Get your swagger back with a “proof of life” report


A few weeks ago, Bob Provost reminded us all, in his Bottom-Line Marketing blog post, of the scene from Monty Python’s Search for the Holy Grail.

You know the scene. The one during the Plague, when the dead people are being loaded onto the “dead body cart” being wheeled through the streets.

During the scene, an overly eager relative tries to dispose of an old man who’s still alive.

“I’m not dead!” — “He says he’s not dead.” — “Yes he is!” — “I am not!” — “Well, he will be soon. He’s very ill.” — “I’m getting better.” — “No, you’re not! You’ll be stone dead in a moment.”

Bob used that scene to illustration how the newspaper industry needs to make meaningful investments to transform its future.

I’d like us to think about that scene on a more personal level — the need to arm our employees against the media blasts foretelling the demise of newspapers.

We need to give our employees an inoculation against the black plaque of negativity.

How many of you have seen that look? You know the look. Of course you do! We all have seen it. The look of pity people give you when you tell them you work for a print media company.

That look is immediately followed by comments such as, “Are you really going to make it?” Or: “How much longer do you think you’ll have a job?”

Isn’t it interesting what we have done to ourselves? How many articles have the media thrust out there about their own demise?

We write and wring our hands, almost with a morbid glee about how our circulation volumes have declined and continue to decline. Free fall. There’s something to be said about self-fulfilling prophecy.

And, worse yet, it’s simply just not true in most cases.

When we include our digital products, most of us have a much larger audience than ever before. Even better than back in the heyday of print media. More people are reading more stuff. 

We need to start shouting from the rooftops that we’re bigger than ever.

Let’s start within our own buildings and across our own conference tables. Our own staff needs to be able to respond to that look of pity. Help them and enable them to use the words of Monty Python. “I’m not dead! I’m feeling better!”

We need to teach our staffs about the concept of aggregate audience. We’re not just about print. We’re also Web, mobile, and social.

How can you do this?

Start by talking about your aggregate audience. Make a report that shows your combined audience. Don’t just post or e-mail your print circulation numbers; share the report that shows your aggregate audience. Provide some comparisons that show your current aggregate audience to the audience from 1960.

Post the report in the bathrooms. That’ll shock them.

What will help save us is having faith in what we do and daring to have the tenacity to believe it ourselves. If we predict our own death, well, then, we will live to see it.

So, give yourself and the rest of your staff a “proof of life” aggregate audience report and start getting your swagger back!

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