How To Connect With New Media: Part 3

Part 2 of this series offered practical advice on how to become familiar with new media outlets by reading and becoming involved through the art of submitting comments. This installment will expand on those initial steps by exploring constructive methods for building direct and enduring relationships with new media authors as well as how to adapt traditional marketing materials to the nontraditional environment of new media…

BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS

In addition to becoming an interactive participant at new media outlets, another useful tool is to include a link to that author’s site via your orchestra’s website. For example, most orchestra websites maintain a list of links, the vast majority of them point to other orchestras, service organizations, local newspapers, and other traditional media outlets. Very few include links to new media outlets and that oversight, regardless of the reason, has cost organizations a considerable amount of lost integrity among new media outlets for years.

To appreciate the full depth of this point, it is important to understand that the currency of most new media outlets isn’t cash, it is attribution. If your organization is concerned that posting a link to one of these “unknown” new media outlets might be construed as passive endorsement, then simply include a basic disclaimer stating that your organization doesn’t endorse material at any third party websites listed in your “links” page.

Another, more powerful, step than posting a link is to use some content found at a new media outlet for your marketing purposes. The good news here is that if you do plan to use new media content, you likely won’t have to worry about paying reprint fees but proper attribution is critical. To help underscore just how important this is, along with the advent of new media outlets is the advance of the Creative Commons License (CCL) in place of standard copyright.

In many cases, new media outlets published under the auspices of a CCL are a marketing professional’s dream. Even the most restrictive license still allow users “to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work” so long as you “attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work), not use this work for commercial purposes, not alter, transform, or build upon the work and make clear to others the license terms of the work.”

All marketing professionals need to do is contact the author to verify attribution requirements (if no contact info is available, you must at least provide a link back to the original source along with listing the outlet’s and/or author’s name). Don’t underestimate how important it is to follow these rules! In order to underscore this point I will relate a personal event which transpired a few years ago:

While performing a Google search for my blog’s name I came across an online news piece from a television station which included a video clip about the resident professional orchestra. The focus of the article was something very positive I wrote concerning this orchestra and a recent achievement. Unfortunately, the video segment mispronounced my blog’s name, my name, and went on to attribute the blog to an incorrect source.

After calling the television station to learn more about the segment, the segment’s producer apologized profusely for the errors and made corrections to the online copy the same day as well as acknowledging the error in the video. When asked where she obtained her information the producer said it came from the local orchestra. After visiting the orchestra’s website I discovered a press release on the same topic which contained all of the same errors as the television segment and neglected to include a link to the original source
material.

Even though the material I published was under this CCL and my contact info was listed on every one of the blog’s pages, the orchestra’s marketing department never bothered to not contact me to inquire about attribution, a provision explicitly listed in the license agreement. When I contacted the organization’s marketing department, they were indifferent toward my concerns and took more than four weeks to address the problems. Their month-long process ultimately included removing the press release from their archives without ever issuing any necessary corrections. To this day the organization continues to send me PRs without once ever contributing a comment or sending a private email message to acknowledge that they know who I am or what I write about not to mention building a sincere relationship.

Instead, the message repeatedly conveyed is “what can you do for us that requires no effort beyond that which was expended in sending you this press release.

The lesson here is building genuine relationships will take time but once established are easy to maintain. Furthermore, the savvy marketing professional understands that the cache of good will they cultivate with new media outlets is portable. Meaning, if they are up for a promotion or move to a new organization, they take all of that good will with them which ultimately increases their professional value.

ADAPTING STANDARD PRESS RELEASE AND MARKETING MATERIAL

Traditionally, the most frequent way of distributing information to media outlets has been through the tried and true press release (PR). On average, I receive a dozen PRs a day from orchestras, PR firms, artist managers, etc. One thing they all have in common is they contain relatively little information that is useful to a hyper-niche like Adaptistration. In particular, two types of PRs arrive more often than others. The first is the archetypal shotgun style PR: who, what, where, how, when with only the most basic of information. The second is usually an email with a generic greeting and has a standard PR attached and/or a link to a news article.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of new media outlets aren’t paid vocations and the time authors dedicate to creating content is limited. As such, there is little time to follow up on a press release to uncover information that would be relevant to the new media outlet’s topic. For example, Adaptistration is about the orchestra business (management issues in particular). As such, receiving a PR about a new recording project that contains info about what will be recorded, any soloists involved, and which recording label will be used doesn’t really provide any worthwhile details.

At the same time, that doesn’t mean there isn’t something interesting worth writing about; for instance, take the recording project example. Yes, it is great when any orchestra secures a new recording project but simply sending out a “good news” PR as your first contact lacks sincerity and instead, conveys the message “give us free press by writing a puff-piece without requiring us to dig up info traditional media outlets never ask for.” How does that approach create a mutually beneficial relationship that advances the respective missions of the orchestra and the blog? There are already numerous resources inside the business to distribute basic news and announcements about new projects but publishing a good news puff-piece isn’t very interesting and doesn’t hold much useful info for others in the business who read detail oriented new media outlets.

Instead, if the orchestra was interested in having me write something at Adaptistration about their project it would be more useful to include information about how the organization negotiated with musicians to secure a contract. Did you use a traditional EMG formula or did you craft a new agreement? If so, what are the details of that new agreement and how about including some quotes from the musicians’ orchestra committee chair? Where did funding for the project originate? Was the development department able to use the project to tap into a new funding resource? If so, how about a few quotes from the lead development officer working on the project? Not including this info, or even acknowledging it, conveys that they don’t really know much about my blog other than that it exists and has at least some degree of influence in the cultural oriented new media environment.

