PNA Adds A 12th ‘Big Book’ To Its Solutions Library

The Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association thinks big.

It also has a winning formula to do so.

Each year, PNA “identifies a topic of interest and relevance to our members,” said Jane Hungarter, the association’s director of marketing. (Special emphasis added on Relevance. )

It then builds a “Big Book” around it.

This year’s focus?

Big Book of Sales Solutions.

Credit the many unforeseen challenges created by the pandemic.

“As business begin to recover from the devastating effects of the coronavirus, PNA wanted to help our members’ advertising sales teams be prepared to assist their clients and prospects moving forward,” Hungarter said.

The resulting 112-page book offers 55 best practices or lessons that can provide instant guidance, advice and the foundation of a training program for those interested in jumpstarting staff development.

The Big Book “includes a variety of articles written by industry experts, practical sales tips to increase print and digital business, helpful ideas to improve ad design and numerous marketing flyers that demonstrate the effectiveness of newspaper advertising,” Hungarter added. “It also contains important information for sales managers, from rate card design to responding to advertising-related legal matters, along with successful revenue-generating ideas that can be replicated by other news media organizations.”

Among the headlines:
“Newspapers are the most trusted source of news and information”
“Post-COVID media sales: Are customer needs assessments dead?”

Valuable tips to sell your digital inventory”
“What the heck is branded content?”
“Helping others provides winning revenue strategy”

PNA staff wrote and designed much of the content. “We also solicited input from our members and invited industry experts to share an informative piece that would benefit advertising sales professionals,” Hungarter said.

The Relevance Project is honored to be included in the Big Book of Sales Solutions with “A Relevant Reminder: 10 Points.”

“The goal was to provide educational support to sales teams across Pennsylvania and to help them generate more revenue,” she added. “Our Big Book series works in conjunction with the other resources we provide to our members, ranging from the ongoing training delivered by our Foundation to the marketing sheets provided to sales teams across the state.”

The Big Book of Sales Solutions is PNA’s 12th publication in its annual installment series. The other titles are:
Big Book of Alternative Revenue
Big Book of Events
Big Book of Distributed News
Big Book of Generational Engagement
Big Book of Growing Audience
Big Book of Industry Promotion
Big Book of Knowledge
Big Book of Monetizing Digital
Big Book of Special Sections
Big Book of Voter Engagement
Little Book of Coronavirus Coverage

It’s an impressive list.

What’s been the reaction so far?

“The Big Book of Sales Solutions was released in conjunction with our recent PNA Advertising Symposium,” Hungarter explained. “We received tremendously positive feedback from both ad sales reps and sales managers, along with senior leaders, from Pennsylvania’s news media organizations. The Big Book is available for download in PDF format, or in hard-copy format. The majority of our members have either downloaded or requested a hard copy of the Big Book.”

Hungarter added that the Big Book is available to other press associations at no cost. PNA is open to discussing ways to customize the book for another group’s use, but keep in mind there would be costs involved for that route. For orders and options, email

PNA already knows the topic of its 2022 Big Book.

“On deck for next year,” Hungarter said, “are the Big Book of Editorial Tools and a smaller Little Book of Circulation and Production Strategy.

Cheers to PNA’s solutions library.

–Tom Silvestri

The Community Forum Is Shelter From The Storm

One in a continuing series.

Efforts to save local news are like summer storms.

The heat builds and builds to sweaty highs. Humidity soars in tandem. Dark, ominous clouds arrive. It looks like the end of the world. Winds kick up. Branches snap, debris swirls, old roofs are exposed. Concerns about damage, loss and injury rise to near panic.

And then the storm arrives.

If you survive the thunder, lightning, downpour and deluge unscathed, the bonus is clear skies, cooler temps and a rainbow.

Good times.

In 2021, local news continues to be stuck seeking shelter from the storm.

The latest round of handwringing stems from a column last week by Politico’s media correspondent that indicated there’s not enough demand for local news to make it a viable business. I’ve seen it picked up in several newsletters. My favorite quote: “Maybe the surfeit of local news of yesteryear was the product of an economic accident, a moment that cannot be reclaimed.”


Solutions exist.

We just keep ignoring an obvious one.

