Who Loves Local News?

People of color, older folx and high school grads do!

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We recently saw a revealing report from the Pew Research Center that shows that people of color, older adults and people with high school degrees or less are the most reliable consumers of local media. Black and Hispanic readers/viewers/listeners consume local news at much higher rates than whites, who make up only about a quarter of those following local news "very closely."

Looking at how these groups get their local news, TV broadcasts win among white, Black and Hispanic news consumers, while online sources outpace TV among folks under 50 and those with at least some college education. Most age groups that consume local news online are actually getting it from media outlet websites rather than on social media – those under 30 are about evenly split between media outlet sites and social media.

So what does this mean for you? If you're one of our clients seeking to reach communities of color and younger voters, we think there are some takeaways here. Earned media is a reliable way to reach a third of all adults, but especially the 46% Black and 34% Hispanic consumers of local media. Even in 2019, TV rules among most of our audiences, with Black viewers being particularly loyal. And even Millennial and Gen Z voters/activists will likely see mainstream media stories on their phones, linked via social media.

The key to successful communications these days is to have a multi-pronged approach – but it's always good to see what the data can tell us about audiences and targeting. So go forth and pitch local reporters!

Pass on the outrage, please

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Sometimes it’s difficult to attract earned media attention for good causes. And it’s true – an occasional well-implemented unusual event (okay, “stunt” if you like) – like moms, Santa and a reindeer delivering a stocking filled with coal to the Attorney General for her opposition to the Clean Power Plan or the red-cape and white-bonnet wearing “handmaidens” silently protesting Brett Kavanaugh’s SCOTUS nomination at the Senate hearings – can be effective.

But is anybody else getting tired of outrage being the main selling point for media stories?

Coloradans opposed to oil and gas regulations threaten secession from the state! Second amendment enthusiasts vow to create gun sanctuaries! Senators doing their jobs on a snowy day are up to no good (serving the people of Colorado)!

The good news is we know how to help you get your issue or event noticed without going off the deep end, simply by using the six elements of a news story taught to every first-semester journalism student:

  • Conflict: Demonstrating differences is important but doesn’t need to be toxic.

  • Proximity: Making sure the action is happening HERE will garner interest.

  • Impact: Showing that many people are affected is always crucial.

  • Timeliness: Capturing the issue in the moment is essential – afterwards is too late.

  • Novelty: Conveying unusual elements – like businesses support raising the minimum wage – helps.

  • Celebrity: Convincing well-known politicos, cultural icons, etc. can boost your media profile.

Let’s all help reduce the outrage machine – stick to the media relations fundamentals to return our public conversation to civility and sanity.

Media Targeting for Impact

Last month the Pew Research Center published a report showing that Americans still prefer watching the news as opposed to reading or listening to it:

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And even though online consumption is growing (up 6% in the last two years), TV continues to be the most preferred platform for news, beating online by 10 points:

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This is all interesting information but what does this mean for your nonprofit or cause?It all comes down to your earned media goal – and identifying your audience!

The new numbers show us that if you want to reach the greatest number of people, TV is the way to go. But keep in mind that most elected officials still value newspapers and that public radio attracts highly educated and civically engaged folks. So it really depends:

  • Do you want to convince the Governor? How about an op-ed in The Denver Post?

  • How might you stir up large numbers of constituents? A TV story might do the trick.

  • Are you hoping to impress prospective major donors? Maybe a Colorado Public Radio story is a good idea.

It's really not complicated at all – always go where you're most likely to find the audience that will help you meet your goal. 

EDay: What did we learn?

In our latest e-newsletter, we explored how good communications strategy helped trigger the blue avalanche in Colorado Here’s what we wrote:

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We don't know about you but we were pretty darn euphoric the night of November 6! While we're not always partisan, we are ALWAYS progressive and a Democratic Governor-Senate-House trifecta means our issues and clients should see some serious wins for hardworking families, public education and Colorado's great outdoors, including public lands, clean water and air quality. Hooray!

It took a village to trigger the blue avalanche, with many candidates, campaigns, organizations and individuals laying the groundwork. We'll leave the field and electioneering analysis to others but we'd like to share our top three takeaways showing how campaigns leveraged communications to win:

Consistency is important. Newcomer Jason Crow clobbered incumbent Congressman Mike Coffman with a strong, steady campaign that focused on his blue-collar roots, military service and commitment to elevating working families. Coffman, on the other hand, was bogged down in a swamp of his own making, trying to position himself as standing up to Trump while scoring a 96% pro-Trump policy voting record. Lesson learned: Develop an authentic, resonant message and stick to it to win.

Long game online is best. When we had the ability to start online ads early – before ballots even dropped – not only were we able to define the issue or candidate on our own terms (sometimes without interference from our opponents!), but also we could contact our target voters more frequently with the extra time. More time to create a variety of content allowed us to show our consistent messaging to voters in different ways, too. Campaigns waiting until the last week found the competition for online ad space was brutal, making it difficult and expensive to deliver ads with the desired frequency. And don't forget to add voting resources to your online content the last few days – the most searched-for terms 48 hours prior to polls closing was "how to vote at home," signaling that people really needed how-to-vote information! Lesson learned: Start as early as possible to maximize your contacts and budget.

Flexibility is your friend. Taking advantage of unplanned developments and new opportunities can be a great opportunity if you allow some time and room to be flexible. When a Koch Brothers mailer attacked Senator-elect Faith Winter on her paid family leave position, she posted a blog about it – and FAMLI Act – that very same day. Similarly, when we found that an ad for an out-of-state progressive campaign was garnering fewer clicks than others, we tested slightly different language and voila, the ad performance bounced up. Lesson learned: Develop solid plans that allow for on-the-fly changes. 

