How To Connect With New Media: Part 4

Part 3 of this series offered practical advice on how performing arts organizations can build genuine relationships with new media outlets. It also presented detailed instructions on how to design marketing materials especially for new media sources that are capable of making the most out of those relationships. In order to assist organizations with these tasks, this installment will examine some tools that will help with that process…

CREATING ONLINE MARKETING TOOLS RELEVANT TO NEW MEDIA

Part 1 of this series defined new media in part by detailing some technical components of the platforms used by the relevant platforms. Fortunately, many of the same elements used by new media outlets can be adopted by performing arts organizations to help maintain relationships with new media authors.

In general, the name of the game is to find a way to provide as much information as possible that is available 24/7 and respond to requests for specific information quickly, even if it is to say that it might take you a few days to obtain the information. To being with, it is important at this juncture to make certain everyone has the same minimum understanding behind how most new media platforms function. For example:

  • It isn’t unusual for a new media author to request information for an article they want to publish in a few hours.
  • Unlike traditional outlets which have two or more levels of editorial review, new media outlets (for better and for worse) have one – the author. So make certain any information you provide is as clear as possible.
  • It isn’t uncommon for new media outlets to be laden with business jargon so don’t feel there is any special need to filter any arts oriented nomenclature. The worst thing that can happen is the author will need to request clarification but you’ll likely have far less requests than the other way around.
  • New media outlets don’t have the sort of interactive restrictions experienced by print or broadcast formats. As such, they love to include links, photos, videos, and audio files when available. As such, beat them to the punch by offering those files before they ask.
  • If you have embedded code for multimedia material, make sure new media authors can use and share it with other outlets.
  • Most new media outlets retain readers by having frequently updated material. Providing information via specialized RSS feeds will increase the likelihood of disseminating your news.

Promoting your organization to new media outlets will be enhanced by how many of the above points you comply with. Furthermore, here are some inside tips on how you can develop a reputation of being “easy to work with” and someone who “gets it” with regard to the needs of new media.

  • Formatting. You wouldn’t send out a press release to traditional media outlets that doesn’t comply with industry acceptable formatting right? Well, that same formatting doesn’t always work well for new media platforms. In general, encourage usage of copy-and-paste paste content by providing copy without embedded html formatting. When in doubt, use 12pt, Times New Roman font with single spacing and no special margins or spaces before or after paragraphs. If a new media author can’t copy and paste from the document you sent or directly from your website and drop it into their platform, you only invite misprints and lowered interest.
  • Never provide or refer to copy from a source that doesn’t allow new media authors to copy and paste. In particular, websites that are coded entirely in Flash are useless since they lack right-click commands or left-click drag and copy functions.
  • You don’t need to provide high resolution photographs. The standard for most new media outlets (unless they specialize in photography) is a 72 DPI jpg format and the maximum width should not exceed 600 pixels.
  • Provide embedded code for audio and video content instead of sending copies of the actual files. This not only allows new media outlets to insert the content with less chances for technical problems but if you are hosting the content, then you should be able to track access to that content from the respective new media outlet.
  • Don’t password-protect PR web pages or access to online marketing material. There have been reasonable arguments for that practice in the past but they are all long dead. Restricting access to your marketing material only ensures that new media outlets won’t know you exist.

That point brings us to a critical component when dealing with those who generate new media content. More and more traditional media outlets are adopting new media platforms to retain/expand/enhance their reach; the result of which is that some new media authors are experienced pros in the field of journalism and know how the world of marketing works. This is great news for performing arts marketers because they get the best of both worlds.

On the other end of the spectrum, those individuals will always comprise a minority of the new media environment. The majority of new media authors don’t have this experience and that means you will need to act as a sort of intermediary between the world of traditional media producers and new media outlets. For example, as a marketing professional, you need to make sure your new media contacts understand critical issues such as fair use of copyrighted material and photo credits. Sometimes, you will need to make sure a new media author understands how quotes need to be formatted. Remember from Part 3, most new media outlets utilize a Creative Commons License (CCL) which is much more flexible than standard copyrights so these authors are used to working fast and free with content produced under the terms of a CCL.

In fact, most new media platforms have multiple tools designed to distribute their respective content efficiently as possible. Unfortunately, try explaining that to an artist’s agent who is screaming at you on the phone because they found a blog using a photo or audio/video clip of their client which they obtained from you without adhering to photo credit and/or restricted use requirements. Consequently, when providing multimedia content, make certain you unambiguously explain all use/credit issues including any “used with permission…” statements.

Finally, most new media authors are savvy enough to know how to copy graphic elements and copy directly from your website. As such, some authors may not even bother to go looking for a dedicated press/marketing page. Instead, they’ll snag items from anywhere on your website that suits their purpose. This isn’t done out of malice so much as it is a byproduct of the CCL environment. This is another good example of why it is important to reach out to new media outlets first so you can make certain an author understands they can obtain material from approved locations or directly for you.

DREW’S MARKETING WISH LIST

In addition to the tips above, I have a number of items on a performing arts organizations/new media outlet wish list that would serve to foster the number and quality of relationships and communication between the two constituents. It would be wonderful if performing arts organizations:

  • Established customizable RSS feeds for their performance schedule. It would be wonderful if new media users could create an RSS feed for an organizations performances by subscription, series, day/date, conductor, soloist, etc. To go one step further, performing arts organizations could disseminate their performance material via customizable widgets (in fact, they could do that already with some of the free widget creation tools).
  • Created specialized RSS feeds based on keywords or topics. Given the specialized nature of new media outlets and an overall distaste for generic press release material, it would be wonderful if a new media author could create an RSS feed based on keyword(s) entered by the user. Although less flexible, creating RSS feeds based on topic (guest artists, labor issues, financial news, etc.) new media authors could select which best suits the topic of their outlet.
  • Offered incentives to new media outlets to create user defined viral marketing tools with graphics, skins, and layouts for all of the major new media platforms. Think of it like hyper-active fan site toolkit and if performing arts organizations trusted users enough, they would discover that most of the material would eventually be created by users.
  • Created dedicated pages at their website offering reference material on copyright, use, quotes, etc. It could be easily added to existing policy and terms of use pages and would serve as an easily referenced resource.
  • Published the vast majority of marketing and promotional material under a Creative Commons License. In fact, if organizations had concerns over CCL or copyright material, they could establish separate press pages, one each for traditional and new media outlets (although I’m not terribly excited about anything that increases the gulf between the two outlets).

Tomorrow’s final installment will examine some final thoughts on do’s and don’ts for both new media outlets and performing arts organizations as well as look at some current efforts to reach out to new media outlets among orchestral organizations. 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 4”

  1. Drew,

    Happy to elaborate on this: Using tools such as Yahoo! Pipes and similar applications, you can create the customized RSS feeds that you describe in your wish list above:

    http://pipes.yahoo.com/pipes/

    Not everybody will be comfortable tinkering with Pipes – but with a little work, it can be done.

    I look forward to your final post in your series.

    Thanks for the pointer to Yahoo Pipes Doug. I remember hearing about that a few months back but then promptly forgot about it. I’m looking forward to checking it out later today and I hope other readers do the same. ~ Drew McManus

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