Getting Ink... and Pixels! Hometown news for higher ed marketing


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Amy Mengel's presentation at eduWeb Conference 2010. Media relations tactics to make news about your students in print and on the web. How to take hometown news stories and turn them into powerful hyperlocal news content that students and parents will want to share to social networks.

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  • Want to talk to you today about what’s traditionally been a very non-web savvy PR tactic that a lot of colleges do, and how this tactic is being transformed into a tool for the social web. In public relations, a lot of times too much emphasis is put into landing your organization in a big national publication like the New York Times. And while that can be great and a big ego boost, it’s often kinda fleeting and may not have a very big impact as far as things like affecting enrollment or retention. I want to show some research and examples of how reaching out more broadly, but to publications with a smaller reach, can have more impact, and how you can marry traditional PR outreach with some web-based tactics that can help you achieve maximum impact.
  • I want to start by sharing from numbers from a Pew Research study about how people go about getting news. Gone are the days of sitting and reading the daily paper in the morning and watching national news broadcasts at night. People now get their news throughout the day, from a variety of sources. They have a ton of options of where to get national and global news, and in a variety of flavors and mediums. And they’re customizing their news more.
  • At the local level, however, there are fewer choices. When you go hyperlocal, it’s even less. Especially if you don’t live in massive media market like New York or Chicago (or even if you do), it can be harder to find local or geographic-specific news. How do you get information about what’s happening where you live, to people you know? Local can be considered what’s happening in your general region. Chicagoland Hyperlocal is your neighborhood. Roscoe Village or Evanston
  • The idea of hyperlocal news is really picking up steam. Specifically from a lot of large, legacy media companies who recognize that very little hyperlocal news lives online and if they can find a way to create hyperlocal content, they can sell ads against it. Metro and regional news outlets keep cutting back, and the victim has been the nuanced local coverage of what’s happening in a specific town. That’s important information to the people who live in that town, however. Community and suburban newspapers are actually one area of journalism that are actually doing okay. They have not been as gutted as regional/metro dailies. They are still bringing in ad dollars and circulation is still good. In a lot of cases, they’ve survived BECAUSE they’ve focused on hyperlocal news that no one can get elsewhere, be it online or in other channels.
  • A ton of companies are investing heavily in trying to build out hyperlocal content portals and websites. Aol is spending more than $50MM this year to build out it’s patch network. Already at 83 sites. CNN partnering with to pull in hyperlocal blog and news items to its page to create a more personalized experience. Baristanet is independent local blog covering small towns in New Jersey. Plus tons of local blogs that cover neighborhood government/politics, community events, and more. Local business are underserved when it comes to advertising, local audiences are underserved when it comes to content. They want to marry online local content with online local advertising.
  • Newspapers are also getting into the hyperlocal game. Creating microsites for specific towns/suburbs with content specific to those towns. Trying to create a hyperlocal experience and serve up unique news and content for a given town. But a major issue for all of these players is coming up with engaging content to fill up these sites!
  • Many schools have been a source of hyperlocal content for years, whether they know it or not! 80% have a hometown news program. For some, it may just be sending out commencement notices. But colleges have an endless supply of this type of content happening on their campus. Students from tons of different towns doing cool things that are noteworthy to people back home. It’s just a matter of getting that news to the right place. Photo:
  • As evidence that newspapers really love and want this content, this is from a March 2010 survey.
  • But newspapers are pretty particular about this type of content. Many won’t publish unless it comes directly from the school. They don’t like getting it by fax or snail mail. And the most important takeaway is that a lot of this positive, hyperlocal content gets printed but never makes it online.
  • So if this is eduWeb, why am I talking about newspapers? Well, it’s still important to reach out to these papers. They are still a trusted source of news for many local communities. But if they’re not always necessarily putting this content online, then you need to figure out how to get it there. And doing so can turn hometowners into a “we have to do this” PR activity into a powerful social media tool. Combining traditional media relations outreach with web optimization of hometowners can produce some pretty neat results.
