The Incredible Shrinking Media
When it comes to press outreach and relations, doesn't it feel like the more you do, the less you get? The more advisories and releases you send, the fewer reporters and critics there are and the less space there is to cover the arts.
I had the opportunity in January to participate in a panel convened by the League of Chicago Theatres and the Chicago-based Community Media Workshop titled "The Incredible Shrinking Media and What It Means for Your Arts Organization." We reflected on the obstacles and opportunities facing artists and arts organizations when it comes to both traditional and new media.
Chicago Public Radio recorded the event: http://tiny.cc/shrinkingmedia.
A sampling of insights and stories shared:
What's the real reason the traditional media landscape (i.e.-- broadcast and print outlets) is shifting? Changes in the way we choose to consume the news. The writing was on the wall before the downturn in the economy.
According to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press:
The internet, which emerged this year as a leading source for campaign news, has now surpassed all other media except television as an outlet for national and international news.
In a report titled "Internet Overtakes Newspapers as News Outlet," Pew published this:
Granted this is about national news coverage - not where we find arts and cultural coverage most of the time anyway - but I believe this reflects a larger, universal trend: as traditional media goes down, new media goes up.
Note that television is still the outlet of choice for the news. This points to another truth about the media landscape: the traditional tools of media outreach are still worthwhile, as long as you use them smarter and more efficiently.
When it comes to press advisories, releases, and pitches, spray and pray won't cut it anymore. Artists and arts organizations need to foster reciprocal relationships with the reporters and critics that cover our issues. Ditch the fax machine and use email to pitch to and communicate with journalists.
(Original image from Flickr user anomalous4.)
(I'm in a LOLcat mood, so please bear with me!)
For folks in the Midwest interested in honing their media outreach and relations skills, check out Community Media Workshop. Another resource is the Spin Project, a national organization dedicated to supporting the media efforts of the nonprofit sector.
At the same time that artists and arts organizations need to target their media efforts, we also need to think outside the box when it comes to media opportunities.
As noted above, television is still the outlet of choice for the news. Have you reached out to the ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC affiliates in your area? Do you have relationships with the reporters and critics who cover cultural issues? If there's time for killer bees from Africa, there's time for the arts.
(Image from Flickr user Paulpod.)
If coverage in the local or regional paper is a challenge, turn to the editorial pages, the most popular pages in newspapers. Have a patron or supporter submit a letter to the editor about your latest exhibit, performance, or event. With letters to the editor and op-eds, you have complete control over messaging.
Whatever the platform, think creatively and expansively about the frame and messaging you use to tell your story. Don't just turn to the arts reporters and critics; think about the impact of your work beyond the cultural community. How artists and arts organizations are coping with the recession is a popular story today. How can you tap into that trend through your media efforts? As Sylvia Ewing stressed, don't just think of print, think of broadcast and the Internet too.
Most of our conversation focused on the Internet and the new media tools available to artists and arts organizations. I'll share those insights and stories next week in Part II of the Incredible Shrinking Media, so stay tuned.
In the meantime, what have you noticed about media coverage of the arts in your community? How are you coping with the shifting media landscape? What media success stories can you share with the rest of us?