Keeping the Brand Alive Through Storytelling

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We all know the saying “what’s in a name?” — this week I’m diving into what’s in a brand?

As journalists we’re use to being fair and balanced when it comes to the stories we tell ( at least we should be) it’s a BIG part of the job.  There’s no room for opinions or trying to sell the public on a view we want them to have. Well, not in a normal news setting—enter brand journalism.

Journalists are now being sought after by companies, to help sell their products in unique ways. We’ve all seen those cheesy setups trying to get us to buy something during a news segment or a quick social media post. Companies are now getting much smarter in the way they appeal to consumers and they’re using journalism to pull them in.

This week I had the chance to read 7 Reasons Why You Should Break Into Brand Journalism. The article highlights the reasons journalists should get into the brand marketing business– and I have to say it’s pretty appealing. Through brand journalism companies can skip the traditional route that involves going through public relations. Companies are now able to get their messages out themselves through social media platforms– cutting out the need for big PR firms when it comes to marketing.

Companies like Patagonia have turned to bloggers to help build the company’s brand. With Patagonia being an outdoor store, the Cleanest Line blog appeals to the nature lovers and people who care about what’s going on with the environment.  The company is using storytelling to help people connect with their brand. By doing this they’re able to build a new following that they hope will turn into a new customer.

Ultimately, brand journalism is doing what you don’t typically find in PR. You’re not just hearing from the company when something big is happening. It’s a constant connection with the consumer by pushing the company’s brand in a way that might not be as obvious as traditional marketing and PR. I personally find it more engaging — if done right it can be a win- win for both the customer and the companies hoping to pull them in.

What A Time To Be A Journalist

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In my Sophia Petrillo voice “picture it, the year 2018 and journalists are under attack.”
Despite my Golden Girls humor it’s not a joke, it’s actually quite sad.
Journalists are being threatened, physically assaulted and in some cases even killed.
So, to answer this week’s blog question I have to say It’s not just a challenging or exciting time to be a journalist, it’s a scary time as well.

For as long as I can remember there was something about being part of the news that pulled me in.
I got my first taste when I was part of our elementary school’s morning show.
That feeling was reignited again in middle school when we took a trip to CNN.
It wasn’t until Junior year of college when I really went after the dream.
I landed a job as a producer of our campus news show, Ram News.
From there I haven’t looked back.

I’m not writing all of that to just talk about myself.
I’m writing it because just as I fell in love with journalism at such a young age, so did many others in this business. It’s a career that they’re passionate about. True journalists don’t just do it because they want to be famous.
They do it because there’s a family whose lights might get cut off tonight if they don’t step in.
They do it so they can ask the questions that others might be afraid to or just don’t know to ask.

During this current political climate, I’m grateful for the watchdogs and truth seekers.
They are the ones who keep journalism exciting and impactful.
They’re also the ones whose jobs have become the most challenging.
Right now, from our national media organizations to local newsrooms we’re dealing with misinformation on social media platforms.
We’re also dealing with a lack of trust in news media — and that’s not fake news.
According to a poll from Gallup/Knight Foundation released in September, 69 percent of those surveyed say their trust in news media has dropped in the last decade.
See full report here.

When you have an administration that’s often at odds with the media, it’s kind of hard to keep or even win that trust back.
When you have people who only get their news from Facebook without vetting the story and just assume it’s accurate because a girl from work shared it—that’s troubling.

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So while it’s exciting to take down the bad guys and make real impacts in the communities we live in—the challenges cannot be ignored. We have to work even harder these days to keep from being silenced.
We have to prove our value like never before.

JACKPOT: Winning With Big Data

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There’s nothing like a good cruise! Sure the food and entertainment are great, but the casino is where I have my most fun on the ship.  There’s nothing like winning $5 on a $1 bet, good times. Or that time I won $500 on $100– I mean I could go on and on about my big wins and big losses, but  that’s not what this week’s blog is all about.

Today I’m taking on BIG data– by analyzing some of the industries that use it and how they can better use it. When I looked for examples of big data use I ran across an article about casinos and I thought–JACKPOT– I know what I’m going to write about.. so here I go.

While my love for casinos started on cruise ships, it hasn’t stopped there. While I don’t go out looking for places to play slots, if I have an opportunity I take advantage of it. For anyone who hasn’t been in a casino before it can be a little overwhelming. There are machines everywhere– rows upon rows.  I always go in and look for my favorite games and never put much thought into how the floor was setup— until now. There’s a method to the layout madness. Casinos use big data to help determine what machines should be where. If a machine is a hot machine, it’s getting a key spot on the casino floor. After all, you want to make sure the hottest machines are the easiest to find.

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Big data is also being used to get us to spend big. According to Yahoo Finance, casino resorts are tracking the spending habits of their customers while they stay at their hotels.  Yahoo says that information is used to come up with incentives that keep the big spenders spending!  That kind of tracking is not just limited to the casino resorts– I’ve also seen it in on the cruise ship.

