At Abel Communications we are always learning. Doing so is part of our core values. To live up to this expectation, we often set up ‘lunch and learns’ with subject matter experts, including members of the media.
We like to turn the tables and interview them to get their take on what’s making news and how it’s covered.
Just recently we set up a Google Hangout (yeah technology!) with Wendy Warren, editorial manager, digital at NBC Washington, which is the D.C. market’s longtime ratings leader. Wendy’s distinguished journalism career includes roles as a print business reporter and editor with large metro dailies, assistant managing editor of the Philadelphia Daily News, as well as editor of Philly.com.
And, fun fact, Wendy and Greg worked together at the student-run newspaper at James Madison University back in the day.
In her current position, Wendy oversees the team that creates the content for NBC’s online platforms, including the station’s website, www.nbcwashington.com, and many social media platforms.
We picked Wendy’s brain, and here are some of her thoughts about the news industry and the need to constantly evolve in order to capture the public’s attention.
Q: How would you describe the current state of the media business?
Wendy: I’ve been in both print and now digital/TV for over 20 years, and things have never been more challenging in media. That said, there are also more opportunities than ever to make a direct connection to your audience.
My business is eyeballs. How many eyeballs can we get on our content, whether that’s on-air or digital content.
We have more ways to reach these eyeballs than ever before, through on-air, digital, social and mobile apps. But the audience is more segmented than ever. You don’t build a mass audience with mass content. You need to build a mass audience by stitching together many smaller niche audiences.
Q: How do you make connections from one content platform to another?
Wendy: You need to be strategic about platforms and know what sort of content will resonate best on each one. This takes both upfront research and tracking of analytics.
What many people don’t understand is the time it takes to tailor content for each platform. On-air versions of a story have a different feel and flow than the digital version. Sharing on Facebook should be different than Twitter.
It’s all about delivering the content in the ways that that platform’s audience expects it and can best connect with it.
With our content, we plan out how to connect all these platforms so we can keep those eyeballs on us all day.
That might be checking the NBC 4 app first thing in the morning, then watching a segment on the Today show; checking in on breaking stories on NBC4.com at work, checking traffic on the app before heading home and then commenting on a Facebook post after dinner. That’s the entire audience experience we have to map out for each and every story.
Q: In a world of aggregation, does original content still have a place?
Wendy: Absolutely. I still strongly believe that content, original content that is, is king. Content lives on forever, so unless you are its creator, you will soon be forgotten.
Why do you think content providers like Netflix, Amazon, Apple or Yahoo are getting into the content creation business? They know that if you produce what people want to see, watch, hear or read, you will always have an audience.
We take that thought seriously on a local level. We can always bring in national stories, but no one does local better than us.
That’s where those niche audiences come into play. If we can create different pieces of content that appeal to moms in Bethesda, sports fans in Ashburn and political junkies on K Street, we’ve done our job of getting the most eyeballs possible on the site.
Q: What can PR pros do to help you gather those eyeballs?
Wendy: I often see a disconnect between local media and local businesses. You all [people working in PR] have a better grasp of what’s happening at the ground level.
Let us know what’s happening without being overly promotional for your one client. Trends, data (real data, not click-bait lists), growth and community involvement; these are all things we want to hear about because it’s what our audiences care about.
Other simple things you can do to help:
Have spokesperson(s) media trained and tell us that they are. We need people who are comfortable on TV.
SEND VISUALS!!!!! Can’t stress this enough. We need at least one picture for every digital story. Even if it’s an iPhone shot of a client’s sign, that’s better than nothing.
Background info. Even if you aren’t pitching a story, let us know something interesting or introduce us to someone who can comment on a future story. With the Zika virus scare, if we knew of an immunologist or tropical disease expert ahead of time, you can bet we’d go to him/her first for insight.
And of course, invest in the relationship. We’re people like you.
Take the time to get to know us and be genuine about it. Just as you’re more likely to answer a call from someone in your contacts list, we’re more likely to entertain stories from people we’ve spoken to before. It’s not a guarantee for coverage, but it will at least get you in the door.