The Relevance Project’s advocacy is for newspapers to become THE Community Forum where the focus is on engaging everyone in a local market.

Note: Audience could expand to beyond a home market, depending on the news topics. For example, exploring a problem facing military veterans could be of interest to the entire universe of vets.

The Community Forum is a three-prong strategy.

Explaining the mission of the news organization, welcoming constructive advice and securing valuable insight on what to cover.

Never tire.

Deepening the news literacy of the community. It’s the important work of building a better news consumer, replacing the damage caused by divisive politics and shortsightedness by certain newspaper owners.

Never assume.

Examining community problems and exploring related solutions. Do it over and over. Add dissecting (and even celebrating) community positives and finding new ways to expand them. (Beats only writing about broken government.)

Never let down.

This is not about producing a better newspaper. Or website.

It goes beyond product.

It’s all about service.



Solve someone’s problems and you’ll be in demand. They may call you only during a crisis — at least they call! — but there’s always preventative measures to share and deeper knowledge to strengthen connections in the meantime.

I don’t understand why more newspapers don’t embrace the Community Forum model. When I press, I hear excuses.

No time.

Not enough staff.

We have a paper to put out.

We need money now to meet our budgets.

We have to check with corporate.

My favorite: Why would I want to get in front of a bunch of critics?

If that’s your attitude, you’ve made the Politico correspondent a truth teller.

A trend exists among entrepreneurs creating niche news outlets. One of the first hires they make is that of an audience engagement point person.

Media is audience.

No audience. No business or future.

Relevance is flexing meaningful connections to your community which views you as indispensable.

The Community Forum is audience engagement at its highest level.

Added thought:
To pay for a newsroom, I agree with Nancy Lane at the Local Media Association you also need a plan for community-funded journalism. She makes an excellent case in her latest commentary.

Specific projects or targeted news coverage attached to the Community Forum are winning formulas.

Time is running out on advertising and subscription revenue as the long-term play.

“Economic accident,” remember.

Future home runs are community philanthropy from partners and dollars from marketing budgets of raving fans.

Shelter from the storm, you know.

Be the Community Forum.

–Tom Silvestri

The Ingredients Of Trust In News Stories

Getting lots of shares, likes and comments on social media matter the least to adults determining how trustworthy a news story is.

Thank you, Pew Research Center.

It’s reassuring that what matters most is the Relevance and reputation of a news organization that publishes the stories Americans read, watch or listen to.

Next in importance are the sources cited in the story.

These factors are tops for Democrats and Republicans alike. Who said the parties can’t agree?

Examine for yourself the latest Pew survey that adds important perspective on what determines whether a news story is viewed as trustworthy.

The Relevant takeaway for newsrooms:

Be disciplined in sharpening the newsroom’s overall reputation and be super-careful on how stories are sourced.

Bonus action: Drill your talent on the building blocks of trust. Don’t assume everyone is on the same page.

And this:
Limit how much effort is spent wandering on social media, which finished last among the six factors Pew examined. (A readers’ gut instinct about a story, the person who shared it, and the specific journalist who reported the story were the other considerations.)

Trust matters.

It certainly does to the Americans surveyed by Pew.

–Tom Silvestri

Director Q and A For June: Alabama’s Felicia Mason

Felicia Mason, executive director of the Alabama Press Association.

2021 is a special year for the Alabama Press Association.

That also makes it a great time to check in with Executive Director Felicia Mason for this month’s Relevant Question-and-Answer, our fourth installment in the Newspaper Association Managers series.

Learn what APA has planned to mark its 150th year, what Felicia likes most and least about her leadership role, and what sport she’s a champion.

The Relevance Project also thanks Felicia for her continued support.

Read on:

Can you introduce us to your association?

The Alabama Press Association is the oldest trade association in Alabama. We are celebrating 150 years in 2021. Currently, there are 110 active member newspapers, along with 20 associate member publications, several magazines and most major businesses, universities and state agencies who support the newspaper industry.

Congratulations on your 150th year. How are you celebrating this extraordinary anniversary?

COVID-19 put a damper on our celebration planning. We did not have an in-person winter meeting, and we were unsure about the summer convention plans until last March.

