“The Business Beat News Tip Sheet™”
Objectives: The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) asked MAYO Communications to design a corporate communications program that would foster a better understanding and awareness of the LAEDC as a whole. The ongoing program would educate the media and the media would in turn educate its target audience. Another objective was to help attract new corporations to join the 501 (c) nonprofit organization, whose mission is to attract and retain jobs and businesses in Southern California.
Target Audiences: Our primary audience was the business print, TV and radio media in Southern California. Our secondary audience was the public and any business and nonprofit organizations that could benefit from LAEDC’s membership services.
Implementation: MAYO first designed a template and masthead for a new electronic newsletter called The Business Beat News Tip Sheet™ (BB), which would be edited and distributed by MAYO Communications monthly – and more often when needed – to the media only. Due to the business supported and bureaucratic structure of LAEDC, we composed and produced the BB’s vision and mission as well as media story guidelines so there would be no misunderstanding amongst senior management, staff and membership. We knew it would be a struggle internally, because something of this nature had never been tried before; it was a big risk to membership and we would face the challenges of some micro-management. We first sought approval from top management and when we made our presentation to senior staff we were already a hit due to our innovative ideas and past successful media programs. Everyone bought into the concept and agreed to follow the guidelines of the BB. One way we ensured the new communications vehicle would move forward without impediment was by having one or two top managers, namely Chief Economist Jack Kyser or Wally Baker, review and sign off on the BB to meet media deadline pressures.
To improve corporate communications internally we worked with each regional manager to encourage them to provide story ideas from their five regions that included Long Beach, San Bernardino, San Fernando Valley, San Gabriel Valley, Orange County and Downtown Los Angeles. We also persuaded the World Trade Center Association of Long Beach and Los Angeles to contribute stories of regional business interest.
The vision was to make the BB corporate communications vehicle a first stop resource for economic information, public policy and business news in Southern California. The mission was that the BB would be an external e-newsletter provided to all media outlets, not intended as a member’s communications resource. It would contain a one-page menu of interesting news tips for the media about LAEDC, its business partners, consulting projects, studies, member stories, events, promotions and special resources provided by LAEDC. We came up with several designs and used colorful graphics to match the LAEDC logos, letterhead, business cards and even parts of their website. In fact, some links accessed continually updated information on the LAEDC website, so even though the e-newsletter was published at least monthly, the information links were updated more frequently.
The BB was hosted on an outside Internet server by a company in Texas that charged about $200 a month to host and allowed MAYO to manage and monitor the hits, readership and subscriptions. The service also offered live interactive polls so if we wanted to take a quick survey of a topical issue we could do it at a moment’s notice with instant results online. The BB’s template also included a subscription box for writers, freelancers and journalists, including the broadcast media in California. For subscribers, the BB would be converted to html, text or AOL formats so it would arrive in a writer’s or reporter’s inbox fully formatted within the body of the email immediately upon the BB’s publication. We were instantly notified whenever a reporter or writer subscribed or unsubscribed to the BB so we could track interest in LAEDC.
Budget: The budget for the entire campaign was $40,000 for 11 months, which included phone calls, faxes, printing and news advisories and news releases announcing the Business Beat News Tip Sheet™. It also included follow-up media calls and interviews after stories were published.
Results: At first there was some resistance from top to bottom within LAEDC and information from regional managers only trickled in slowly each month. But after we began attending the regional managers meetings religiously each month to build confidence and credibility in the Business Beat, regional managers started calling with story ideas, some at the same time, with successful story angles the media had not covered.
Releasing media tips in the BB got us to try a couple new media relations tactics that worked – after calling business editors in a specific region and asking them if they would be interested in a story, not only did they start working on the story that afternoon, but they also subscribed to the BB and asked their supporting staff to do the same. Every month we would contact new business writers and ask them how we could improve the news tip sheet – what they liked and disliked. We received very few complaints, but many comments along the lines of “I like the short menu and story sheet idea.”
The first month we had about a dozen subscribers. The second month the e-newsletter and tip sheet grew to 50 business editors, writers and freelance reporters. Each month subscriptions jumped. Nearly one year later subscriptions for the Business Beat News Tip Sheet™ increased to a whopping 801 subscribed writers, reporters, producers and editors of the print and broadcast media in California alone. In 11 months only a half dozen writers unsubscribed, but it was because they were editors of their own competing nonprofit internal or external newsletters.
Media calls according to LAEDC increased 50 percent to 1,700 calls for media interviews in 11 months. Membership grew seven percent during a sluggish economy in 2003, however throughout that same period a majority of the members, both new and old, complimented the LAEDC on its Business Beat program and the media placements that followed. Often the BB would be sent to executive board members after its distribution to the media, and they would see first hand the next day or within the week that an article directly resulted from a news story placed in the BB. At least one and sometimes three stories would consistently be covered in the Los Angeles Times Business section, Los Angeles Daily News or the Los Angeles Business Journal.
According to the Texas service where the BB is hosted, the communication program was the only one of its kind in the nation among the 33,000 newsletters hosted on its servers. MAYO Communications was asked if the company could use the BB as a good example of corporate communications online. At the annual membership board meeting LAEDC CEO & President Lee Harrington said it was the most profitable year for LAEDC and its membership rolls. He also spotlighted MAYO Communications for boosting awareness and media calls. LAEDC renewed its contract with MAYO Communications for another one-year term with a promise to allocate a larger budget next fiscal year for PR.