Archive | October, 2009

Behind the Scenes at the Statesman

26 Oct

A few Red Sky’ers recently had the opportunity to go Behind the Scenes of the Statesman thanks to a great meeting organized by the revamped Capital City Communicators (congrats to the new leadership team of the long-standing communications group – there’s a new look, feel and energy around CCC)

The event was billed as ‘Take this special behind-the-scenes tour of the Idaho Statesman, Idaho’s flagship newspaper. Meet writers and editors, discover the process behind the paper and sit in on the daily Editorial Board meeting, where decisions on content for each day’s paper are made.’

I’m a bit ashamed to admit – I’ve never been behind the lobby desk of the Statesman. Sure, I spent 7 years in TV newsrooms, at editorial meetings, lineup meetings, etc. And I’ve been on newspaper tours of The Austin-American Statesman and the Poughkeepsie Journal (say that 3 times fast!), but never the Statesman.

And I always preach to any PR, Marketing, General Comm or Journalism student to do multiple internships and always do at least one in a newsroom – broadcast or print. So it was time to stop being a hypocrite!

Silent presses at the Statesman

Silent presses at the Statesman

Admittedly – it was a bit depressing – as any massive building with sections of quiet can be. Silent presses, empty offices and cubicles. But it’s always inspiring to hear how professionals practice their craft, what they believe in, why they do what they do, and most of all – how they, like all of us – are trying to survive in a rapidly changing world with smaller budgets and shrinking staff levels. A few of the comments that stood out from the various members of the newsroom:

Katy Kreller / General Assignment Reporter:
‘It’s now about balancing a love of traditional newswriting and gathering with the demands of online. We’re now focused on writing that 2nd day story.’
(in reference to the need to have the immediate online story, and the secondary next day print story)

‘Turnaround time on a story ranges from 15 minutes to a month. Speed matters, but so do thoroughness and accuracy.’
Editorial Page Editor Kevin Richert

Editorial Page Editor Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert / Editorial Page Editor:

‘There’s so much opinion out there-our role’s to distill, guide the discussion’

‘If we get people to think – we are doing our job’

I also found it interesting to hear how Kevin views his blog, where he has been posting online commentary – which sometimes appears in prints – for more than a year.  He discussed how the blog provides him with more personal freedom and flexibility to write about topics that may not be addressed by the full Editorial Board. It lets him be ‘short and punchy – or longer and wonky’ and feature different kinds of opinions. Coincidentally, I think that’s how many of the ‘Traditional media is DEAD’ bloggers would describe their blogs.

Katherine Jones / Photographer
‘As a photographer, I mostly want you to feel – to recognize yourself in that moment, that image.’

‘I want to make it make a difference to you.’

Afternoon news meeting led by Editor Vicki Gowler

Afternoon news meeting led by Editor Vicki Gowler

Vicki Gowler / Editor & Vice President:

We don’t see ourselves as a newspaper company, we see ourselves as a media company.’

‘People have a craving not just for newspapers, but for reliable sources of information.’

‘I don’t have the luxury to hire people who just want to do one thing, we really need jack of all trades – TV, web, feature, news, research…’

‘If we can’t do things that make newspapers work for more people, then we will become obsolete.’

A member of our tour shared her thoughts on how the tradition of the printed page – which will keep her from reading books to her kids on the Kindle and will keep her subscribing to the daily paper – will prevail and keep the paper alive in its current form. I disagree. While I wholeheartedly support the tradition and important role in society that journalism plays, I don’t think the tradition of the medium and the news channel it occupies will continue. In some forms, print will endure. But the immediacy and the appetite for news that the world is embracing in such rapid order will demand our media sources continue to evolve. Not only in what they report and how they report (which was fascinating to hear about from Gowler) – but how they get that information to our ears and eyeballs. We aren’t going back in how we consume and digest our information. Our hunger and metabolism are speeding up – and so must our daily/hourly/by-the-minute diet of news.

– Jess

Publishing and PR in 2010: Don’t Lament, Reinvent

20 Oct

We’re broadening the offering of voices and experiences on PR Musings – pulling in more of our Red Sky staff to post, and engaging with our partners through Pinnacle Worldwide and throughout the state. First guest post honors goes to our North Idaho PR partner Lisa Gerber, founder of Big Leap Creative in Sandpoint.


photoI listened to The Long Tail during my 8-hour drive to the Pacific Northwest Travel Writers’ Conference in Vancouver, WA this past weekend. I had yet to read the book and wasn’t sure if it would still be relevant four years later, but I was in the library in my small town, and that was the best offer there. I had no idea until I got 10 minutes into it how relevant it still is, even though the word Facebook or Twitter never came up!

You see, my small library in Sandpoint, Idaho serves a very small population. There’s no Long Tail in Sandpoint, thus, I am limited to a small choice, and four year old books.

But it turned out to be the theme of the weekend at the Travel Writers Conference. Sell less of more. In other words, reach out to the smaller, more targeted markets on the low end of the graph with niche products versus blockbuster hits.

