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ALL GOOD THINGS…

Robbyn’s Nest is evolving, not saying ‘goodbye’

The countdown has begun.

I graduate with my Master of Strategic Communication degree in five days. I am a journalist by trade, but the crises we examined, techniques we delved into and discussions we had during this yearlong process has made me a strategic communicator.

If you read back through the entries here at Robbyn’s Nest, you’ll find thoughts about advertising techniques, social media responses, technology that helps us communicate in ways we once only dreamed about and ideas that help us all analyze what we hear, see, read and relay. We’ve also taken a close look at what happens to companies, organizations and even people who have fallen behind the social media times to the detriment of a financial and reputational bottom line.

Because my classes are coming to an end, so is the weekly requirement for this blog. That said, it’s been fun to pass along ways we can all do our jobs better, and essentially be better communicators in our everyday lives. Communication helps us on all levels of relationships, from work, to the way we interact at home.

blogfutureThis blog began as a way to further explore ideas being discussed in my graduate strategic communications classes, but will continue as a journal of thoughts, technology and advancements that allow professional communicators to do their jobs well – and with success.

The history of communication and its evolution, so far, is an interesting road. I can only imagine what the future will bring. I remember 20 years ago when I never would have thought I could make a phone call, email, Facetime, edit newspaper copy, video and update websites from one device. I am excited to continue studying strategic communication outside of school work and analyze new products and platforms on the horizon that can help professional communicators better relay messages and branding. Updates may not come as regularly as they do now, but I do hope you will stick around for the conversation to still be had.

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LEAD, OR PREPARE TO BE LEFT BEHIND

Businesses need leaders, not just managers

It’s easy to think of people who were considered great leaders for one reason or another. John F. Kennedy united a generation, Ghandi taught compassion, Rosa Parks held her ground during the Civil Rights Movement. They are all remembered for different things, but all three shared something in common – vision.

Vision is what separates leaders from managers. That’s not to say that one person can’t be both. However, the functions of leaders and managers is vastly different at the core when it comes to their goals and jobs within an organization.

blogleadershipWarren Bennis shared his thoughts on what differentiates leaders and managers in his book On Becoming a Leader. Bennis said that a leader’s purpose is innovation while a manager is an administrator. It’s the leaders job to push a company forward with new ideas, strategies and tactics. It’s also a leader’s job to always be looking ahead at ways for companies to implement new technologies. Bennis also wrote that leaders inspire people and a manager’s responsibility is to maintain control over certain areas of the company. The third idea Bennis brings forward is that leaders ask “what” and “why,” while managers focus on “how” and when.”

Larger organizations have the luxury of hiring both managers and leaders. Leaders are the “think tank” of the group while managers are paid to make sure a leader’s plan is followed through. One personal example of an organization I’ve worked with that maximized use of both leaders and managers is People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. I know everyone has mixed feelings on the group, and I ask you as a strategic communicator to put those biases aside and focus on what has been wildly successful for a company that is located on several continents and boasts two million members.

blogpetaThe clear leader of PETA is Ingrid Newkirk, who is also the co-founder of the organization. She is engaging and inspiring, both charismatic traits of successful leaders. But beyond that, she’s build the organization on the thought that people can be trusted with delegated ideas. Newkirk is a large part of the “think tank” for PETA. She is hands on and hosts a companywide morning meeting with all offices via an Internet roundtable. Newkirk sparks thoughts and ideas about new campaigns and then trusts managers in different divisions – such as Laboratory Investigations, Communications and Campaigns – to bring back plans to implement those ideas. It’s a well-oilded machine that is impressive, no matter what your view on the company’s policy is.

On the opposite end of the manager/leader spectrum are small companies that can’t afford to employ both managers and leaders. Traits of both are required for positions of management, and if that fails to happen, companies can also fail. According to a management-leadership article by the Wall Street Journal, “…in the new economy…management and leadership are not easily separated. People look to their managers, not just to assign them a task, but to define them for a purpose. And managers must organize workers, not just to maximize efficiency, but to nurture skills, develop talent and inspire results.”

Since this is a communications blog, let’s focus on the declining newspaper industry. I’ve been in the newspaper field for about seven years out of my 12 years in the communications field and it saddens me, just as it does many other print journalists, to recognize that if the industry doesn’t shift it will die. When I went to work for a daily newspaper in Florida in 2005, there were more than three hundred employees there. When I left that paper in 2009, there were less than about 50. The Chicago Sun-Times let go its entire photography staff recently with the thought that reporters could provide photos and video themselves. Let’s leave out the idea that the documentation of emotion will likely suffer and just focus on the shift to the idea of “one-man-bands.” Television stations shifted to that idea years ago, which just shows that newspapers are still catching up when it comes to innovative ideas.

To be in the newspaper industry these days, and be successful, and have the company remain successful, employees have to wear multiple hats. That especially goes for people in management positions. Managers at small community newspapers are tasked with writing, editing, planning the daily product, taking photos, editing photos, laying out pages, public relations and customer service, but above all, managers must focus on vision and leadership. In the middle of all the managerial work to be done, if editors don’t also understand the importance of propelling a news organization forward with technology and communication, messages can be lost and products become irrelevant.

blognewspapersIn 2006, Time Magazine asked if newspapers had a future and The Economist predicted print media would dissolve by 2043, posing thoughts as to who was responsible for the industry’s decline. While those answers may not have been clear seven years ago, I have very strong feelings on the issue today. Will newspapers survive? Yes. But not without re-invention. Will they be printed on newsprint and delivered on front door steps by 2043? Probably not unless a company finds a way to market nostalgia. Who is killing newspapers? Managers who lack vision.