Our governor will attend and present a proclamation at the opening reception of our Summer Convention. We also have been publishing excerpts from our history book — published to mark the 125th anniversary — in weekly communication with members.

We will have special recognitions throughout the Summer Convention, as well as slideshows of old photos playing at events.

What has been your career path?

I came to APA in 1987, after graduating from the University of Alabama. I sold ads for The Crimson White, the student newspapers at UA, while I was in school. I would still be there if it had not been a student position. It is how I paid my tuition, etc. I became APA’s executive director in 2000.

How would you describe your position and role to someone outside the newspaper industry?

Even my family isn’t real sure what I do. I think the best way to describe my job is to say I am in a support role for the men and women who put out Alabama’s daily and non-daily newspapers. I often compare APA to the dental, medical or trial lawyer associations — just that we represent newspapers.

I also include that we are usually the only group that lobbies the state Legislature on open meetings and open records issues. Most people do not think about access to government activities until they are denied.

What do you like best about your job?

The people.

I am fortunate to work WITH a great group of people and FOR a great group of people. There are three of us at APA who have been here more than 30 years. We are more like family than co-workers.

I truly admire and respect our members for the work they do. It is often a thankless job, but the work they do is vital to their communities.


The Legislature!

What is your proudest career moment?

In spite of my answer above, we successfully lobbied the state Legislature to pass a new Alabama Open Meetings Act in 2005. The new law made much needed improvements to our outdated law.

What are some of the 2021 priorities for you and your association?

We are focusing on our sales efforts — both print and digital. I think the best thing we can do for our members is to send ads to them!

We also have been working on a new Open Records Act, but that has been a slow process. We will keep trying.

Personally, I want to get out and visit with our members more. They always seem to appreciate the time and effort when we take the time to visit.

How has the COVID-19 experience changed your association? Can you share any lessons?

I think we learned that we can stay connected with conference calls and Zoom meetings, but I hope we don’t see these as replacements for our in-person meetings. I would like to use more virtual meetings for training sessions, but not for other meetings.

What keeps you up at night when wrestling with challenges?

The shrinking newsrooms are a concern to me. We need our newspapers to be involved locally and maintain a visible presence in their communities.

If you had unlimited resources to advance our industry, where would you invest your time and money?

I would make sure all of our newspapers had an impressive online presence, and at the same time keeping their core products fresh and innovative.

What is something most people don’t know about you?

I used to be an Olympic gymnast.

Just kidding!

I was once the bowling champion in a league of ad agencies.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I like to travel.

How would your advice differ when offered to someone trying to break into the business compared with an industry veteran with 10 to 15 years until retirement?

Be aggressive.

Find ways to connect with millennials and learn from them.

Never be afraid of change.

-Tom Silvestri

About APA:

The Alabama Press Association is the state trade association of daily and weekly newspapers in Alabama.

Active members must have been published weekly under a Publications Class (Second Class) Postal Permit for a period of one year.

Founded in 1971 as the Editors and Publishers Association of Alabama, the name was changed to Alabama Press Association in 1891.

APA represents the interests of the newspaper industry by offering two annual conferences and a number of workshops and conferences. It also represents the newspaper industry before the state legislature, focusing on government access laws and on business-related laws that impact the newspaper industry. It also offers media law advice to active member newspapers through its APA Legal Hotline, media law guides and offers a number of other services.

APA acts as a clearinghouse of information that it provides to members through its monthly newsletter, AlaPressa, and its semi-annual tabloid, The Alabama Publisher. In addition, it publishes an annual newspaper directory and semi-annual advertising rate updates. The APA staff also seeks to help members find answers to problems and challenges they face by referring them to other members or to experts outside the membership.

From time to time, APA pays for readership research that it provides to member newspapers.

Source: APA website

Associations in 2021: What’s The Future?

Are newspaper trade associations underplaying their big-picture value to high-quality journalism and local news?

Is the modern-day association’s focus too inward in trying to help members shore up their businesses, rather than advocate more stridently for better practices and more sustainable operating structures?

Should the association be about stability or innovation?

Is there a bright future for trade associations and professional groups despite the newspaper industry’s decades-long retrenchment?