When you play slots on most ships you insert your sign and sail card into your machine. Those cards are used to collect data on your spending through a points system. On a Carnival ship for instance, there are incentives tied to those points. The more you spend, the more you get. For example 1,500 points — which equals to $1,500 gets you free drinks in the casino through the end of your cruise. For someone who’s a drinker– what could be a better incentive, right? I’ve also personally noticed that my spending in the casino has been tracked to offer me special rates to go on casino specific cruises.

Now, while I’ve expressed my love for a good slot machine– gambling isn’t always all fun and games.  According to addictions.com there are at least 750,000 people dealing with some sort of gambling addiction. To be clear we’re not just talking about casinos– however, they are definitely getting richer off of big data.

While profits are great, there are people fighting addictions who need help and just maybe big data can give them that. As I mentioned before, some casinos offer cards that will help track your spending on slot machines etc– it’s optional but maybe it shouldn’t be. Maybe we should require our gamblers to tell us about themselves. Why? Maybe just like a bartender cuts off the obviously drunk person at a bar– we cut off the person that can’t afford to play any more. If your profile tells me you’re a single parent of 4– who makes $10 an hour but every Friday you’re throwing hundreds of dollars in a slot machine– that’s setting off red flags. Or maybe every few pulls of the lever the machine will throw you a bone and you might actually walk away making more than you spend.

Of course this is a pretty far fetched idea, but if we’re looking at what we can do with big data why not think big and out of the box.

Gambling is a game of chance—but big data could be used to give someone a chance at a life they never thought was possible.

Black Television Station Owners Look For A Seat At The Table

A seat at the table — a fitting title as we’re headed into the Thanksgiving Holiday.  So we’re clear, we’re not talking about a literal seat at the table. The term simply put is a desire to be part of a group–having an influence or power in a particular situation.

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When I read and researched this week’s blog assignment it seemed like a perfect title. Our assignment—-read the case study titled “Blacks Own Just Ten U.S. Stations– Here’s Why” . The study takes a look at the lack of minority ownership in television stations and what’s contributing to that.

When you think about black owned television stations there are two that instantly come to mind for most, OWN and BET—but neither are solely black owned. BET was sold to Viacom in 2001. OWN is the Oprah Winfrey Network started by the daytime queen herself, but she wasn’t alone in this venture. As of 2017, Discovery Communications is the largest stakeholder in that company.

When we start looking into black owned networks there are only a handful. Those include TV One, Revolt, and Aspire — which by the way is owned by NBA great Earvin “Magic” Johnson.

I find it hard to believe with endless cable channels there are not more options, and here’s where the case study comes in. The lack of minority ownership took center stage in the 1970’s. In response to the issue the FCC passed a policy that gave television station owners kind of like a tax credit for selling their stations to minorities. A good plan until it was stopped in 1995.

So here we are more than two decades later with even less minorities owning television stations — but why? Some of those smaller earlier stations were gobbled up by bigger companies. The term discrimination is also being used to describe part of the problem. In 2015, two cable giants were sued. The companies were accused of discriminating against black owned television stations. The complaint said the companies only set aside a small number of spots for minority owned networks, therefore keeping a lot of them from having a real shot of getting picked up. That $20M case was eventually thrown out. Another issue the case study points out is the FCC’s lack of coming up with any policies that give minority owners a fair chance of getting their stations picked up. Right now, it’s up to cable companies that are not run by minorities to decide what stations they want to carry. It’s power that’s left a lot of minority station owners isolated.

I don’t know how to solve this problem, but I do know something needs to be done soon. It is so incredibly important that we make way so that everyone has a voice. It’s incredibly important that minorities find other relatable people like themselves or like their families when they turn on the TV. ABC is certainly trying with shows like Blackish and Fresh Off the Boat. FOX is also trying with shows like Empire and Star. Yet those are only four of maybe a dozen shows geared towards minorities. It’s also not just about comedy or dramas either, there are a lot of issues that impact minority communities that could be better spotlighted if given a platform through our local cable providers. Stories about minorities told by minorities.

Now, I end this post with hope that change is coming. The National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters is working to make sure minority voices are heard on radio and television. Hopefully soon, everyone will get their seat at the table.

The Rest Is Still Unwritten…..

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Eleven years in seems like the perfect time to shake things up, right? Probably not for many people, but for me it was the ABSOLUTE perfect time to go after something that I’ve been wanting for some time now.  For those of you who haven’t read my previous blogs, I’m in my first semester of grad school.

