For communication professionals at CommsDirect, Todd Wheatland’s opening statement came as no surprise.
“The power has shifted totally from publishers to the audience. That is the landscape on which we find ourselves,” Todd says.
Every publisher chases eyeballs or clicks, but they want more. They want an engaged, authentic, enduring relationship with their audience.
Publishers all agree this is a challenging task, especially as audiences become increasingly fragmented across different devices.
According to the Nielson 2014 Connected Consumers Report, smartphones are now in the hands of 70 per cent of Australians, with this figure predicted to rise to 78 per cent, by the end of this year.
“The audience is now in control of what information they receive, when, in what format, at what time, on what device. Passive consumption is a thing of the past,” says John Chalmers from iSentia.
The audience is looking for greater transparency, especially about how it is being tracked.
Melanie Ingrey from Nielson says, “It is all about transparency and treating the consumer and the audience with respect, letting them know when you are and when you are not tracking them.”
Hal Crawford, ninemsn editor-in-chief, believes knowing your audience and adapting to their lifestyle is vital to keeping your product relevant.
“Your current audience is your ticket to the next audience,” he says.
Ayal Steiner from Outbrain says for publishers seeking to develop their own audience, they need great stories and a marketing framework around that.
He says, “If you do it well and design it well, the stories are great and people trust you, they may register to your RSS feed or newsletter.”
Journalists do have a role in content marketing, and they can make money doing it, however Nigel Bowen from Content Sherpa says it is a speed and volume game.
There is plenty of work out there, and the faster you can produce content, the more you can earn per hour.
Bobbie Mahlab, from Mahlab Media says quality is everything. “Your responsibility when you work with us is not just to bring the best piece of journalism to the piece you are creating for us, but to understand that client,” she says.
Lauren Quaintance, from Storyation says, “First and foremost with content marketing it has got to be inspiring, informative or entertaining. It is about being useful and creating something that is useful for that audience, so they think kindly of the brand.”
Paul Barry, of ABC led a lively panel including Matt Pinkney, from AFL, Amanda Gome from ANZ and Amanda Buckley from Myer – all working in in-house newsrooms that have recently emerged on the media landscape and are producing high quality journalism.
They all employ journalists, as part of the mix of staff content creators. They are excited about producing their own media and delivering it direct to their audience – their customers.
The panel, despite questions to the contrary, all defended their integrity as journalists.
“The fact the three of us here are talking about a different form of journalism is very hopeful, and if these models work and they expand then there is plenty of work to be had,” Pinkney says.
“You don’t have to be on the dark side, you can do more forms of journalism.”
For charities and not-for-profits the key to becoming newsworthy from Brandalism, is being consistent with publishing on a regular basis and showing what they do, according to Tracy Fitzgerald from Brandalism. “It is the charities themselves that have the power because they are authentic,” she says.
Jeanne-Vida Douglas, from Filtered Media says she has always been a storyteller and writer first and foremost. Her idea on making the worthy newsworthy, or as she likes to call it ‘the happiness hard sell’ is to “deeply understand your audience and give them elements of themselves to recognise in the story, because that is the way you will hold on to them.”
Anne Hollonds from the Benevolent Society says the organisation took advantage of its 200th anniversary to tell the stories of people it had helped over the years. “We didn’t want the purpose to be look at us, but we wanted to tell stories that would be a catalyst for social change in the future,” she says.
Matt Crozier, from Bang the Table, Jacquie Riddell, from the Art Gallery of NSW and Matt Scotton, from UM Australia shared what they had learned about digital consultation and engagement with the audience to wrap up the day.
“Our first perspective on engagement is that there is no form of engagement better than sitting down with somebody and having a conversation,” says Crozier, who talked about his recent work with the City of Christchurch in New Zealand.
The city is building a new library, and wanted to get the community involved in sharing their vision for that facility, he says: “As Christchurch emerges from the rubble that library will very much have the community stamp on it.”
Jacquie Riddell says the relationship with the audience is key to engagement. “If you have a brand you have a relationship with someone – and the first thing is who you are and what you stand for and being really clear about that.”
Matt Scotton from UM, shared his thoughts on engagement. He says, “I think ultimately it is trying to get people to evoke a response to something. So getting people to lean forward, to think, to challenge themselves, to bash the keyboard, to pass on, to comment, to share.”
Overall, the key to a long-term relationship with your audience is getting to know them, and producing consistent, quality, engaging content and delivering it an easy and convenient way when and where the audience want to receive it.
Delegates from a range of backgrounds – NFP, corporate and private sector, freelance journalists and experienced media practitioners – responded positively to the event:
“When working for a NFP, it’s easy to be worn down by lack of funds: This has helped me feel strong and necessary within my organisation” Amanda Place, Florey Institute of Neuroscience
“I work in the public sector and am working on a project to update/redesign the division’s website. It was great to see examples from Dept of Communications own website redesign” Tanya McGovern, NSW Trade & Investment
“The keynote was exceptional … a brilliant line-up – relevant, great speakers, great topics” Rachel Vincent, The Benevolent Society
Our 34 top-class speakers were also delighted to participate in CommsDirect and spoke highly of it afterwards: “What a bright bunch of communicators on my panel and in the audience. Corporate publishing is still in its early days so there was a sense of discovery and innovation from all” Amanda Gome, group head, strategic content & digital media, ANZ
“As the panel facilitator I really enjoyed the rapport and engagement that quickly developed between Steven, Michelle and Anton and the audience … the questions came thick and fast and I think the panel was very generous in giving clear, genuine and valuable responses laced with a bit of black humour!” Sally Loane, director of media and public affairs, Coca-Cola Amatil
“I got real value from realising that many of the issues and difficulties that I thought were unique to my situation were in fact universal problems confronting many in this new era of journalism. Being exposed to other sessions was also a great way to get a sense of the bigger shifts in our industry” Matt Pinkney, head of content, AFL
By Kayleen Bell