At the recent music and interactive South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, Kurt Daradics, 34, co-founder of a start-up company, reflected how much he had enjoyed meeting people he had befriended online from budding tech communities throughout the country.
“It was cool finally meeting them in the flesh,” he commented. Duh?
If there were ever a line that captured the impersonal disconnect that permeates throughout the new media world of digital and social media, then Daradics said it perfectly, albeit in an ironic way.
We’ve entered the age of a Media Mosh Pit where traditional national and local media are trying to embrace all the new digital, place-based and social media that are encroaching on their sacred sales turf in ways that are confounding senior management since it’s competition they haven’t confronted face-to-face at industry conferences.
That’s why right below media management, our contacts are dancing on pins wearing more hats than ever in 2010, especially with double-digit revenue losses in 2009.
Even though they’re selling more ads this year, their roles are changing by the week as corporate management bears down on the bottom line. This naturally creates more stress on our contacts who are generally in non-revenue generating positions and who are worried about their positions.
Yet, as this new media butterfly emerges from these exigent pressures, it becomes almost mandatory for those of us seeking donated — yikes, unsold inventory — to be ever more creative in our approaches to strengthen some jittery relationships.
Interestingly, the elastic boomerang taking place within the communications triangle of email, traditional and social media, is a flow-back to very simple human connections and communications. We’re seeing this in a number of new ad campaigns such as “Cisco: The Human Network;” “Chevron: The Human Energy Company” and “Amtrak: Be Human. Explore Nature.”
This reaction corresponds directly to one of the Megatrends articulated by John Naisbitt in his 1982 landmark book of the same name.
“High tech/high touch is a formula I use to describe the way we have responded to technology,” he wrote. “What happens is that whenever new technology is introduced into society, there must be a counterbalancing human response — that is, high touch, or the technology is rejected. The more high tech, the more high touch.”
Herein lies the secret to building and strengthening “high touch” relationships with the media. We must generate more creative “human” engagement.
Here are some examples:
1. Rapid-fire 60-second Responses …
When a media contact emails – or if it’s a rare phone call — try to answer within 60 seconds. Especially if you can’t provide the answer he or she is seeking. The perception of an instant response is greater than the actual answer. It builds an understated, long-term reliability, as the media contact knows when they can’t get an answer anywhere else, they’ll hear from you.
2. Communicate Without an Ask …
On a recent trip to Houston, I read about KHOU-TV earning an investigative journalism award and being nominated for a Peabody. After ripping it out of the magazine, I opened the meeting at the station by handing the contact the one-page article from Broadcasting & Cable. The contact was over-the-top as she was the one who did the press release and had not seen the article. Talk about great meetings.
Similarly, KSWD-FM in Los Angeles recently earned a coveted Crystal Award at the NAB. After emailing congratulations to the GM on the day of the announcement, I heard back from him in a very appreciative way within 30 minutes from the floor of the convention.
Similarly, hand-written notes attached to mailed articles and letters of congratulations for promotions when a new GM or Market Manager arrives at a station are other very human ways to build relationships right from the get-go.
3. Creative Food Always Leaves a Good Taste …
While “Pizza & PSA Lunches” have created light-hearted media meetings with lasting impressions in Los Angeles, Dallas and San Antonio, certain media contacts have higher expectations vis-à-vis the lofty nature of their standing either in the local market or their national prominence.
Such was the moment recently in Phoenix where the Clear Channel radio cluster had already received an Ad Council plaque and three Certificates of Appreciation. This media relationship had matured over the years, along with their expectations of engagement.
At wit’s end, I came across a Phoenix bakery that can “customize” sugar cookies with logos. For a 3 p.m. meeting, I carried in (along with the updated Ad Council literature) two dozen cookies with the blue Clear Channel logo emblazoned across the middle …
As you can tell, the radio contacts in the photo flipped out; the cookies went in less than 30 minutes and Clear Channel now wants to spice up local meetings with their advertisers with these customized cookies.
Now, more than ever, strengthening relationships is a contact sport, or as Daradics discovered at South by Southwest, “how cool it was to finally meet in the flesh,” and learn about the human side of building relationships.
As we become even more high tech within the ever-growing, multi-platform media worlds, we must strive even higher to generate that “high touch” contact, not with better analytics, but by being more engaging, creative, personable and human in our long-distance and face-to-face communications.