  • So how do you make hometowners effective, both for newspaper editors and for web and social media audiences. This is a great example of what not to do.
  • Instead, look at how Connecticut College has personalized each story for each student. Not a new concept, but the difference is that they’re publishing each individual story to the web, with personalized details about each student’s internship. It’s templated, but it’s still an individual story for each student. And publishing to the web creates a place on the web that this student and their family can link to and share. As well as get it to the right newspaper for print publication.
  • On our platform, this is what the next-gen hometowners look like. The headline, so important to Google and also the piece that gets viewed/shared in social networks, has the students name and ideally their hometown, so that people can see and recognize it. Also good for SEO purposes. The landing page makes it really easy to identify where the news is from and links back to the school’s website. It also makes it simple to share their news with one click. Whereas before, you’d see this in a local paper and maybe someone would clip it out and send to parents to be put on the fridge, now it’s on the web, where there are no boundaries to where it can be shared.
  • So there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence that hometown news is important to people and they like seeing their kid’s name in the paper for making the dean’s list, but we wanted to see how engaging this content is on the web. Do people clickthrough and read these stories?
  • Another important part of hometown news is not only sending to newspapers, but letting parents and students know. Equip them with the tools to share good news. Twitter search – “got drunk all semester and still made the dean’s list, w00t!”  instead of that, include link to your school’s messaging
  • Hometowners are a great enrollment marketing tool. Can create awareness among students considering school and their parents. Someone they used to go to karate class with.
  • People trust people they know. Newspaper editorial content also rates high Hometowners hit both of these.
  • In print, since we know these almost always get printed, you can connect with local communities via a trusted source of information
  • On the web, you can go beyond that community and reach other people in the students’ or parents network. Get them to share their good news on Facebook and you’re now reaching all the people they’re connected to, and not just people from where they live. Cousins, friends from camp, etc.
  • We’ve seen clients do some great, interesting stories. Like the editors said, any news about students they are interested in and will print. And people love bragging on themselves, so they’ll love sharing it. Students do so many newsworthy things! It may not seem big, but it is to their community.
  • This is a kind of Grassroots Marketing Playbook. Shows the cycle of getting news to papers, into social networks, driving interest in your school, and driving enrollment. In all likelihood, hometown news is something your school is already doing, it’s just a matter of optimizing this process for a web 2.0 era and enabling it for the social web.
  • Print surveys on table – fill them out and leave them. Go to Social media app – who’s going to what sessions
  • Getting Ink... and Pixels! Hometown news for higher ed marketing

    1. 2. Getting Ink... and Pixels! Media relations tactics to make news about your students in print and on the web Amy Mengel readMedia July 27, 2010 | eduWebconference
    2. 3. Where do you get your news? <ul><li>News consumers have lots of options for where they get global or national news: </li></ul><ul><li>92% of Americans use multiple platforms each day to get news. </li></ul><ul><li>46% percent get news from 4-6 media platforms on a typical day. </li></ul><ul><li>28% percent of internet users have customized a home page to include news from sources and on content that particularly interests them. </li></ul>
    3. 4. What about local news? <ul><li>News consumers have far fewer options for sources of local and especially hyperlocal news content. </li></ul><ul><li>What’s happening where I live, to people I know? </li></ul>Local: What’s on the 6 p.m. newscast Hyperlocal: What’s on the community bulletin board
    4. 5. Hyperlocal news movement <ul><li>“ As newspapers keep cutting back on staff and printing skimpier editions, journalists, entrepreneurs and ordinary citizens have responded by creating websites to cover the local news they feel is going underreported .” </li></ul><ul><li>-- Time magazine, July 22, 2010 </li></ul><ul><li>“ The community weekly has ONE huge advantage over daily papers – localized, hometown feature coverage . It is why community weeklies are surviving and in many cases thriving in an economic atmosphere that is threatening dailies. We publish news of family and neighbors that won’t be found anywhere else.” </li></ul><ul><li>--Weekly newspaper editor, March 2010 </li></ul>
    5. 6. Where is hyperlocal news? <ul><li>Many organizations are trying to crack the hyperlocal nut: </li></ul><ul><li>Aol & Patch </li></ul><ul><li> & EveryBlock </li></ul><ul><li>CNN & Outside.In </li></ul><ul><li>Independent local blogs </li></ul>A lot of hyperlocal news doesn’t live on the web!