Another problem is when orchestras send along links to published articles at traditional media sources encouraging new media sources to use for their content. At best, a new media author can regurgitate some of that info but to what end unless it is accompanied by some unique material which expands on that source? The message conveyed here is that the orchestra considers the new media outlet to be of lesser value than the traditional media outlet yet valuable enough to send along a marketing pitch. Remember, niche-blog readers expect a higher degree of detail than what is typically found in traditional media sources so marketing professionals will need to keep this in mind when they craft PRs intended for new media sources.

For the purpose of expanding the usefulness of this exercise, let’s examine another recent marketing notice sent from a professional orchestra. Keep in mind this isn’t criticism, it is merely a recent example to provide an additional frame of reference.

Hello! We thought you might be interested to know about this positive development with the [name removed] Symphony. Please see the following link for recent press about our upcoming recording contract: [link removed]

Thank you!

Unfortunately, the news article didn’t contain any useful information about the actual contract beyond, what will be recorded, which soloist is scheduled to work with them, the record label. The article did include the names of some donors who will subsidize the recordings but there was nothing beyond that.

The article contained no news about the actual contract with musicians, nothing about the project from a development standpoint or if the donors are new to the organization, and no quotes beyond the expected “recordings are good” comment from the music director. Furthermore, the orchestra’s notice made no offer to provide additional information or how a component from this project might fit in with the blog’s topic. Finally, the failure to include the author’s name in the salutation indicates that they don’t know who the author is and the lack of a signed closing indicates that they don’t care if you know who they are.

As an alternative, the organization would have stood a much better chance at making a connection by sending along something like this:

Dear Drew,

Our newspaper recently published an article about our new recording project and since some information related to the project was not covered in that article we thought you might like to know some additional details. Since Adaptistration has focused on new recording agreements with musicians in past articles we wanted to let you know that our development department was able to bring two new six-figure donors to the organization via the project which allowed us to produce the recording within the terms of our existing recording agreement. We would be happy to arrange a conversation with the development officer who spearheaded the project as well as the musicians’ orchestra committee chair if you like.

Sincerely,
[Marketing Manager]

This example included all of the elements discussed so far about crafting a sincere marketing pitch. In particular, it demonstrates the sender understands who the author is and what they write about. Beyond that,
crafting a directed PR with quotes beyond the expected fare would not only be helpful but it demonstrates that the sender has put more effort into reaching out than merely looking up a name and email address. In a perfect world, marketing professionals hope that their PRs are reprinted verbatim and there’s nothing wrong with that expectation. So why not increase that likelihood by following the guidelines established so far in this series? Naturally, it will take more time to craft press releases or email messages with this sort of customization and since new media outlets aren’t built around the set of standardized goals and content generation that most traditional media outlets are, marketing professionals will need to determine when the time is right to reach out to new media sources.

The good news is there are a number of user-friendly tools you can use to help facilitate (and in some cases automate) some of this process. Creating those new online marketing tools as well as other methods to help bring new media sources to you will be covered in tomorrow’s installment. In the meantime, keep sending in your questions and observations via comments and email.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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1 thought on “How To Connect With New Media: Part 3”

  1. Drew–

    This series is very good, and obviously much needed. A few additional observations about making PR contacts with bloggers and other New Media types.

    The point about attribution being the coin of the realm is very important. If your organization uses a pull-quote from my review of your concert or CD it’s gratifying for a few different reasons. First, I feel like you valued my opinion, and the vast majority of blogging is about getting ones opinions validated. Second, it says that you think my new media outlet is influential enough that your audience will find my opinion worthwhile. Third, it tells me that you cared enough about getting me to come to your concert or listen to your CD that you followed up to see if I had. Fourth, it puts my name in front of your audience, potentially driving more readers my way.

    I’ve never worked at a traditional media outlet, so I don’t know how much time the average press release gets before it’s either trashed or moved to the “maybe” pile, but I’d guess it’s a matter of seconds. I suspect it’s even less time in the blogosphere. This means efficiency is key — you can and should provide plenty of detail, but you have to have a good enough hook in the subject line to get me to even open the e-mail, and then the first couple of sentences have to spark my interest.

    It’s very important that you consider the preferences of your contacts, and bloggers operate differently from print journalists. We don’t have much time, we prefer to work online, we expect instant feedback, and we want to be able to do things at the last minute. So one tip for pitching concerts and recordings to new media would be to create an easy way for your targets to get a preview. If it’s a concert, can you provide a link to some sort of recording (a clip from a rehearsal, or from the last time you played that work, for instance). If it’s a CD, certainly offer to send the CD itself, but provide a link to a sample track or a medley. If you want somebody to attend and review your concert, make it as easy as possible, and if you can make it so the blogger can decide at the last minute.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts for the moment.

    As always, those are excellent points Galen, especially about the expectations for an average new media author. You beat me to the punch on some of them but I’ll be going over issues such as expectations of new media authors and what performing arts organizations can do to successfully work that environment in an upcoming installment. Thanks for getting folks thinking about those issues in advance. ~ Drew McManus

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