The key to a sustainable future for news media organisations will be their ability to stay connected and relevant to their local communities. I’m stating the obvious, I know, but this should be the absolute primary objective for every media operation.
The “resurgence in localism” across all economies and markets will, in my view, be a dominant factor as we forge toward 2020. This local movement is clearly underpinned by the state of all media today, with increasingly cluttered, fragmented, syndicated, lesser quality news/information offerings available 24/7, everywhere one cares to click or view.
To strengthen connections with local communities, media organisations will be required to develop key strategic criteria to adjust their work practices/consciousness. They will need to re-configure the way they formulate news and media offerings, structuring product offerings around an active local audience, not a passive one.
They will, above all, need to show empathy with their community, pre-empt community concerns, and fight on behalf of their regions.
The key driver of local-oriented news delivery will be quality staff. Media organisations will need to source and develop multi-media skilled editorial staff with local knowledge, local connections, who have the ability to engage with everyone.
Staff in management, sales, and all other areas also will need to be engaged around the key local strategy. This will give media organisations a true point of local difference and help to sustain their key businesses into the future.
One of the most rewarding ways to connect with local communities revolves around local media organised events. A key local, newspaper-instigated event in the Mildura market, in North West Victoria, Australia, was the “Elliott Emu Good Foods Nutrition Trail.” This annual event aimed at families with the newspapers mascot, Elliott Emu, front and centre.
The promotion was staged at the three-day local show. Attendees purchased a A$10 local produce show bag and a trail passport to participate. Participants then walked the trail, picking up individual products while following the huge yellow emu foot around the show grounds.
At the end of the trail, they found a high-value bag of healthy items. The Elliott Emu Trail ran for 22 years straight, raising more than a quarter of a million dollars for local charities.
Another engaging community event/promotion was staged in Swan Hill, also in North West Victoria, Australia, last year. This promotion evolved after the local Swan Hill council refused to fund or stage a dinner to mark the 50-year anniversary of the City of Swan Hill.
Locals were angry and the local newspaper, The Guardian (not affiliated with The Guardian Australia), stepped up. The newspaper produced a complete reprint of the first City Proclamation issue, which was originally published on Monday, March 15, 1965. The reprint sold out.
The news media team also worked with locals to stage a Swan Hill City Council 50-Year Dinner at the Town Hall. Old councillors and past and present local dignitaries attended. It was a wonderful night and a key opportunity for a small media business to make its mark in its own community.
All communities are ripe for engagement now; our media organisations simply need to create customized, ongoing local strategies to engage.