How does a state association change in the face of more niche groups, such as those focused on diversity, trust or specific advertising categories like branded content?

Seeking answers to those questions and understanding today’s issues is what attracted to me an academic paper by a group of University of Alabama researchers who assessed newspaper trade and professional journalism associations. The findings left the door open to additional examination on whether there’s a bigger or better role for associations to play during turbulent times.

For the record, I paid to download the report published in the Journal of Media Business Studies with the title: “Journalism’s backstage players: the development of journalism professional associations and their roles in a troubled field.” The authors are Lindsey Sherrill, Jiehua Zhang, Danielle Deavours, Nathan Towery, Yuanwei Lyu, William Singleton, Keqing Kuang, and Wilson Lowery.

The academics examined the history of U.S. associations, which includes those serving newspapers, broadcast, periodicals, and digital enterprises, and makes this distinction: “Trade association members are typically competing for firms … while professional associations members also include individual practitioners and managers…”

The article’s overall observations would be worth a discussion — or debate — at the August conference of Newspaper Association Managers — at least at the bar or on the golf course. There’s a lot of change going on in 2021 and I’m not referring to masks or vaccinations.

Consider the points made in the article’s executive summary, or “abstract”:

“Professional associations’ roles in shaping the journalism field have been understudied in the news industry research. Adopting a social population ecology perspective, this study provides an across-time analysis of the emergence, rise and variation of the population of U.S. journalism professional associations. In addition to the population demography, content analysis of current association websites was conducted to reveal associations’ patterns of development and adoption of roles. Findings suggest associations are turning inward, embracing roles that are internally oriented towards members, their financial struggles, and their identities, while there is less emphasis on externally oriented roles that serve field-wide needs.”

And then there’s this: “We argue that professional associations are important field-level actors. As in any organizational field, journalism needs stable agents for fostering interaction and learning; for negotiating and reaffirming best practices, norms and values; and for helping a field’s organizations reduce uncertainty in the environment.”

What I found particularly Relevant given the challenging times is the researchers’ ranking of salient — or prominent — roles performed by associations. The results might surprise you.

Here are the most salient, based on a review of 84 associations:
1. Education (Support training, professional development for members).
2. Product quality (Support improvement of news product quality).
3. Networking (Support connections for members’ career aims, work tasks).
4. Fostering community (Support exchange, camaraderie among members).
5. Maintenance (Support functioning, maintenance of association itself).
6. Ethics (Support professional ethics and service to society).
7. Legitimacy (Support public reputation, standing, influence of journalism).
8. Diversity (Support diversity of race, ethnicity, gender, identity).
9. Vision (Support visionary thinking and innovation).
10. Lobbying (Support efforts to influence societal leaders on association issues).
11. Intermediary (Support mediation of crises/controversies within profession).

I wasn’t surprised by the top half of this list that have the highest scores. But it’s the bottom half, which carry major impact for broader, positive change but ranked low, that gave me pause. Also, “no roles emerge as highly salient” in the researchers’ ratings. That’s fascinating. Mission creep?

The researchers provided a Discussion section, which cites other research findings as well. What they have to say is food for thought to provoke explorations about an association’s future:

“The organization studies literature emphasizes the association roles of providing knowledge for members (cognitive roles) and encouraging the profession’s cohesiveness, stability and standing (cultural roles) more than they view associations as tools for achieving instrumental objectives for the industry — such as lobbying for policies or repairing the industry’s reputation….

“Yet, the most salient roles — regardless of size, scope or age of association — also reflect attention to individual members’ everyday problems more than they reflect attention to field-wide existential problems. The roles of educating members, supporting ways to improve quality, and encouraging networking with other members — are oriented towards cognitive benefits for individual journalists in their daily work. … Less salient are outward-facing roles that serve the field as a whole — lobbying for specific policies, mediating controversies that damage industry reputation, and establishing industry-wide vision.