    6. 7. Where is hyperlocal news? <ul><li>Metro daily newspapers doubling down on hyperlocal content </li></ul><ul><li>Neighborhood pages and portals </li></ul>
    7. 8. Hometown news is hyperlocal <ul><li>Colleges have been making hyperlocal news for years! </li></ul><ul><li>80% of schools generate and distribute hometown news </li></ul><ul><li>Schools are a reliable source of positive, quality news content about individuals: </li></ul><ul><li>Dean’s list and graduation news most common </li></ul>
    8. 9. Newspapers love hometowners <ul><li>Survey of 1,000 weekly/daily newspaper editors & publishers: </li></ul><ul><li>“ The focus of our paper is people, and students are of interest to parents, neighbors and former classmates.” </li></ul><ul><li>-Thomas Beeler, Granite State News </li></ul><ul><li>“ Parents call wondering why their kids’ achievements aren’t in the paper. We publish EVERY notice colleges send us!” </li></ul><ul><li>-Stu Nielson, Town Crier </li></ul><ul><li>“ News items about hometown students doing great things at college are popular with our readers.” </li></ul><ul><li>-Jeremy Boyer, The Citizen </li></ul>
    9. 10. Newspapers love hometowners <ul><li>But you’ve got to do it right! </li></ul><ul><li>Get it to editors in an easy-to-use format so they can repackage: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>88% of editors do not prefer to receive hometown news via snail mail or fax </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Many will not accept hometown news if it doesn’t come from directly from the school </li></ul><ul><li>A lot of hometown news appears in print editions only – some papers have no web presence! </li></ul>
    10. 11. Hometowners for web 2.0 <ul><li>Combine hometown news outreach to local print media </li></ul><ul><li>with optimization for new media: </li></ul><ul><li>Get hometown news published to the web where it can be shared with social networks, linked to, and emailed! </li></ul>
    11. 12. Developing hyperlocal stories <ul><li>Generic stories don’t work: they’re not relevant! </li></ul><ul><li>WHO CARES? </li></ul><ul><li>No personal connection </li></ul><ul><li>No geographic connection </li></ul><ul><li>Anonymous and generic </li></ul><ul><li>Not relevant to local media </li></ul><ul><li>Not compelling to local audiences </li></ul>News Release 54 Connecticut College students to complete summer internships NEW LONDON, CT. 7/22/10: Fifty-four rising seniors from Connecticut College will be interning at various companies around the country this summer. They are being funded by the college’s four-year internship program that combines academic classes with real-world experience and career advice from counselors. #
    12. 13. Personalization of news <ul><li>Turn one bland story into 100+ relevant, hyperlocal stories: </li></ul>Single overall story, but personalized with details about each student’s internship and delivered to the hometown media outlet that cares! “ Hey, I know that kid!”
    13. 14. Hometowners for web 2.0 <ul><li>Next-generation hometown news stories are personalized, published online, optimized for SEO, and easily shared: </li></ul>
    14. 15. Hometowners for web 2.0 <ul><li>Content pilot program with Hearst: </li></ul><ul><li>Direct syndication of ZIP-code specific hometown news stories to neighborhood news pages -- with no editorial intervention </li></ul>
    15. 16. Engaging hyperlocal content <ul><li>Hearst content pilot program: 250% growth in clickthroughs </li></ul>
    16. 17. Engaging hyperlocal content <ul><li>Hearst content pilot program: 180% growth in unique visits </li></ul>
    17. 18. Sharing hometown news <ul><li>Don’t just send hometown news announcements to newspapers – send them to students and parents, too! </li></ul><ul><li>People love to share this kind of positive news with their social networks. </li></ul><ul><li>Make sure your school’s name, branding, and links are what’s being shared! </li></ul>
    18. 19. Sharing hometown news <ul><li>Facebook drives more traffic to readMedia news stories than Google news. </li></ul><ul><li>Hometown news stories shared to Facebook see an average of 6.2 additional page views . </li></ul>
    19. 20. But why do all of this?
