Adam Gardner once said, “I never really thought of community service as a movement, but it is.”
With this quote in mind, I recently had the opportunity to discuss with a veteran media executive the types of local content their media company provided to their local community. He mentioned the typical, yet important content offerings such as the city government happenings, school board meetings, local high school sports, the crime report, marriages, divorces, obituaries, new business openings, civic club news and a few stories about the good things going on around town.
I want to stress these are important elements to include as a part of the local coverage. That said, I also want to stress these items are the minimum point of entry for a truly-local news media company. The community expects and needs this type of local coverage each and every week. In most cases, when your media provides that coverage, they are simply hurdling the lowest bar in the quest for community greatness. To truly win over a community and convince the community how much they need their media, the product needs to not only clear the lowest bar, they need to shoot for and clear bars much higher.
In order to work effectively with a community, the news media company must be a community leader. Your local media is one of the few businesses within a community having the unique ability simply by their position in the community, to lead change as well as being at the forefront of transformation. Simply put, they can help drive the community by their actions and understanding. In their position, they are an important ingredient in the community’s quest to thrive, and not just survive in these difficult economic times.
How might your local news media company accomplish this and how can the community assist? While the answer will vary by community, here are a few common traits. The media can educate the community on the value of your locally owned businesses. They can teach the community that a dollar spent at a locally owned business has 3-7X the local economic impact than spending that dollar at Walmart or online. With your help, they can be a leader in educating your entire community on this one simple element. The business community will embrace this critical message.
Does your community understand that spending a dollar on your downtown district versus other areas of the community on average will return 40% more for their investment dollar? The downtown is the heart and soul of a community. By working with community leaders voicing this information, both the city and the media company are much more effective in advocating and voicing this critical information. Working together, the media and the community can conquer mountains that otherwise would be difficult at best to conquer.
In essence, by working together, the community and media company are much greater than the sum of each of their individual parts. By working together with the community, business owners, chambers, civic clubs and others, they can harness an army of volunteers to drive change through the dissemination of information that goes far beyond that which was mentioned at the outset of this column. Together they can be the start of a community movement that can’t be stopped. Together they can create the environment of positive change and effective as well as productive disruption. You can do this together, or risk being the disrupted in lieu of the disrupter. Your community will see the value of the media, especially when coupled with fellow community organizations engaged in moving forward. You will have started a movement that will only build steam as it grows!
John A. Newby is the author of the "Building Main Street, Not Wall Street" weekly column dedicated to helping local communities keep their consumer dollars local. He can be reached by email at: john@360MediaAlliance.net.