Newspapers should connect with their communities, make them better

By Alexander Gould

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Alexander Gould

As I sat down, I was not sure what ideas and thoughts were going to be presented to me from the Ole Miss students who earlier in the semester as part of their campaigns class were challenged with an objective of improving how area businesses perceive us.

While each group approached the issue differently, it became very clear all had a common theme: We must improve our connection with our community.

Read that again — we must improve our connection with our community. I asked you to read it again so it really sinks in, because, like me, it was not what you expected to hear from this group of college age students, was it? I was waiting for someone to tell me, “you should be all digital,” “you need to invent a new app,” or “create more video,” but none of that was ever said.

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BrandingForward: Finding balance

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Ole Miss IMC students (from left): Emily Stalcup, Lindsey Munson, Duncan Trumble, Nick Bushart and Taylor Pendleton helped identify opportunities for maximizing engagement across multiple content platforms for The Meridian Star.

In a time when new age media is fighting for control of the news marketplace, it is important for traditional media to expand and adapt. The Meridian Star is a long-lasting newspaper in Meridian, Mississippi, which has total control and saturation of their print media market. However, they have other outlets such as digital, mobile and a magazine that they would like to expand and promote.

Finding a way to present these services on an equal playing field required maneuvering the focal point of the businesses. We developed an overarching conglomerate we named MStar to help provide brand consistency across the platforms. MStar would be the umbrella brand under which every publication and service would be presented to audiences.

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Identifying objectives, opportunities

By Bryan Cody, Ramsey Purvis, Brooke Bonura and Tomas Vivero

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Recommendations to boost branding and leverage other promotional opportunities for The Meridian Star are being developed by Ole Miss IMC students (from left) Bryan Cody, Ramsey Purvis, Brooke Bonura and Tomas Vivero.

Throughout this semester our integrated marketing communications campaigns class has focused on identifying objectives and opportunities for The Meridian Star. When our class met with publisher Alexander Gould early in the semester, we were able to ask him questions about day-to-day operations. This allowed us to understand what objectives needed to be met, and the opportunities for us to reach those objectives.

One of the first objectives we realized was that The Meridian Star needed to be more involved in the community in order to grow its support base to generate more revenue. Through community engagement, staff can boost awareness of the paper, other publications and added business-to-business services such as printing. Ways to meet this objective we are recommending include hosting community events such as a holiday lights contest, with competitors and winners featured on The Meridian Star’s front page/home page and also publishing more community-focused articles about local people, businesses and events.

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Insight key to development of effective marketing plan

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Ole Miss students (from left) Darby Frisbie, Kedrick Smith, Molly Chain and Hayley Day are simulating an integrated marketing communications agency, gaining real-world experience by developing a promotional plan for brand awareness and expanded services of The Meridian Star.

By Darby Frisbie, Kedrick Smith, Molly Chain & Hayley Day

As our capstone course for the integrated marketing degree program at Ole Miss, we are applying our skills of marketing and research to boost new objectives of The Meridian Star. We have analyzed the company needs and what the organization could do to grow its business.

The Meridian Star is positioned uniquely and we intend to identify ways the organization can preserve this uniqueness. By understanding audiences and sharing ideas in class, we are gaining more detailed understanding to help The Meridian Star realize these objectives for their daily business.

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BrandingForward: Class to map future positioning of local newspapers

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Alexander Gould (foreground) and the campaigns class at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. (University of Mississippi photo)

By Alexander Gould

The majority of us operating community newspapers have built our operations to support the area businesses that are the life blood of our community. We celebrate their successes and are concerned for their setbacks. We are constantly having conversations with business owners and managers about the best and most efficient ways to market themselves.

Who within our own operations is taking the time to think about how best we market ourselves? Or more importantly, who has time to ask and answer that question?

Many of us are not just operating a newspaper, we are operating a media company. Of course we have our print newspaper, but we also have a robust website, a total market coverage (TMC) paper and in many cases a magazine. For many of us we are expanding our media companies to include a suite of digital marketing services.

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