“We’re trying to reach people who don’t read the paper,” said president and chief executive officer Mike Gugliotto.
The Seattle-based family media business owns newspapers primarily in the Northwest. The campaign launched Feb. 1, but plans started in December 2010 when Gugliotto created a marketing committee with four of his publishers. Their goal? To take a more proactive stand to dispel myths that the newspaper industry is dying.
“The smaller community papers have a great story to tell,” Gugliotto said.
The company hired advertising agency Flying Horse Communications, formed focus groups to learn more about what the public thought about newspapers, and distributed marketing surveys.
From those meetings, the group learned they weren’t just in the news business; they were in the“connection business.”
“We connect information to readers, consumers to products,” said Bozeman (Mont.) Daily Chronicle publisher Stephanie Pressly. “We empower people.”
The Chronicle is one of nine Pioneer newspapers participating in the campaign.
Gugliotto said when he first announced the campaign he was met with excitement despite how papers are in “cutback mode.”
“It may be hard to try to justify spending money on this, but we can’t hide in our shell any longer and hope things will get better,” he said. “We knew we had to make a big deal internally.”
At the campaign launch, Idaho Press-Tribune publisher Matt Davison threw a kickoff party for his staff with T-shirts, games, and cupcakes announcing the slogan, “Your Local Paper in More Ways Than Ever.”
“The staff really took to (the campaign),” Davison said. “They sunk their teeth into it.”
The same could be said at the Chronicle, where, according to Pressly, “the staff was thrilled, and there was an overwhelmingly positive response. “It was a real morale boost,” she said.
Gugliotto said the campaign will continue for a year, tying into several themes. The current theme focuses on the changing landscape of news delivery. One of the commercials shows a newsboy riding his bike through a neighborhood delivering the news, but it’s a laptop landing in homes. Another shows the family dog fetching the newspaper, only to come back with an iPad in his mouth.
“I think it’s great,” Pressly said. “The light, humorous tone allows people to like the paper.”
In addition, Pioneer has invested in new formats to deliver the news. The Chronicle equips reporters with “MoJo” kits that allow them to carry a laptop, digital camera, video, and audio recorders so they can bring readers breaking news and live blogs. The Tribune launched HTML5 websites for readers who prefer a tablet-based experience. Advertising representatives are also given tablets to take to meetings with clients to showcase online and mobile offerings.
Davison said he hopes the campaign will prove the industry is still strong. “I see a very bright future,one that’s evolving.”
Gugliotto said he would like the campaign to show that newspapers are “indispensable.”
“Reports of our premature death have been highly exaggerated,” he said. “We’re replacing it with a true story, where we can tell our own message and back it up.”