This was the first annual Pac NW Travel Writers’ Conference. About 100 or so of us took the risk (time investment and reasonable financial investment) and attended. I hope to see that number grow because the conversation and connections were quality, and can only get better. was most intrigued to see Cole Danehower, co-publisher and editor-in-chief of Northwest Palate Magazine, on a panel discussion regarding the state of the publishing world in 2010. After all, the announcement of the demise of Gourmet Magazine is still so fresh, and if I might add, so heartbreaking.

He addressed the point head on.

Why does Gourmet die, and NW Palate survive? Because of Northwest Palate’s niche. The smaller scale publication is regional and very targeted, therefore it is more intimate and attainable. This economy is a perfect opportunity to reach out to the people in our own backyard. In fact, Chateau Ste Michelle has cut back on its national advertising spend, and increased its regional spend.

The panel discussions centered around a small handful of themes in that vein. While the audience was largely freelance writers, each and every one of us can take these ideas home.

  • Be very focused on your niche. Do well in that niche and become the go-to person. It’s no longer about trying to be mass-market, and creating blockbusters.
  • Don’t lament, reinvent!
  • Content is King. Meg Weaver of Wooden Horse Publishing shared a sentiment from the editor of The Economist: The old model of delivering bundled readers to advertisers is gone and never coming back. Fresh content drives the model.
  • Run your business like a business.
  • If you aren’t online, you will go away. Remember these five pillars of a solid social media campaign: connectivity (engagement), generosity, honesty, personality, and imagination.

The bottom line? When we as PR practitioners have a deeper understanding of the publishing world, we can pitch even better and be better partners with our journalist friends. In 2010, targeted, fresh content to a focused audience will be the mantra.

And when all else fails, Shawn Donley, a columnist for the Oregonian holds the key: “What I lack in experience, I make up for with enthusiasm.”

Don’t ever lose the passion.

– Lisa

(Lisa Gerber is the founder of Big Leap Creative in Sandpoint, Idaho serving the tourism, hospitality, food and wine industries with their strategic marketing and public relations needs. She frequently collaborates with Red Sky Public Relations to form a strong Idaho PR partnership.)

Who’s Following Me? Hospitality and Social Media

19 Oct

I’m a collector (not quite a hoarder!) and I have a stack of travel books and brochures from the places I’ve been fortunate enough to visit over the past decade+. So if you are heading to Amsterdam, Costa Rica, the Willamette Valley or Vancouver Island in the next few weeks and want to borrow one let me know!

world travelAlthough I’m a fan of the tangible printed page (heck, I still get my morning paper), my first instinct when I prepare for a trip is to go online. Whether it’s searching TripAdvisor, looking for posted customer reviews, tweeting into the great beyond with requests for feedback on specific locales, or posting pix to Facebook post-trip – I deeply value the resources and input I can find online.

Which, to state the obvious, means that hospitality companies need to be there. Not just for me and my queries, but for those millions of other travelers and customers and their positive and negative experiences they share online.

That doesn’t mean every online channel is for everyone. A few cases in point

  • A colleague was having a terrible experience with rebooking a flight on United. I sent out a message via Twitter that I was mortified at their customer service. Did United respond? No. But booking agents for Alaska/Horizon who were monitoring the conversation not only about themselves but also about their competitors did and offered to help fix the problem.
  • While planning a trip to Vancouver Island I put out the request for recommendations on where to go/what to see via Facebook and Twitter. I received a dozen responses from friends near and far – a wealth of positive recommendations I would never have garnered otherwise. Also – some savvy businesses on Vancouver Island were monitoring the conversation and saw I was headed their way. Kudos to them because their helpful tips on where to go and what to do (and beware of!) got me in the door of their business. What are hospitality companies doing to ensure the glowing reviews on their printed comment cards make it out into the world as positive WOM? And what are they doing to make sure the negative ones, when they do get out, are addressed?
  • Hotels in specific cities have started following me on Twitter. These are cities I may have visited once or included in a message I’ve posted. But what are the odds that I’ll go back to that city and that specific hotel? What would be more useful to me is an online city or region or recreation concierge. In my mind, CVB’s and travel associations (see SkiIdaho on FB, Twitter & YouTube and Southwest Idaho Travel Association and the Boise CVB)need to fit that niche, finding out where the travel conversations about their area are occurring and acting as a resource for their members. As for hotels, I’d rather have a relationship with the broader chain that can help me find a room at various locations when I travel – then a specific hotel that I may never check into again. Sheraton – if I liked you in Seattle I’ll probably patronize you in Chicago.
  • With limited dollars  – customer service and a little bit more help make me a loyal customer. Not just for travel outside my city but where I choose to spend my paycheck locally. Online interactive content sites like Idaho’s Behind The Menu will only increase in their influence and their ability to drive culinary customers. The proliferation and ease of use of blogs (we started IdahoFoodies in just minutes) means everyone is a critic with a significant audience. A great dining experience – and a terrible one – spreads within seconds to customers you may never have the chance to directly impact.

With the continued fracturing of the media realm, and the proliferation of online channels for review, feedback and sharing, both the opportunity and the risk for hospitality is higher than ever before. I emphasize opportunity, because if you engage with your customers and potential customers online to right a wrong or leverage a positive – you can turn any risk into a great brand opportunity.

– Jess