    20. 21. It’s key to enrollment marketing <ul><li>Hometown news plays a part in recruitment: </li></ul>“ My old babysitter is at XYZ College? Wow, I didn’t know they had a marine biology program there. I should check it out.” “ Cool! Our neighbor’s son is spending the summer in DC interning on Capitol Hill. He must be doing well at XYZ College.” “ XYZ College just sent a press release announcing that I am enrolling this fall! I’ll have to share this on Facebook.
    21. 22. It’s marketing people trust <ul><li>Hometown news is basic, grassroots, word-of-mouth marketing. </li></ul><ul><li>Each story is an endorsement of your school from trusted community members. </li></ul>
    22. 23. It’s where people find local news <ul><li>Hometown news in print connects with local communities: </li></ul>Suburban newspapers Metro Newspapers TV Internet Radio Community/neighborhood news 66% 20% 18% 22% 9% Local youth/high school sports 64% 18% 7% 14% 3% Local business news 55% 39% 11% 26% 7% Local shopping/advertising 53% 40% 7% 22% 4% Local entertainment 53% 35% 9% 34% 7% State/regional news 35% 47% 41% 36% 18% National/international news 15% 34% 51% 50% 22%
    23. 24. It’s the power of the network <ul><li>Hometown news not only showcases the success of your students, but also the variety of programs you offer. </li></ul><ul><li>Several hundred personalized stories in local media outlets in the towns where you recruit students can be more effective than one mention in a big national outlet. </li></ul>
    24. 25. Go beyond the dean’s list <ul><li>Possibilities for hometown news stories are endless. </li></ul><ul><li>Develop hometown news about students who: </li></ul><ul><li>Publish research </li></ul><ul><li>Win a scholarship </li></ul><ul><li>Participate in study abroad </li></ul><ul><li>Break an athletic record </li></ul><ul><li>Star in a play </li></ul><ul><li>Land an internship </li></ul><ul><li>Perform volunteer work </li></ul><ul><li>Submit a senior honors thesis </li></ul><ul><li>Are inducted into honor societies </li></ul>
    25. 26. Student’s activities become news in their hometowns. Stories are auto-published on their local newspaper. Readers view the full-story. Stories bounce around social networks. Drives traffic to college websites. Which leads to more students....and more....
    26. 27. Local news is big news <ul><li>For newspapers: </li></ul><ul><li>because it’s their bread and butter content </li></ul><ul><li>For online media: </li></ul><ul><li>because it helps them get ad dollars </li></ul><ul><li>For students & parents: </li></ul><ul><li>because it’s the kind of news they celebrate and share </li></ul><ul><li>For schools: </li></ul><ul><li>because it provides a one-on-one marketing opportunity </li></ul>
    27. 28. Making it work for you <ul><li>Create a lot of hometown news </li></ul><ul><li>Get it to the right newspapers in the formats they prefer </li></ul><ul><li>Get individual, personal stories published on the web </li></ul><ul><li>Give people the tools to share news in social networks </li></ul><ul><li>Get hometowners to the next generation of local media </li></ul>
    28. 29. Questions? <ul><li>Amy Mengel [email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>readMedia 518-429-2780 </li></ul><ul><li>@amymengel </li></ul><ul><li>@readmedia </li></ul>Contact info: More information: Newspaper Attitudes Toward Hometown News: The SNA Suburban Market Study: Pew Research Center: