In this economic climate, budget cuts and shifting priorities have led to a difficult environment for arts and cultural initiatives. As a result, it’s more important than ever to bring attention to arts programming across the country.
Earlier this month, the Knight Foundation and National Endowment of the Arts announced a challenge among eight cities to promote local arts journalism, an area that is being cut from newsrooms across the country, especially in smaller media markets like Akron, Detroit, and St. Paul (three of the eight cities eligible for the challenge).
According to the organizers, the challenge is looking for applicants to “rethink how traditional media systems function, harnessing the latest tools and technology to make the transition to the new information environment.”
In our work with nonprofits and foundations focused on promoting arts and cultural initiatives, I’ve seen how difficult it can be to tell these stories locally in the media. To reach key audiences, we often turn to digital avenues to help tell these stories – whether it’s hosting an online Q&A for journalists, releasing an infographic that synthesizes information in a visual way, or creating compelling video content to bring attention to an event or issue.
For example, we’ve helped the National Women’s History Museum in their quest for a physical space, but in the meantime, the museum hosts their exhibits online – a digital solution that shares their content with the public.
I’m encouraged by this challenge, which is sure to spark creative solutions to arts budget cuts and will encourage new ways of thinking about arts journalism in cities like Detroit, which is using the arts as a means of revitalizing one of the cities hardest-hit by the recession.
There are stories to be told, not only to share interesting content, but to bring attention to the broader need for including the arts in communities, schools and the media. It’s my hope that through the outcomes of this challenge (entries are open until Aug. 18), we’ll start to see more dynamic digital solutions that enable these amazing stories to be shared with the communities they serve.
Clients are our key constituents, but make no mistake: so, too are the media. Just as we serve as strategic communicators to the organizations we represent, so do we cater to reporters, editors, producers, correspondents and bloggers alike.
That’s why our agency makes a practice of meeting regularly with media for deskside briefings. The purpose is seldom to pitch a particular story, though. Rather, it is to identify our clients memorably. We describe who they are, what they do and why they’re important. We also listen to reporters about what they need. We inquire about everything from pending assignments and new editorial shifts in the offing to topics they’re likely to address. We look to gauge common interests and find potential synergies.
So it was, then, that we recently held such briefings with healthcare policy reporters and editors at USA Today, NPR, Kaiser News Service and Health Affairs.
In each of these one-on-one sessions, we presented an overview of our agency – its history, its specialties – and, more particularly, of some of our healthcare clients.
It was a lot like speed-dating (or so we imagine).
We introduced eight clients in all. Our “elevator” speeches – no more than a few sentences here and there (unless asked for further details) – indicated where and how these clients fit into the current healthcare landscape. We outlined the role they play, the issues they face and the trends they’re noticing. We also emphasized what these clients are doing that might be different or even singular, and what they may know that perhaps no one else knows.
The briefings yielded a high return. In general, all the reporters expressed interest in hearing more about those eight clients, particularly any new research. All plan to keep those clients in mind as sources, preferably available – on short notice if need be – to offer insight, context and all-around expertise on the news of the day. Better still, one of our clients has already held highly productive background briefings with three of the reporters.
As one reporter later told us, “We’re always looking to discover new voices.”
“Perfect,” we said. “We’re always looking for reporters ready to lend an ear.”
David I. Leavitt
So. What does everyone think about Google Plus?
If you’re like most people, you haven’t joined it or played around with it too much. Still, when a $190 billion digital company starts a social networking platform, we should all take notice.
To start with, Google did a great job by redefining what it means to be someone’s online “friend.”
Over the years, the term “friend” on Facebook has come to mean just about anyone we’ve ever met or done business with. However, all friends are not equal, and the sort of thing I want to share with my family is different than what I discuss with my college friends or work colleagues.
The entire Google Plus platform is based on that premise.
(Yes, there are ways to set up different categories in Facebook to share things with only certain people, but most people find that process overly complicated and neglect to do it.)
On Google Plus, you see discrete streams of the “circles” you create. Just your family. Just your high school pals. Just your buddies who like baseball.
Given Google’s product portfolio (Google search, YouTube, Gmail, Picasa, Maps, Docs, Calendar, etc.), chances are that if you’re looking to do something online, Google can help make it happen.
Will it work?
With Facebook’s 750 million users, half of whom log in every day, it’s likely that most people you know are regular or occasional users. The fledgling Google Plus has a long way to go to reach the critical mass it will need to become a go-to sharing tool.
On the other hand, Google’s search page gets more than 1 billion visitors per month, and it features a new toolbar across the top of the page with a Google Plus "notification window" similar to Facebook that will bring a lot of attention to the new service. Suddenly, anyone doing a simple Google search will be reminded that there are new things to see on Google Plus.
What about business and nonprofits?
On Facebook, brands have set up shop. Nonprofits collect donations. Activist groups collect letters to policymakers. Stores can sell their products. Consumers can even buy plane tickets on Delta’s Facebook page.
The landscape is different at Google Plus. For now, brands will have to stay on the sidelines.
Google writes: “We are discouraging businesses from using regular profiles to connect with Google+ users. Our policy team will actively work with profile owners to shut down non-user profiles.”
We’ll check back with updates as the situation changes.
Show of hands: how many of you have donated to a disaster relief cause in the last year?
If you raised your hand, you’re not alone. "Heart of the Donor," a recent study by Grey Matter Research, identified disaster relief as the No. 1 cause for public giving.
But does this translate in the world of corporate philanthropy? Does corporate giving follow public trends in giving?
The answer is no.
Giving in Numbers: 2010 Edition, a report by CECP, ranks disaster relief dead last in corporate giving.
Obviously disaster relief contributions could ebb and flow as a result of current events, but it's important to note that disaster relief also ranked last in giving in 2009 and 2008. What rose to the top of the list for corporate donations? Health and social services.
Thirty five percent of all donors contributed to environmental cases, putting it in 4th place for most-common charity. However, the environment comes in second to last in the corporate world – with only 5 percent of corporate contributions going to green causes.
In addition to health and social services, causes that rate high in corporate giving include higher education and education K-12.
The lesson is that the link between public giving and corporate giving is fuzzy if not non-existent. Businesses tend to focus on charities that align with their culture and core values.
That’s not to say that business don’t care about disaster relief, but they may look for sustainable ways to invest in their own communities through education and social services.
Executive Vice President and Senior Global Corporate Strategist
Senior Vice President
Chief Communications Strategist
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