I like the St. Petersburg Times. It’s my local daily paper, and I’m glad that it is. It’s one of the lone remaining independent daily papers…that is, one that’s not owned by one of the Big Media Companies. It has some exceptional reporters, and takes its responsibility as a member of the community seriously.
It has—just like every newspaper everywhere—been hit hard by the recession.
At some point in the not-too-distant past, a meeting occurred at the paper. In this meeting, the people responsible for selling advertising and developing new revenue streams to keep the paper going had a brilliant idea: Help local businesses understand and effectively use social media.
Unfortunately, this is a case of a brilliant idea wasted because the communication of it it to those might actually purchase said services is sloppy at best, and damaging to the credibility of the St. Petersburg Times at worst, certainly where anything to do with social media is concerned.
Here’s the ad that ran in the April 5 edition:
What’s wrong with it? Let’s count, from the top down …
1. The headline is written in passive language. I’m sure the graphic designers could have worked with “Does social media confuse you?”
2. MySpace logo. Really?
3. Social media is not an important part of every business plan. And this kind of hyperbole is so 1988. Doing it wrong can indeed have devastating results, but there’s nothing in this ad to tell me that the St. Petersburg Times would do it right.
4. You’re a newspaper. And you’re selling content creation. Typos (like missing periods) are unacceptable.
5. Since you’re selling social media expertise, including, say, a Twitter handle would make sense. Just for kicks, I looked up Maryann on Twitter. And found her…maybe. How can she sell social media services or—worse—advise clients if she doesn’t have a social media presence herself? Not one single tweet? Oh wait, I know…she’s a guru.
The moral of the story? Simple. If you want to build a bookshelf, you’d hardly hire a plumber. Likewise if you want to participate in a community—even for a marketing purposes—talk to people who are already there.
Had I been a member of the St. Petersburg Times sales “team,” I would have spoken with Eric Deggans and Michael Kruse, two of their reporters who really get social media.
Social media isn’t a big scary monster. It’s not the savior of every American business. But it is a valuable marketing tactic…when it’s really done right.
Just ask Carter Ross.