“The vision role alone showed a significant difference by association size and scope. Large, national associations were more likely to prioritize the problem of finding a way forward for journalism broadly. … Smaller and state-focused associations were less likely to see ‘divining the future of journalism’ as their jobs. Findings also showed that field-wide, holistic roles such as nurturing the field’s legitimacy and reputation and protecting political interests were less common at smaller, specialized associations. Yet, it is the smaller, more specialized association that has proliferated in recent decades. This suggests diminishing attention to field-level existential issues by the agents that are best positioned to address these issues — the field’s meta-level professional associations — even as the industry as a whole faces disruption and uncertainty.

“The salience of ‘member service’ roles like training and networking, as well as the self-maintenance role for associations, indicates a narrowing focus on the financial bottom line for both associations and news managers. Traditionally, associations are funded by member through membership fees, contest fees, and conference registrations. As the financial health of the news industry has declined, training budgets have dwindled, and associations are under more pressure to produce deliverables that have practical value for understaffed news organizations … Such deliverables help reduce uncertainty about members’ environments in a number of ways …. The associations’ prominent focus on its own self-maintenance speaks to the imperative of financial survival as well. Results suggest, therefore, that ongoing disruption has focused news managers and association leaders on narrow, day-to-day necessities — saving money, navigating unfamiliar technologies, practices and audience behaviors, and negotiating turbulent job markets. Metaphorically, the priority is spotting life-rafts rather than envisioning better systems for shipping — a narrow, short-term emphasis that is somewhat surprising for the field’s ‘meta-organizations.’

“While roles suggest associations are concerned with the bottom line, the study’s population analysis shows a fairly steady rise in density (number of associations) over the last 150 years and a steady rate of foundings since the early 1900s, offering little evidence of diminishing niche resources for the population. Meaningful patterns in number of members, staff and budget across time are not very apparent, and there is no obvious evidence of external influences. This is consistent with the fact that associations have low start-up and overhead costs, making them less vulnerable to external market and political changes … This stability may help the news industry project reliability and legitimacy, but conversely, it may contribute to a dysfunctional lack of responsiveness to political and economic ups and downs facing the news industry.”

Publication of the academic research arrives as the restrictions of the pandemic are lifting, a good time to take a deep look at what’s ahead for newspaper trade associations.

“Scholars have speculated about reasons for associations’ low profile in academic scholarship,” the University of Alabama researchers wrote. “Perhaps their influence is underestimated because they operate ‘backstage’ or perhaps it is their relentless stability: They are ‘relatively boring,’ as authors of one study put it … Professional associations do tend to lend stability to their field, as new niche areas of associations emerge and wane. We assume there are shifts over time in the associations’ ‘ecology,’ and that these accompany and shape ongoing changes in the identities, norms and practices of the journalism field.”

Associations are focused on helping its newspapers succeed. It’s important work.

But if everyone is obsessed with the bottom line, who is concentrating on the future of newspaper associations besides the executive director?

–Tom Silvestri

Author’s note: I changed the spelling of a few words to conform to American use. My apologizes to NAM’s Canadian members.

What’s Your Definition Of Relevance?

I collect newspapers’ definition of Relevance.

The good ones get a prize from The Relevance Project.

I asked participants in this week’s virtual joint conference of the Colorado-Kansas Press associations to describe what Relevance means to them. “Think of Relevance as an ACTION,” I added.

How can you not like the name of this newspapers that’s been publishing since 1977?

Barbara Hardt, the publisher of The Mountain-Ear in Nederland, CO, emailed me this point:

“For me, a small town weekly, Relevance means being connected to each other, to the community, to the greater region covered by my business. And being able to recognize the people and entities that work hard within the region, that are very public about who they are. As well as the many people who work hard way behind the scenes to make our communities successful.”

Pretty good.

Connected is a word I use a lot when talking about Relevance. But Hardt adds empathy, engagement and understanding. And this: A result of Relevance is success.

For the community.

That’s a winner.

A box of cookies is on the way to Colorado. Enjoy.

–Tom Silvestri

P.S. My thanks to Emily Bradbury in Kansas and Tim Regan-Porter in Colorado for the invitation to speak at their conference. Congratulations on an excellent program. A tip of the organizer’s hat to Bay Edwards for her help on the “CO-KA” logistics and connections — there’s that word again.

