Why You Are Like The New York Times

The New York Times, founded 180 years ago, is changing. Like all newspapers, they were a one-to-many publisher that decided on what’s “fit to print” (part of their motto), with very little feedback from readers.

Now that’s changing. In a recent NYT article, their public editor outlined the changes they’re going through and why they’re doing them. The article’s title sums it up nicely: Want to Attract Readers? Listen to Them.

These changes also apply to all corporate communicators and are worth checking out. My guess is that your company is a lot like the NYT. You’ve traditionally had a one-way, top-to-bottom communications strategy. And like the NYT you to want to attract more readers, right? If so, here are some of their ideas and observations. As you read them, substitute the word ‘employees’ for ‘readers,’ ‘people’ and ‘audience’ and you’ll see how they directly apply to the workplace. And substitute yourself for ‘editors’ and ‘newsroom.’

• Keeping a good distance from readers worked fine over the past century, but now they want to produce a product that the consumers have a greater say in creating.

• Only about 10% of their articles are open to comment. That needs to be far higher.

• The newsroom is too distant from the people it serves.

• They need to treat their audience like people with crucial information to convey.

• They were late in realizing that readers were using phones while editors were still focused on desktop monitors.

• They were late in realizing that readers were spending lots of time on social platforms, way before personnel had staffed “audience teams” to attract them.

• Younger readers want to feel a sense of being close to the action and want a little more levity in their news.

• The NYT brand is synonymous with trust and quality, but also stuffiness and a muzzled sense of humor. Stories need to relax in tone.

• They no longer believe that listening to readers leads to dumbed-down journalism.

The NYT readers, and all newspapers readers, are also your employees. The techniques used to attract them to those digital platforms are the same ones you should be using. As for millennial employees, they are digital natives, and are ONLY attracted by up-to-date online marketing techniques. If you want to engage them the old ways just don’t work.

So take a look at your internal communications and see where you are using the right techniques… and where you are stuck in the past.

Frank Kenna III
August 11, 2016

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