Newspaper managers and editors must move forward to communicate with readers where communication is happening. Right now, conversations are being had via Twitter and Facebook. Some years ago it was MySpace. Even before that, information was passed along via email links and forwards. Figuring out a way to keep a news product relavant by becoming a multi-media agency versus a traditional newspaper is key to the industry’s reinvention and survival.

blogsocialmediaIn small communities where I live, it’s a struggle to maintain a balance still because the county is rural and many subscribers to the print product don’t have access to the Internet. Some community members read about our online poll in the print edition and call the office to ask if we can enter a vote for them (which we do). Moving forward without leaving paying subscribers behind is an issue we face daily.

However, metro areas such as Washington, D.C., are succeeding in seeing newspapers become a digital 24-hour news source. That’s thanks, at least in part, to the vision of leaders at metro papers.

I’d love to hear how you all get your news? Do you find some nostalgia in picking up a printed newspaper and sipping a cup of coffee, or do you prefer the convenience of reading news on a tablet or smartphone?

WELCOME TO MY NEST

If you found your way here, it must be because you are a lover of all things communication. Either that, or you mistyped something and you now can’t figure out why this blog is relevant to you. Hopefully, it’s the first reason.

I am the managing editor of a daily community newspaper in Alabama and also a Strategic Communications graduate student at Troy University. I’ve spent time as a television photojournalist, live truck operator, television reporter, newspaper reporter, newspaper editor, radio personality and was once an international spokesperson for a non-profit organization.

Communication and finding new ways to communicate have been an important part of my career, but emerging media has also provided ways to stay in touch with friends across the globe and network with others in the communication business.

Communication efforts have come a long way. I remember the first cell phone I had, which could only make phone calls. So strange, right? A phone that makes phone calls? Sixteen years later, I’ve moved into the iPhone 5world and it’s hard to imagine not being able to text, talk and surf the Net – all with the help of Siri.

Remember that nifty little social networking fad, MySpace? Who would have thought back then that we’d trade that in for a Facebook and Twitter combo?

It’s common now to read a newspaper on a Nook or Kindle or even a smartphone instead of wait for the morning print edition to arrive on your doorstep. So, what happens to traditional papers and magazines?

This blog will explore some of those ideas and will provide a weekly update on emerging media and strategic communications. Sometimes topics will be serious, sometimes they will be funny. Other times, they could be seriously funny.

There will also be “quick hits” from time to time on communication trends and tidbits as I do my best to be a thirty something trying to keep up with the “cool kids.”

I hope that you will check back often to see what’s new in the world of communication and even offer your own insights as to what will help (and hurt) the future of journalism and public relations.

This week’s topic is the changing face of media and how we consume news. The Poynter Institute cited an online survey by Knowledge Networks that was released last year, noting that 53 percent of people get their news from what is known as Web-native news sources. Those are sites, such as Yahoo! News, the Huffington Post and the Drudge Report, that are independent of a print product and are only known because of an online presence.

Forty-three percent of those surveyed said they trusted sources such as CNN, Fox and The New York Times. Fifteen percent of folks, Knowledge Networks found, used social media sites to catch up on the day’s events.

Furthermore, the study showed that news consumption varies based on age groups. Millennials are more likely to get their news from Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, followed by Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. That’s really no big surprise to anyone, though, I don’t think.

How we share news was no big surprise, either. Baby Boomers are more likely to share news by word of mouth, Gen Xers are more likely to email news to other people and Millennials are more likely to post links to news stories on social network sites or feeds. Knowledge Networks also found that a significant number of Baby Boomers still clip items from newspapers to share and save.

Something I found from the study that was a little surprising is that fewer people subscribe to newspapers than have smartphones, but more people get their news from newspapers than they do by reading on their phones. Also surprising, even with all the social networking done by young people, older people are more likely to get news first. The survey results reported could be because young people sleep in and older one get up early. The early bird gets the worm, AND the news, it seems.

So, what does all this data mean?

For starters, it means that media outlets who want to stay relevant have to find a balance between retaining older, more traditional, news consumers, while also attracting Millennials who have smartphones glued to their hands for most of the day. Some newspapers, such as the Times Picayune, The Birmingham News, the Mobile Press-Register and The Huntsville Times, have modified their news production to include daily web news and abbreviated printing schedules. That may prove to be the solution for metro papers, but those changes are relatively new when it comes to tracking success. So, it’s a wait and see process to find out if that route is a financially viable option.

According to a piece on USAToday.com, some companies are looking to segregate their profitable print products from failing ones, or sell print products all together. The story notes that Time Warner is in talks to sell magazines, including People, InStyle and Real Simple and keep Time, Sports Illustrated and Fortune. The Tribune Co. is known for The Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune and wants to sell some of it’s eight total papers so the company can focus on their television stations.

But while larger print products have been feeling the heat for quite some time, smaller papers seem to be hanging in there. And some investors, such as Warren Buffett, see the value that could still be there. His purchase of 60 small papers, including The Dothan Eagle, is evidence of that.

I tend to think the longevity of community papers will be greater than metro newspapers. I see that in our subscribers at the paper I help to manage. While our paper is in a town with a strong college population, it’s also in a rural county. There are farmers and their families who live in areas with little to know cell phone coverage and older people who don’t even own computers. While subscriptions aren’t as strong as they used to be, advertisers and community members prefer that their ads and stories are in the traditional print edition of our paper. We aren’t suffering as much as newspapers in larger cities where morning commuters are using tablets to peruse the news.

What do you think? Any great answers for helping media companies, both print and broadcast, retain their customers and gain new ones? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time, take care! You’re welcome to visit my nest at robbynsnest.wordpress.com, any time, or bookmark the blog. I look forward to future encounters!