‘Today’s News’ Brought To You By The WVA Press Association

Don Smith knows first-hand the daily grind his members experience as news aggregators. He also appreciates how important providing Relevant news coverage is to attracting revenue.

Each weekday, the West Virginia Press Association distributes “Today’s News,” a newsletter that compiles stories from the state’s newspapers and press releases from newsmakers.

The May 17th edition, for example, shared a daily coronavirus update, an article from The Herald-Dispatch in Huntington on West Virginia officials rejecting a federal voter reform bill, a story from the Bluefield Daily Telegram indicating swarms of cicadas might not be visiting after all, two pieces out of the state capital on new pandemic rules, an update from WV News about the state Department of Education’s summer programs, a Charleston Gazette-Mail analysis of energy data, carbon emissions and the state’s coal economy, details about the West Virginia Renaissance Festival, and two more press releases — one announcing a concert at Appalachian Power Park and another about the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority hiring new staff to boost economic development.

Not your typical association fare.

Atop the newsletter is a picture of Executive Director Smith and the main paying sponsor, AARP West Virginia.

Therein lies Smith’s strategy: Help members. Make money for the Association.

An example of the newsletter’s presentation and its statewide focus.

The content-sharing newsletter also was borne out of financial urgency when Smith arrived in 2012. “We’re small,” Smith said. “And we needed immediate funding while providing a valuable service to members.”

The arrangement has “majority rules” approval for other newspapers to use contributed stories the next day. The newsletter presents a couple of graphs from each story, with a link sending users to the Association website and then to the originating newspaper’s website. That allows the Association to offer two opportunities for sponsorship messages to appear and, in turn, the member newspapers to retain web traffic to its stories.

The newsletter focuses on distributing interesting features, “good news,” member news, stories about government, and issues of statewide interest. “No sports or crime,” Smith said. “Newspapers report plenty of that already.”

Smith said in some years the sponsorships and revenue from paid press releases have brought in approximately $100,000. In addition to AARP, other notable sponsors include West Virginia University and oil and gas businesses. This year, because of the pandemic, total revenue is trending around $40,000. “That’s still significant for us,” he added.

Smith also extends the sponsor packages to include the Association’s legislative events, annual meeting and other programs.

Today’s News has about 2,000 subscribers, but not all are newspaper staff. By design, Smith has updated the mailing list so all of the state legislators get the newsletter as well as county and business leaders. It’s important to the Association that officials see the trusted journalism being produced by West Virginia newspapers and their efforts to ensure coverage is factual and balanced.

Smith estimated the newsletter had an open rate of 15 precent — 10 percent by “outsiders” and 5 percent by those in the newspaper industry.

Maintaining the story-sharing and newsletter production is “labor intensive,” said Smith, who has a news background. He taps a part-time staffer for help, especially when the legislature is in session.

In addition to stories, Association member benefits including an unusual collaboration orchestrated by the Association during the state high school basketball tournament in Charleston. Smith hires a photographer who shoots all of the games and delivers photos to member newspapers compliments of the Association.

“They get four photos of each game,” Smith said. “If they want extra, they can arrange to pay for it with the photographer.” It costs the Association $600 each for the boys’ and girls’ multi-day tourneys. It is one of the more popular benefits to members.

Nine years after starting Today’s News, Smith has his eyes on what’s next. He wants to create a video version of the newsletter.

“The Association has a studio in its office,” he said. “I’m eager to offer something new. I just need to learn how to do it daily with video.”

Stay tuned.

–Tom Silvestri

Make Room For The Hybrid Event Host

Let’s take attendance.

In-person events are starting to return. Yippee!

But before you run maskless into a ballroom or auditorium, pause on this:

Lessons learned are lasting, after more than a year of only virtual conferences and programs.

Association executive directors have told me that while they miss seeing newspaper colleagues in the flesh, their programs on Zoom and webinar platforms reached more people who, because of time, staffing and money constraints, probably would not have participated without the virtual connection.

No one wants to lose that wider involvement.

What’s ahead for events and programs is the three-headed organizer and host.

Virtual will remain.

Live and in-person will make a comeback (fingers cross on the virus).

But hybrid will join the options.

In all, the three-prong strategy will allow a maximum audience reach and the best chance to meet or exceed revenue goals. And the opportunity exists to shuck some previous expenses.

