Old Media Still Rules, But Not Alone

Last week, my organization released our annual Massachusetts physician workforce study. This is the seventh year we’ve done this, and it’s become eagerly anticipated by many people in the field.

We spent a lot of time planning its release – we honed the messages, the audiences, and the timing. We put all of our old and new skills to the test.

Naturally, we did old fashioned media relations. My veteran media relations manager, Rick Gulla, developed a list of four dozen reporters, based on his encyclopedic knowledge of the local media. I worked on the social media angle. I made sure the news release was SEO friendly, tagged it from here to kingdom come, posted an item on our blog and invited blog readers to share ideas for solving the shortages.

We gave reporters the information on a Friday. We embargoed the release until midnight the following Tuesday morning. Our volunteer president, Bruce Auerbach, was available on Monday to any reporter who wanted to talk to him, and he talked a lot.

There was one glitch. One weekly newspaper released the study about seven hours before the embargo time. I learned about it around 7 p.m. Monday night, while checking my daily Google Alerts feed. I immediately called Rick, who notified everyone else that the embargo was broken and they were free to publish. We posted the stuff on our website in no time flat. (It turns out the break was inadvertent, caused by a careless time stamp in the newspaper’s content management system.)

We did well. Our report was treated fairly and carried broadly. Some three dozen media outlets covered our report. Our blog got some thoughtful comments. The difference is that many other bloggers picked up our story and added their take. That was cool. Not all of it came from our fans, but that’s life. It did generate a buzz, though – and that’s what they pay me for. As of this writing, our study appears in page one of Google search for “physician workforce.”

The moral of the story is that all of the media works together. In any market – even a top 10 market like Boston – traditional media still matter. The fun conversations are around the new social media, because it’s new and changing all the time.

But the old media still command a big audience, and they are critical to how the conversation is framed. If the big daily in your town pillories you in the morning paper, you still have a problem, no matter how many bloggers are working in your space.

This reminds me of the unanswerable question raised at the ASAE annual meeting this summer: Is social media just another new tool, or does it portend a new way of life? Judging by what we experienced this past week, it’s both.

Old media is ailing, but it’s not dead yet.