in four years to Dump Trump!