One authority is Gannett, which during the pandemic put on 146 events last year. That’s not a typo.

At America’s Newspapers’ 2021 Pivot spring conference, which was virtual, Gannet’s vice president for events, Lyndsi Lane, illustrated each of the options.

Information slide shown at America’s Newspapers’ Pivot 2021.

In 2020, virtual was used for the company’s many high school sports awards programs. These major events used to involve a meal and a high-profile professional athlete as the keynoter. During the pandemic, it was all virtual featuring pre-recorded video with sports stars on a screen celebrating local athletes. In the future, Lane said, the program will look to live-streaming so celebrities could “be there” while doing multiple programs without the scheduling hassles of travel and hotel accommodations.

Live remains the staple for something like a home and garden show. This year, the event will be smaller and will focus on retail vendors only, Lane said. Stage presentations and workshops will have to wait for better days. But at least you can smell real flowers.

The hybrid is used for versatile ventures, such as specialty races — until they can be run in-person at the same time. For now, virtual presentations explain the race and registrations; targeted emails update; swag (think T-shirts) is delivered; the running is done on the participants’ time; and an online hub records all of the facts, pictures and results. It all culminates with a virtual post-race celebration. Gannett’s example was something called the “Hot Chocolate 15k/5k” (think cold weather).

How do these options relate to associations?

A few thoughts:

The bedrock annual awards programs moved to virtual and video presentations. Many comfortably handled the announcement of winners, displays of excellence, and informative presentations that were later archived online. Did people really miss the dinner where the talk from the tables got louder and louder with each awards category, often drowning out the messages from the podium? Sticking with virtual on these types of productions could be the way to go.

Save the live approach for interactive programs and special occasions, where people MUST be with each other. Also, ask this question: Is it worth the added cost?

Use the hybrid for brainstorming or collaboration sessions, as well as a series of related programs. Information and overviews can be shared on Zoom with all participants, who then on their own develop suggestions and share them online for all to review. Then, you could use a live option to bring back everyone for an in-person conclusion on a project or recommendation. The hybrid also could be used for multiple sessions with a trainer or speaker, with the finale done in person for a big ending.

And this:
Collaborate with other associations on high-ticket speakers. Share the video (or live-stream) and then discuss the Relevant points in-person.

The pandemic forced us to work remotely and live on Zoom. We not only survived the change, in many ways we mastered it.

Sure there’s Zoom fatigue. But don’t lose what worked well.

The best is yet to come.

–Tom Silvestri

Mr. President: Hire Newspapers To Achieve Your 70%

It’s the newspaper industry’s turn to say, “C’mon, man!”

President Joe Biden, who uses the retort to express frustration, now has Relevant details about newspaper effectiveness in reaching citizens who have yet to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. He also can end the mystery as to why a collective $380 million in new federal funding isn’t flowing in meaningful amounts to newspaper trade associations’ ad services and the publishers they represent.

As of today, there has been no formal response to a May 13th letter sent to Biden by the News Media Alliance and the National Newspaper Association. Read the full letter here.

“We shared the letter with the Administration and have heard back from the political people” at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said Paul Boyle, senior vice president for public policy at the News Media Alliance. “I am trying to lock-down a date and time in which we can talk with them.”

Among the topics will be this statement: “We believe the Administration, to date, has overlooked the reach that our member newspapers can provide, despite our offers to demonstrate our capabilities.”

Time is of the essence.

Newspapers are ready to roll on distributing trusted information to help improve vaccine education. With newspapers publishing sponsored content and paid messages from the government, for example, the Biden Administration would be in a better position of achieving its goal of getting 70 percent of U.S. citizens inoculated by July 4th.

“Our champions on (Capitol Hill) were told a month ago that HHS has been using newspapers for 11 percent of its campaign,” Boyle said. “We don’t have any insight on the total dollar amount spent with newspapers and whether this has (or will) increase in the coming months. Hopefully, on a call we will get some clarity on size and reach of the campaign.”

The letter signed by NMA President & CEO David Chavern and NNA Executive Director Lynne Lance identified two sources of new federal funds for coronavirus strategies: $130 million for vaccine education and $250 million to assist state governments with outreach efforts to encourage citizens to get the shot.

