Matter Chatter

A little old, a little new, a little more human P.R.

For years it was called the B.O.D. or Building of Death by employees of the Clear Channel stations inside. An afternoon talk show host had adorned the seven floor office building with the name after the light tan façade had been painted charcoal black with purgatory grey accents, but the name stuck for a variety of reasons. As I pulled up in my rental car for the first time in six years, a smile crossed my face upon discovering that the entire edifice had been painted purgatory grey and this subtle change was just the beginning.

Armed with as many bags of Chick-fil-a as my arms could carry I walked into the WGST/GNN newsroom with my mentor and subtly greyer News Director Matt Cook and on the surface little had changed in the room since I had anchored and reported there a decade earlier. The news desks, carpet and news booth were frozen in time from the days when I’d open a newscast with the time and temperature, but the second I closed my eyes a different story unfolded. In that half second I noticed that the scanner noise that still haunts my dreams was gone and the room was exceptionally quite. The acrid smell of the running cart eraser could not penetrate the smell of chicken and biscuits because it just wasn’t there.

In the News Directors office I listened to him tell me that they didn’t need scanners anymore because the Twitter newsfeed from surrounding police, fire and EMS had principally replaced the need for them. The AP was important, but following other reporters and anchors on Facebook and Twitter also ensured that they had every morsel of information that the competition did.

The news staff of close to 25 people was now a meager six, two of them part-time. There was little opportunity for anchors to do interviews as each of them were cranking out newscasts for at least  three  or four stations scattered around the southeast.  The few times they reported live from the field, they employed 4G technology for crystal clear transmission back to the studio instead of using a giant bag phone or bringing a giant Yagi antenna with them.

The  former clutter of noise that used to fill that room was now replaced with digital white noise. Sans the bags filled with buttery biscuit goodness, how would a Public Relations professional cut through these new barriers? After we discussed ways to better use social media and technology to get on the radar of editors and reporters, one of the news anchors of the station poked his head in and thanked me repeatedly for making the effort of bringing food in and listening to him rant.  He went on about how everyone wanted something from him and it was nice that I would just introduce myself and want to get to know him.

I left the Building of Death with a most valuable piece of information that I will resolve to employ in 2012. Not the new social media channels for outreach (though important), but the reminder that in this New Year I can’t just ask and take from reporters and anchors (friends or otherwise). That as with any relationship there needs to be give with the take. I need to make time to chat and get to know those I work with before I can expect to take of their time. This sounds like a “duh” moment, but when you are juggling multiple projects with multiple clients and reporters are juggling multiple stories for multiple media outlets it is easy to let these simple, personal gestures disappear.