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Black Press Push for Social Media Presence

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By Richette L. Haywood, NNPA Contributor –

St. Thomas, VI – Black newspaper publishers attending the National Newspapers Publishers Association (NNPA) Mid-Winter Conference know what they want. Their focus was on how the Black Press can and should use social media networks to drive awareness of the Black Press as a brand, develop an enhanced digital engagement with Black America, and develop stronger partnerships with advertisers and its readership.

“The rise of social media networks like Facebook and Twitter has given print media a unique opportunity to develop even deeper relationships with our audience and marketing partners,” said Dorothy R. Leavell, chair of the NNPA Foundation. “This event is designed to explore all the possibilities that social networks offer newspapers. Newspapers excel at attracting communities of like-minded users and this event will help newspapers take community building to the next level.” Reaching that next level has been a difficult undertaking for traditional print industry, as both minority and mainstream publications struggle financially to hold on to their print market while competing in a digital age.

Reader interest start, where it has always started, said Eric Easter, an AT&T consultant and print journalist from Washington, D.C. “It’s all about the story, first,” said Easter. Deciding what is the best way to tell the story does not mean changing a publication’s brand or voice. “You don’t need to stop being who you are,” said Easter. “The key is to find out ways to engage (readers) on a daily basis. You have to understand your audience to expand.”

To accomplish that goal, AT&T consultant and owner of Capitol Consulting Group, Kevin Parker communicated to publishers that they have to “integrate being the most trusted voice in Black America” into its presence on the internet. “They need to figure out how to make the social networks work for them and they need to find out where their readers are (from a digital perspective).” Most importantly, Parker said, newspapers must target and capture a more youthful demographic.

Scott Davis, publisher of The Nashville Pride newspaper and one of the younger members of the association, said he will incorporate strategies discussed during the workshops into his newspaper’s operation. “I have a popular entertainment and sports writer. We will be looking to translate his stories (online). Social networking gives us another reach our community and I am excited about that.”

Keeping that enthusiasm alive among its members is critical, said NNPA Chair Danny J. Bakewell, Sr. “We are helping each other to grow into this next phase. We want to make sure we have value added workshops to take us into the future.”

Staying true to its conference theme - Value, Trust & Influence – the four-day event attracted corporate sponsors, including General Motors and Ford, both of whom have undergone their own financial issues. “Business is about relationships and understanding what our needs are. And, hopefully, we can find solutions that would work for both of us,” said Eric Peterson, Vice President of Diversity at General Motors.

Held in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, the conference kick-off event was the NNPA Chairman’s Reception, hosted by Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., which was attended by past and present government officials. The hospitality of St. Thomas was extended to the NNPA by John P. de Jongh, Jr., governor of the Virgin Islands who hosted a reception at the governor’s mansion.

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