This has become a huge challenge for many organizations. They need to find ways to tell their stories and I gave them a few ideas.
Sometimes we don’t realize what we had until it’s gone.
I started my presentation in Niagara Falls looking back at the strength of traditional media in Canada 30-years ago. I talked about how newspapers, and news coverage on radio and television was so strong because newsrooms were fully staffed with journalists eager to tell stories about what was happening in their communities.
In the late 90’s things started to change. Cutbacks in personnel started and those cuts continue today. The difference is, cuts in recent years have become much more drastic. Earlier this year, Bell Media announced it was laying off 1,300 people, immediately closing six radio stations and selling three others.
I estimated the number of people working in some form of journalism in traditional media in Canada has been slashed by 75% over the last three decades.
On the surface, traditional media looks somewhat the same in Canada. The problem is there aren’t enough journalists to properly tell stories and inform Canadians about what’s going on. Those still at it do their best, but filling time and space with strong content is really tough to do these days. For the last two Mondays, the front section of the Edmonton Journal, which includes local and regional news, amounted to only three pages.
30-years ago, organizations with stories to tell could hold a news conference and get a flock of reporters to cover their announcement. Today, many of those same news conferences draw flies. Unless it's a story involving a provincial government, or in some cases local government, it's hard to get heard above the noise.
It’s all because advertising dollars have gone to Google, Meta and others on the internet. Far less advertising money means far fewer reporters. The business model of traditional media is broken and there is no fix in sight.
What do organizations do when they have positive news to communicate, if they can’t rely on traditional media to help tell their story?
My message to conference delegates was simple. It was also a challenge. I told them nobody will tell your story for you. You have to do it and if you don’t, you have nobody to blame but yourself.
My audience included leaders in Canada’s water and wastewater industries. They’re facing challenges to tell Canadians about the work they’re doing to produce safe drinking water and treat wastewater effectively. Building and expanding their facilities and introducing new technologies is incredibly expensive. Who wants to pay more for something we’ve always had and taken for granted?
It’s a communications challenge – one that they no longer can rely on traditional media to help with.
My "How To" Guide
The question then becomes, how to do organizations tell their stories?
I suggested they start by thinking about ways they can use video to produce short, effective content they can put on YouTube and share elsewhere, including Facebook. I believe in Instagram as another social media platform that can be effective for organizations to tell their stories in creative ways. Spending some money to buy clicks to get more people to look at your online content never hurts either.
There are opportunities for organizations to start podcasts or get their people on popular podcasts that are always looking for good guests. Blogs are another way of using long form content to tell your story.
Advertising with traditional media can still be effective if dollars are used wisely. Daily and weekly newspapers aren’t cutting their advertising rates, but are adding extra value for their clients by providing some freebies to sweeten the pot. The same goes for radio and TV.
Despite everything I wrote about traditional media earlier, if the proper approach is used, some stories can still be told there. Rather than using a shotgun approach, use a laser to find reporters who will be interested in your story.
It may sound cheesy, but Letters to the Editor can also be really effective today. There’s far less editorial content in newspapers these days. I find the good old-fashioned Letters to the Editor stand out more.
By the way, it would be difficult for organizations to do everything on this list. They need to choose what works for them.
Nobody will tell your story for you. These days you need to do it yourself.