Media panels pass on insight and advice

Written by Reba Campbell, SCPRSA President

It certainly wasn’t the newsroom of the “The Post” era depicted in the recent movie. The new Greenville News newsroom I got to visit during SCPRSA’s January upstate meeting has open work space, areas for collaboration, lots of light (and I mean ceiling to floor lots of light) and a great view of downtown Greenville.

Steve Bruss leading a tour of the newsroom at the Greenville News

A tour of the newsroom was one of  three SCRPSA professional development meetings that kicked off 2018 programs for the statewide organization for public relations professionals.

More than 70 communicators gathered in Columbia, Greenville and Charleston to meet with local media representatives about the changing media landscape.

I had the pleasure of attending both the Greenville and Charleston sessions and wanted to share a few observations from both.

Steve Bruss, news director, and Dave Hennigan, consumer experience director, with the Greenville News delved into the paper’s new approach to “producing” the news product rather than just publishing content. Several items of interest I took away from the session include:

  • The new newsroom model at the Greenville News focuses on newsgathering locally with many corporate functions taking place in other locations (design, printing, distribution).
  • Assignment editors now have the title of “content coaches” and work closely with several reporters to shape news coverage – which today includes online, print, still photos and video.
  • Newspapers survived the onslaught of cable, the internet and now mobile phone communication. Today it’s about telling stories visually. They are seeking stories that will resonate with readers.
  • The newspaper has dedicated reporters in Anderson and Greenville. They use freelancers for other parts of the market.
  • The newspaper’s big focus in 2018 is “Loyalty is what we are trying to get back. People want what they want. They don’t care where it came from.”
  • The newspaper’s strategy for engaging readers involves examining analytics of readers’ online habits from multiple sources. There’s a huge bank of TV screens hung prominently in the newsroom that constantly updates numbers about readership and information about news topics that are trending worldwide.

In Columbia, more than 40 public relations professionals heard from Andy Shain with the Post and Courier, Alan Cooper with Midlands Biz, Renee Sexton with SC Radio Network and Sharranda Neal with WLTX who talked in a panel format about how they see the landscape of news gathering and distribution changing. Andrea Tanner, director of the USC College of Journalism, moderated. Observations by the panelists include:

  • When writing a release or pitching a story, include as much information as you can to set up your story, but avoid dense text. Info sheets and bullets always are helpful.
  • Don’t get caught up in making your goal to be a 30-second story on TV. There are many platforms that television and radio stations have these days to tell stories. Visuals are key. Video and photos always will make for a stronger story pitch that might result in a FB live broadcast or a website story.
  • Large video or photo files can easily get caught in spam filters. Send a link or use Dropbox, Google docs, etc.
  • Avoid sending press releases through third-party email like Mail Chimp. It often gets caught in spam.
  • Think visually for radio. Stories that are broadcast also appear online and compelling visuals are needed.
  • Cultivate leaders in your organization to be content experts. Reporters and producers are always looking for new sources to provide context and insights into stories. However, only offer your best experts. (Sidebar: Begin a media training program if you don’t have one).
  • It’s all about relationships when working reporters. Even in this age of technology and social media, getting to know reporters and editors face to face still matters.

The tweets from the meeting can do a better job than I can in summarizing all the great advice and suggestion these media professionals gave. Find out more about what the panelists discussed here.

The plan for SCPRSA in 2018 is to offer more programs like this that will appeal to a broad cross-section of communications professionals at every stage of their career. If you aren’t already a member, take a look at what membership in SCPRA do for you.

Reba Campbell
2018 SCPRSA President

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