Monday, August 03, 2009

Reboot communications with a locavore

Locavore's a term that only recently made it into the dictionary, and it describes eating habits of folks who aim to consume only foods made or produced locally--sometimes in a footprint of just 100 miles. So why would you want one on your communications or marketing team?

I have more than a few clients looking ahead to how to re-organize -- or as one puts it well, "reboot" -- their communications operations to reflect the many emerging trends they can see, from the advent of social networking tools to the demise of traditional media. To me, that rethinking involves a new look at the traditional beats or roles communications team members play. After all, the audiences and gatekeepers their current jobs revolve around may not be there shortly. And that's where your locavore team member comes in.

I know from my own experience that local issues, from community outreach to local public affairs and even "good neighbor" issues often get short shrift. But it seems to me that a locavore-style approach will bring you plenty of benefits. Here's why:

  1. Unlike national news outlets, local and hyperlocal news outlets are a growth area. From the demise of the Washington news bureau to the expansion of social networks, trends point to local news as a more powerful source of information. Local newspapers are on the wane, but people are seeking local stories online and on TV and radio. And let's face it: Since most companies and organizations are not in major media markets (and what are those, anymore?), your odds are better with local as your focus.
  2. It's easier than ever to search and find local news, expanding your footprint. YouTube just announced that hundreds of local TV stations have agreed to post footage on the site (and share ad revenues), and viewers will get suggestions for local videos to watch based on their locations. And while some stations don't want to participate, YouTube's also posting locally focused videos from colleges and universities, citizens' groups and more. (Google's also now featuring video from television stations in search results.)
  3. A local focus takes advantage of 3 major social media trends: photos, video and mobile devices. Nothing shows off a place like a visual--or, for that matter, a phone-based application with maps and photos. These under-your-nose advantages translate into compelling content that will attract readesr and viewers.

As for organizing your locavore strategy, consider these options inspired by the food movement:

  • Focus on the miles: Whether you choose a five-mile radius or the communications version of a 100-mile diet, proscribe a specific area on which to focus and see what you can find there.
  • Make it sustainable: That may mean a team approach, where every communications team member is tasked with adding local approaches to a strategy, or tasking one or more team members to tackle the local territory. Either way, make sure it's not a one-shot wonder, and encourage your team or tasked individual to come up with new ideas each week to ensure it's part of your office's local flavor. (I've had success asking a very junior team member, or an administrative assistant looking to move up, to take finished releases, reports or other products and come up with the local angle and how to pitch it--that narrow focus is a great development tool.)
  • Add another strategic reason (or two): Locavores seek out local food in part for environmental reasons, but also for flavor and freshness, as a political statement against agribusiness, or for health reasons. So in addition to your mileage focus, figure out what else is in it for you and make that a part of your approach.
  • Take advantage of community-supported options: Just as subscribers help community-supported agriculture or CSA farms to thrive, consider who your local subscribers (RSS or otherwise) might have been missed in your rush to get headlines. A concerted effort to reach out to community groups (and their avenues of communication) can be part of a smart strategy to build local support for your organization or company.

I'm curious to know about models you're using to reboot your communications operations, and will return to this topic in a series of posts. Please do share your models, ideas, questions or the issues you're looking to solve with me in the comments, or at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.

Related posts: 3 location-savvy ways with social media

Using Twitter to drive foot (and car) traffic

New web watchdogs change local coverage

Photo-sharing social media strategies: 5 views

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