It's time we took a hard look at every message we send out and
provided the media with the most useful information possible.
in Executive Update)
There has been a significant change in both print and electronic media from broadcasting to narrowcasting. People, more than ever--whether in business or at home--look first to the news that most directly affects them.
Members of the media--the "gate-keepers"--decide what gets into print or on the air. And by deciding, they define what is news. In short, members of the media make the rules, and it's generally best not to pick an argument with anyone who buys printing ink by the barrel.
Associations need to keep abreast of the media's changing rules and shift their communication strategies accordingly. Whether or not you're responsible for your association's public relations, you're undoubtedly aware of the following three recent and dramatic changes in communications.
• Narrowcasting. The first change was the gradual shift from general-interest to special-interest stories. Some observers say this is a result of economic pressures that have forced industries and individuals to focus on information essential to their survival. Others say the enormous growth in the number of communication channels has enabled their target audiences to be selective. Still others credit (or blame) television, which replaced general interest magazines as a major entertainment medium.
On the other hand, says one well-known news syndicator, editors look for material on such topics as health, personal finance, automobiles, the environment, and senior citizen interests. Richard D. Smith, publisher of News USA, which provides feature articles and columns from associations to thousands of newspapers throughout the country, says publicists need to cover their own associations like reporters and put more useful news into their releases.
• Media expansion. The growth in the number of communication channels is the second significant trend in the nation's--and the world's--information system. By reducing printing costs, computerized production has enabled the number of newspapers to hold fairly steady while magazines and newsletters have proliferated. Today's magazines are narrow in focus. Each has found a niche, and niche marketing has become vital to success in publishing.
Meanwhile, AM radio has more than doubled, FM is up fivefold, and TV outlets have multiplied sevenfold. TV will expand further with the licensing of low-power stations, and the cable TV industry is now claiming a larger share of the viewing audience than broadcast TV.
• High-tech advances. The third trend is the electronic transmission of information, from teletext to videotext to facsimile. Plus, there are more than 300 billion phone calls made annually.
Unprecedented technical advances created the desktop publishing industry, which in turn has caused an explosion in newsletter publishing. There are now close to 5,000 subscription newsletters (according to the Newsletter Association) and countless organizational publications
Washington is said to be the only city where sound travels faster than light. It's time we took a hard look at every message we send--whether print or broadcast--recognized the competition we face for attention, and provided the changing media with the most professional, useful information possible. Keep your media strategy up-to-date; the success of your association's communications depends on it. n
Alvin M. Hattal is president of Hattal Marketing Communications and its subsidiary, Washington Correspondents. He invites input for his advertising, PR, and media column in the Journal Newspapers and can be reached at (202) 983-3234