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Cleveland PR/Journo Thoughts

As I posted last week, I attended a BusinessWire breakfast in Cleveland last week. Cleveland’s kind of a hike for me, especially at 8am, but I persevered and made it. I also managed to forget my camera so I don’t have any cool photos to prove I was there. Except this badge they gave me I took a picture of when I got home.

I had been especially interested in the panel of speakers as well as the topic. Panelists were John Kroll, Deputy Business Editor of The Plain Dealer, and author of the retirement blog Not Fade Away; Thomas Mulready, founder of CoolCleveland; and Chris Thompson of the Transparency Works blog and Vice President of Edward Howard & Co. Moderator was Denise Polverine, Editor-in-Chief, Cleveland.com.

I took away some valuable statements that really made me think about some things. I wanted to share those with you in no particular order.

  • Kroll mentioned that the communication that we’re having today is different, that it used to be two companies communicating. Even though it was it was reporter to PR pro, it was really the two companies talking. Now it’s people talking, bloggers blogging, conversations raging. The Cluetrain is apparent in Kroll’s comments. “Bloggers are not a species,” Kroll said, “bloggers are people.” This comment reminds me so much of Shel‘s common phrase that it’s not that we don’t trust blogs, it that we’re skeptical of anyone until we learn to trust them. In person, in print, or online, it doesn’t matter.
  • Thompson pointed out that new analytics in the online world are making it easier to measure almost everything. He said we’ve “gotten rich by not measuring anything and telling the client it’s all fine.” Times are changing. Are we ready? My view is that some of us are ready, but most aren’t. I’m hedging on this one my self. As an industry, I think PR is not ready. As an industry I think news media is not ready. But we are moving forward, just behind the tide.
  • As I huge fan of RSS (I recently gave a talk to a PRSSA chapter on RSS), I was shocked to think of a negative side to it. Thompson made a great point that perhaps RSS makes things too segregated. We’re narrowing ourselves into ignorance. This is something I struggle with everyday. Personally, I avoid this by subscribing to RSS feeds that I don’t have any personal interest in and then scanning the headlines just to keep rounded. But he’s right. The narrowcasting approach has made it very easy to target certain people, but infinitely more difficult to hit those people who reside on the fence. In any given opinion-swaying campaign, be it political or consumer, B2B or otherwise, the only people you really target are those who are decidedly undecided. You’re never going to change the minds of the top percent of supporters for both sides. But with this incredibly narrow focus, how do we attempt to reach the minds of the undecided? Demographics (and psychographics, etc) for television and print change daily, I’m guessing, as new technologies are adopted by more and more people. Advertising and PR is getting more and more difficult, while getting seemingly easier. Not to mention Thompson’s point about narrowing ourselves to ignorance. I thought we, as Americans, were ignorant enough. Hold me, I’m frightened.
  • Kroll made a great point about newpapers going online. He said, “we’re still a traditional media,” referring to the Plain Dealer, “[companies] still talk to us as little as they ever used to.” I laughed about that. Isn’t it funny? PR people are always pitching stories, but journalists are looking for real news. It’s laughable to see how often we miss each other. Kroll’s point demonstrates that things are surely slow to change. There’s some comfort in that(?)
  • Kroll also noted that the great thing about the new media tools is that the news media and PR are finally up to where education was decades ago. It’s sad to think that PR and News take so long to adopt change and new technologies. However, I’m not sure education is on top of it either… I mean, I just got my Masters and one of our undergrad professors was still using her doctoral notes from 20 years prior to teach us PR. Maybe it was my school, but there is NOTHING comforting about that. I mean, a colleague of mine even told her, “that’s kind of sad, don’t you think something’s changed in twenty years?” The prof hasn’t budged.

So the event was excellent. Denise and Thomas also said some great things, but I only jotted down so much and it’s taken me ages to post even this. I also had the privalege to meet Cleveland’s own civic voice, George Nemeth from Brewed Fresh Daily who left me this thoughtful comment on another post.  Thanks, George, hope to see more bloggers in NE Ohio soon.

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One Response

  1. Unfortunately, I have to agree with the point about RSS making us more “narrow.” Because I really wonder … how many people make the concious effort to subscribe to feeds that mix it up a bit and provide a different perspective? Not many, I’d imagine. (You are extraordinary, Luke.)

    But I wonder about it affecting our ability to reach our target market of undecided individuals. I think it actually makes it very easy to identify people with an existing interest in a broader topic or issue. An example from the realm of consumer PR: promoting a “healthier” cooking oil. You’d probably go for cooking/food blogs, maybe some health and nutrition sites … those would present an audience of readers with no strong, pre-existing preference, and who could possibly be open to this relevant product.

    Where it would really get tricky, and where I agree with your point, is trying to reach people who aren’t even interested in the broader issue yet. YET. Then, perhaps it’s a matter of finding a common topic that your target audience also shares … and relating to that avenue.

    On another note, I’m a little lost on his Kroll’s comment about education. I thought education was usually pretty far behind as with regard to being up-to-speed on developments in the industry. Maybe I’m taking that comment the wrong way …

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