Conversations with your Community

February 22, 2017

How the media landscape is changing and what it means for economic developers

 

By Noelle Salerno

It is no secret that how and where people get their news has evolved in recent years – traditional media consumption has decreased, with many newspapers downsizing or going fully digital. Many consumers rely on social media to get their news, whether it is from an aggregate of news sources followed on Twitter or reading and sharing what friends post on Facebook. The increase in real-time breaking news on social media rather than through traditional media outlets has also put pressure on television’s 24-hour news cycle, causing a focus on sensational topics and conjecture rather than well-researched or investigative journalism. Additionally, fake news has dominated the headlines, making it difficult for people to know what is fact, what is opinion, or what is just plain false.

We observe similar trends at the local level. Do you ever feel like your local media is against economic development?  If so, you’re not alone. Our clients frequently cite local media, under pressure to increase readership and ad revenue, covering negative and sensational news more often than positive news. Social media can also get hijacked by naysayers, drowning out the good news that community leaders attempt to celebrate on digital platforms.

These media trends mean proactive engagement with your community is more important than ever. Economic developers play a unique role. With the right communication tools, you create a sense of identity and foster an inclusive environment as part of your internal marketing effort. This type of engagement brings citizens together around a common goal: a thriving community where everyone has the opportunity to succeed.

How can economic developers proactively engage with their community amidst a changing media landscape?

  • Continuously produce content that keeps your community informed about economic development. This includes success stories, advocacy efforts, and progress on key metrics you use to measure success. Think about what your community values, what they are proud of, and what challenges they face. Use this perspective to engage in civic education that helps your citizens connect the dots about how they directly benefit from specific economic development initiatives your organization is taking on.
  • Develop strong partnerships with your local media. Most local newspapers work with limited resources and welcome content from trusted sources. Share the content described above through press releases, editors to the letter, or even as a contributing editor. Proactively share research and analysis about how your local economy is performing. Don’t be afraid to be transparent about challenges your community faces and what it will take to address them. This can further elevate trust and confidence among media partners and citizens alike. Explore partnerships with community papers as well – many communities are home to local newspapers such as Business Journals and Community Impact which provide neutral coverage on business issues.
  • Have a robust social media presence. More and more people are consuming news through social media platforms. According to Pew Research Center, “a majority of U.S. adults (62%) get news on social media, and 18% do so often.” Actively share economic development news across platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Develop a brand ambassador program that arms locals with the tools they need to share what they love about living and working in your community. This will help frame community conversations with a positive tone while keeping citizens engaged and informed.

Avalanche Consulting deploys robust marketing and communication plans for our clients to ensure an inclusive, transparent strategic planning process from beginning to end. Contact us to learn more about our marketing and strategic planning services.