This all started back in January.  I remember being on Twitter and seeing an advertisement for grad school at Syracuse.
For years I have gone back-and-forth about going to grad school. That particular night it hit me that I should stop thinking about it and actually do it.
I was going through a particularly difficult time in my personal life, that was weighing heavy on my professional life.
I was REALLY needing a change.
I logged onto the website that night and started the application. I officially submitted it by the next week — fast forward a couple of months later and I was in there. I received an email on a Friday welcoming me to Syracuse and it was really a proud moment, for a couple of reasons.

Newhouse is one of the top journalism programs around, so what better place to pursue my graduate degree. I have friends and former colleagues who graduated from there and the love they have for their school is contagious. I remember sitting in the newsroom watching as one of my anchors watched his team ball. Hands down my favorite memory — watching this anchor run around the newsroom with excitement after a big Syracuse win. Now, I love my undergraduate university (GO Rams)..  but I don’t think I’ve ever been that excited about any win. If we’re being honest, that’s really probably more due to the fact that I’m not a big sports fan to begin with.

The second reason is very personal for me. For years I’ve wanted the opportunity to teach on the university level. Don’t get me wrong, I very much still want to have a role in someone’s newsroom. I just want to also share some of that knowledge with students looking to become future journalists.

In my last few years of being a news manager, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of people straight off the graduation stage. It’s great seeing the excitement in a recent grads face when they get the offer to do what they’ve always wanted. It’s heartbreaking to watch them struggle and question their decision to get into this industry. A lot of times it boils down to unrealistic expectations of what the business will be like. I know there are some GREAT professors out there. I know a lot are people who were once in the business. The problem though, this business is constantly changing. We’re not covering news the way your grandparents are used to watching it. Appointment television no longer exists. Digital responsibilities for those in the field have become 50% of the job if not greater.

Going in I think we all think we’re going to change the world instantly. We later learn that it’s not as easy as we think. The first year is a lot of work. There’s a lot of on the job learning. I mean seriously, you spend your first six months to a year trying to figure it all out. Eventually you get the hang of it and things are a little easier– but it’s a grind that never stops. While many of us have made it on the other side, there are some who give up before they give a career in journalism a real chance. I want to be someone who gets ahead of that. I want to be the person who brings the voice of realism into the classroom. I LOVE seeing people succeed. One of the small joys of being a news director, watching someone grow. Watching people push themselves to be better. Seeing someone have a hard Monday, but come back on Tuesday ready to win the day.

Now—in all my excitement with grad school, it hasn’t been without its challenges. This has all been an adjustment for me, especially my storytelling class. It’s pushing me to step out of my comfort zone and shoot and edit. Through my frustration with my lack of skill in both– I’m constantly looking at the big picture. What I’m doing now will put me on track to help future journalists. With the current state of our country, they’re going to need all the help they can get!

Diary Of A Digital Addict

Right now, I’m sitting cozy in the pharmacy drive thru… don’t worry I’m just the passenger.  There’s no surprise that I’m spending this time waiting on my phone. The phone is my time filler for just about everything. As a matter of fact, I really can’t think of many times during the day when I’m without my phone. Of course the shower is the exception and even then it is not far away — streaming my favorite songs on Slacker or Apple Music.

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So to this week’s blog topic.. my technology problem.. well not problem… but slight addiction. I’ve known that it existed — it’s not like I’ve been in denial. It’s just that last week I really got a look at just how much of an impact it has on my life. We had a class assignment track our technology use for 24 hours in a digital diary.  This week’s assignment– blog about it, so here I go!

If I’m being honest– I probably chose the worst day to do my tracking assignment–Saturday into Sunday. When it was all said and done I totaled about 8 hours of technology use which seemed pretty low to me– and for good reason. After listening to my classmates describe how they tracked their usage,  I realized I wasn’t exactly doing a good job keeping track of my own.

I listen to music ALL the time! My diary doesn’t reflect the time spent in the car that weekend streaming and singing to the top of my lungs.  The radio is everything to me. During times when I need to clear my head— I often hop in my car, turn the music up loud and drive.

Being someone who has worked in television the last 11+ years– you would think that I would be all about TV, not so much. There are a few gotta watch shows that I record and catch up on later– but I’m not just spending hours watching television. Now, times like right now the TV is often just playing in the background as I work. Looking back to last week–that’s another thing that isn’t exactly reflected in my diary. I guess I’m just so use to having it on, I wasn’t really thinking it needed to be counted– but I was wrong.

Going back to the beginning — yes–I LOVE my smartphone. The majority of my diary time was well spent (in my opinion) on my phone.  I start and end almost every day on my phone. The first thing I do when I wake up, check my phone for missed calls, texts and emails. That’s followed by a sweep of my social media accounts. I always start with Twitter to see what’s making headlines in both local and national news. My day ultimately always ends reading from my Bible app.

Am I really a technology addict, probably. Do I have any plans of changing my habits– NOPE! If I get to a point when it does more harm than good– I’m confident I can back away. For now, I’m going to keep on posting my daily moves on social media— while listening to the radio— with some random TV show playing in the background!