(A WSP Inc. exclusive webversation with brands and Philippine media)
That just about sums up what has been happening to Philippine media since this pandemic happened. Philippine Daily Inquirer editor Pam Pastor, journalist and author Lala Rimando and GMA Network’s Alwyn Alburo shared how the pandemic has been affecting journalism, and how it can be attenuated, during the first ever webversation entitled “Executive Series: The New Media Landscape” hosted by PR firm, WSP Inc.
The impact has been suffocating: broadcast programs are either being put on hold or cancelled; print pages are being reduced; veterans are being forced to retire; manpower is getting “rationalized”. A “news desert” phenomenon started in the provinces where news gathering and consumption have been incapacitated.
Healthwise, journalists are not spared, either. A significant number has had to go through quarantine, while some have sadly succumbed to the virus. This is why most online reporters are working from home to this day. On the other hand, those who are left manning the desks in the newsroom need to write and deliver stories with lesser pages and/or limited airtime to wrestle with.
Not to sound opportunistic, but this is the time for brands and professionals in the communication industry to step up and help with story mining and creation. After all, field reporters and correspondents can only do so much with all the physical restrictions and limitations in covering the news. Not that every story deserves to be published or aired, but Pam, Lala and Alwyn all agree that stories well told have bigger chances of getting the editors’ approval.
AUDIENCE AS STORYTELLERS
Sometimes, stories are best told by the target audience of broadcast segments or newspaper sections. Stories for the youth, for example, will have better perspective if written by student correspondents.
These days, stories reflect the changes in people’s lifestyles: testimonials from greenhorn entrepreneurs, work from home hacks, tips from plantitas, and other inspiring and interesting stories told by non-journalists. Readers apparently still want to read about stories from pre-pandemic days because they want to continue living full lives despite being stuck at home.
Citizen journalism can also be a creative way to push stories forward. Equipped with just mobile gadgets, Filipinos have developed skills in catching stories that they think will go viral on social media. Brands can encourage or even train their own employees to become storytellers themselves, especially those who have direct engagement with stakeholders who may be able to share some insights of their own.
HUMANS AMIDST THE PANDEMIC
The narrative has now shifted to stories of hope and recovery, with real people at the center. Frontliner stories, contributions from big businesses, and other humanitarian response operations from various groups are what everyone needs right now. These are stories that make people hold on to their faith in humanity despite being bombarded with depressing news about the virus and its impact.
Brands that can tell stories that will create a positive impression on readers are preferred by editors. While donations are “old news”, for example, relevance can still make it new. Will it educate? Inform? Entertain? People sailing against the same storm will always welcome a sturdy boat.
LEADERS ON GROUND ZERO
Companies and their leaders who acted fast at the onset of the pandemic stood out in the news, and continue to dominate the pressroom. Stories of leadership make interesting content simply because they are the ones that can give reliable and authoritative information that the public needs to hear, in good or bad times.
CEOs must be more visible and vocal in media to give their organization a human face to the public. People tend to gravitate favorably toward brands that they feel can relate to them the moment they see a top executive talking to them. These leaders can use the media to expand their world beyond their offices and reach out to their customers and business partners. There is nothing that professional training and coaching can’t do to make them know how to engage media, whether in front of the camera or through digital platforms.
Editors will find it difficult to turn down a “sexy” story. With competition for print space and airtime now tougher because of current limitations, brands must know how to find the right angle of a story to make it not just more interesting, but relevant to the audience as well. From being ads-based, media now has become more subscription-based, so brand stories must also match the audiences of a media outfit’s subscribers.
The most common trap that brands find difficult to get out of is the idea of brand love. Brands have the tendency to believe that since their stories are interesting internally, these are automatically just as relevant to the bigger audience. They must try to pitch their story to people outside of the organization: to their parents, a teenager, the barbecue vendor in the corner, or even the CEO husband of their neighbor. If they find it enticing, it means that story is sexy. The moment brands are able to extract the “sexiness” out of their story, the more chance they have of getting published or aired.
CONTENT IS STILL KING
Brands who are still not active on social media are missing out since news researchers are now paying more attention to various digital platforms and content. In the same token, people are also getting their news mostly from social media posts out of convenience and accessibility. Most people would rather access the news through their mobile gadgets. They are afraid to touch newspapers, and it doesn’t help that distribution of print publication is limited because of area lockdowns and quarantine protocols.
More brands are now holding events online. These are good channels to explore if brands want to be known as leaders in their category and be relevant enough to be in the news. Brands who have presence in news deserts can provide content for the “missed” audiences on digital. They have specific interests that media outlets can barely cover, so brands can help provide stories from these communities that they happen to serve.
No matter how devastating the situation is, brands and media must find ways to co-exist. Philippine media is reformatting some of its content to fit the digital space. This shift is happening now, faster than expected. There will always be innovative ways in putting stories out there, for as long as they keep the interest of the general audience in mind.
About the Writer
Carmen Dulguime, “beingKirei” in her social media accounts, keeps two personal blogsites: beingKirei and Virtual Cubicle. She created these initially for self-expression, but she realized that she can do more with her God-given writing gift. Finding inspiration in Proverbs 31:8 (Speak for those who cannot speak; seek justice for all those on the verge of destruction), she started writing about people she meets and have meaningful conversations with. She found some of their stories need to be told and inspire others. She contributes to NewsFeed 360 on top of working in the editorial department of WSP Inc.. Aside from writing, she tries to learn photography, play the ukulele and guitar, and read until she falls asleep.