Campaign comms tips: 41 days to go!

Campaign comms tips: 41 days to go!

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While this appeared in our latest newsletter, we figure there are enough of you handling election press and social media who could use a down-and-dirty list of ways to get the most out of your communications in the midst of campaign chaos:

Stick to your message! Now is not the time to change your essential value statement and persuasion approach. Sure, capitalize on what’s happening day-by-day, but make sure it fits within your existing messaging framework.

Pitch only newsworthy stories. Please don’t waste political reporters’ time unless you have something they can use. If it has more than one news element (conflict, timeliness, proximity, impact, novelty, prominence/celebrity), go for it. So the average volunteer canvass, no… a Republicans for Democrat canvass led by a former elected official, yes.

Be ready for rapid response. Before anything hits the fan, make sure your facts are at your fingertips and your spokespeople are at the ready. That way, if your issue or candidate is attacked, you’ll be able to hit back quickly, whether it’s in the media, online, mailers or on the phones.

Capture tons of photos, videos and stories. Your online presence should invite your supporters to be a part of your team and create a personal connection. Post photos, videos and even blogs that tell the story of your campaign so your folks feel like they’re on the trail with you.

Ensure visual and message consistency. While this probably sounds like no fun, you should actually be bored by your own digital ads. This is because they should distill your essential campaign message and visuals and hammer it home over and over and over.

Best of luck as we head toward November – may we all win big!

Is the media is accurate?

Is the media is accurate?

New research shows what Americans think about news

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The Knight Foundation and Gallup paired up on a report about what American news consumers think about accuracy (and bias) in the media. Even though their polling showed that Americans believe that the news media have a critical role to play in U.S. democracy, there's a great deal of skepticism about how well they are performing that role.

The good news is that Americans believe the majority of reporting (newspapers, TV, radio) is accurate; the bad news is they believe 44% of it is inaccurate. The results are even worse for news on social media – folks think that 64% of news they get online is inaccurate. And almost all of them are VERY unhappy about inaccurate news wherever it's found – more than nine out of 10 report being angry or annoyed by it.

While it's probably no surprise, liberals trust the traditional media more than conservatives, while moderates split the difference. Folks of all political persuasions are skeptical about the news they see online.

So what does this information mean for us – and more importantly, for you and your organization?

Investing time and energy in cultivating reporter and editor relationships continues to be worthwhile because the majority of our target audiences  – liberals and moderates – still trust and value what they read in newspapers, see on TV (provided it's not Fox News) and hear on mainstream radio. And since we know many folks are getting their news online, posting news clips from trusted outlets is also a good idea – although we have ideas for a robust mix of engaging online content (just ask us!).

Let’s Get Digital (News)

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In fact, the study had some pretty telling numbers about how people consume their weekly news.

So what does this mean for our trustworthy publications? As more people jump from print to digital to obtain their news, publications need to be more strategic about how they deliver news to their readers. As noted in the study, they need to strike the right balance of push notifications and personalization - as well as consider alternative revenue streams since a majority of readers are still unwilling to pay for high-quality news.

For many, it’s all about trial and error. But it’s important to remember: If you meet your audience where they are, they will be more receptive.

As for those of us pitching stories to the media, keep in mind what kind of stories will appeal to online audiences and how to best make sure those stories are shareable. And if you’re an organization that needs help packaging your story for the news, give us a call – we’d love to help you.

 

Truth: Does it even matter anymore?

Since Trump took office, it seems like the media exposes new administration falsehoods – little lies to big whoppers – virtually every day. 

Inauguration crowd sizes. Porn star hush payment details. The origin of misleading statements on meetings with Russians. FBI spies on his campaign. The Philadelphia Eagles team "taking a knee" (they didn't). The list goes on and on and on and on. 

It's infuriating, for sure, and it degrades the office, the country and its citizens. But it most definitely has purpose – 1) solidify the Trump base and 2) distract the rest of us from our own agenda.

While it might seem counterintuitive, his supporters dig in even deeper when the latest lie is exposed in the mainstream media because they view it as their duty to defend Team Trump (the classic us vs. them approach). It's about identity and making them feel that they belong to an important movement.

And from the administration's point of view, it's useful to throw out a number of outrageous, shiny objects for reporters and resistance fighters to distract from ruthlessly efficient dismantling the federal government that is happening in Washington, DC and around the country. The more he bashes NFL players, the more his supporters think "right on, gotta stand for 'Murica" and the more the rest of us obsess about the outrageous cluelessness about unfair policing in minority communities.

All this begs the question: Does the truth even matter anymore?

At the risk of being accused of being overly optimistic, my answer is yes – and not just because Trumpistas make up just 30% of the electorate with no hope for growth. And I'll admit that it definitely makes me feel better believing there are still norms we can count on in communications. But more than that, I'd like to think that the last several months of electoral wins have come in for candidates taking a firm stance against constant dissembling and divisive policies – even in areas where the Orange One won big in 2016.

But the truth alone isn't going to persuade our audiences because humans make decisions based on emotion, not reason; even though we say our choices are rational, years of neuroscience tells us otherwise. We're big believers in crafting messaging that encompasses shared values (to capture the gut), a clear problem (to engage the heart) and an obvious solution (to invite the brain) to move audiences through the know-->care--do continuum.

So yes, the truth matters – but how you tell the truth matters, too. Make your audience feel the truth in addition to knowing it in order to win, whether it's at the legislature, the ballot box or your next event.

#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.