The letter to Biden stated that “newspapers, through their print and digital products, can deliver the audiences that you want to reach, particularly in states with lagging vaccination rates.”

“For example, in Mississippi, newspapers and their websites can reach 75 percent of households daily and in Alabama, more than 50 percent of all households,” the letter continued. “Further, the inclusion of a print advertising campaign in these states — and others like them — will reach citizens in rural and diverse communities where internet connectivity in homes is lacking or broadband penetration in the community is low.”

Successful advertisers use extended campaigns to ensure the audience understands its messages and is motivated to act. It’s not clear from state associations if ads received by some newspapers are one-and-done or repeated messages that run several days.

“We heard from newspapers that they have received ads over the last month — both print and digital placements,” Boyle said in an email. “We hope that with this letter, HHS and the Administration decides to step up their use of local newspapers particularly in states where inoculations are lagging.”

Maybe newspapers advocates should start wearing this T-shirt, which is available for sale online.

That’s a cue to trade associations to confirm where that problem exists in their respective states and then provide additional details. Now is the time to step up the advocacy.

In his email responding to Relevance Project questions, Boyle quoted national figures that less than 4 in 10 Americans have been inoculated. That’s a “far cry from 70 percent which is the goal by July 4,” Boyle said. (The Wall Street Journal reported May 18 that the “U.S. has vaccinated 48 percent of its population, at least partially as of Sunday…”)

“The government needs as many messages and messengers as possible to get to that 70 percent rate,” Boyle added.

The latest confusion over masks isn’t helping.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new guidelines of “no masks for the vaccinated,” Boyle said, “will actually hurt as most Americans will only hear, ‘No mask.'”

And then there’s the problems with social media, tainted information and toxic discourse.

The newspaper advocacy groups’ letter pinpointed the solution: “From our perspective, the best way to counter misinformation about vaccines that has proliferated on social media platforms is to provide positive messaging about vaccines through a trusted source that has been operating in local communities, in some cases for more than two centuries: the local newspaper.”

In a news release, Lance added: “Newspapers have state advertising networks in place that can quickly and easily carry out a nationally coordinated, locally focused campaign.”

–Tom Silvestri

Two More Legs Stretch The Community Forum

One in a continuing series.

Let’s widen the Community Forum strategy.

One of the Relevance Project’s priorities is to help newspapers, working with their state or provincial association, become THE Community Forum. Because a community is in many ways an overabundance of conversations, the local newspaper is in the best position to orchestrate civil, civic discourse to help citizens make sense of issues of importance, exchange different views, and explore what makes a community tick.

The newspaper as master moderator builds bridges, increases awareness and understanding, deepens knowledge, and inspires problem-solvers and the commitment to a better quality of life.

Because trust is the foundation, newspapers should start with community discussions about keeping local journalism strong and the role it plays in an enlightened democracy.

In a recent Relevant Point, I listed several topics that can be used to attract an audience while launching the Community Forum. In essence, they all roll up under the initiative to examine the future of community newspapers.

By conversing with their communities, newspapers go beyond producing a product. They embed further in a community and reset the relationship with readers as meaningful collaborators instead of mere customers.

What’s next?

I see a second and third follow-up concentrations.

The second involves a strident initiative to improve the news literacy of a community.

The third digs into the top issues a community faces, from the controversies that divide to the positive projects that pull people together.

In future Relevant Points, I’ll explore each of these stages.

At this point, some strategists would show you a graphic of a three-legged stool.

In the Relevance Project’s initiatives, the Community Forum is a platform to relaunch the newspaper’s future.

One leg is all about the newspaper and its reputation as a trusted source of news and information.

The second brings in news literacy to propel the newspaper’s credibility by building up better news consumers and countering misinformation.

The third involves community issues — vexing problems, stalemates, potential solutions, expansion of strengths, and, once again, ingredients for a higher quality of life for all.

I usually resist using a three-legged stool since it’s been carted out so many times.

But it works with the Community Forum.


The moderator could use a seat to check the progress of an enlightened democracy.

–Tom Silvestri