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Lessons In Communicating: What We Can Learn From ESPN

Today’s marketing and public relations professionals can actually learn a lot from the traditional media networks about how to reach today’s busy audiences.  Specifically, as an example let’s take a look at ESPN and how they use a variety of today’s technologies to reach their intended target audiences.

As a case study, we’ll use the popular Mike & Mike in the Morning radio program.  Now, typically for a radio show of this nature, the show would air from 6-10AM and listeners would be able to hear the show on their local affiliate, and then maybe they could hear a “Best of…” either over the weekend or perhaps when the show was on vacation.  Despite this conventional wisdom, ESPN realized that in then new media landscape this narrow window of distribution does not meet the needs of today’s dispersed audiences, and that there was an opportunity to grow the show’s audience.  With new distribution options, ESPN has been able to successfully leverage Mike and Mike, especially since content is king.  The network now simulcasts the show live on ESPN 2, produces a daily “Best of…” that airs during the afternoon on the network, provides show highlights on the front page of ESPN.com, and publishes a daily “Best of Mike and Mike” Podcast.

Now, clearly each of these tactics is not meant to reach the same audience members, but it is meant to give the show the greatest possible reach on any particular day.  I think that this strategy is reminiscent of when the CBS Television Network began simulcasting “60 Minutes” on the CBS Radio Network, which helped reach a broader audience, and in turn increase the television ratings.  This allowed those on the road to hear the show, get to their destinations and then continue watching the program on TV.  While the tools used by ESPN are different the concept is the same – leverage Mike & Mike to reach the broadest possible audience and meet the needs of today’s demanding consumer who may want to listen live, on-demand on the web, or via Podcast.

The lesson for today’s communicators is to consider how the landscape has changed as you develop your own outreach efforts.  With that in mind, and considering how diverse today’s audiences are, there are a variety of ways to tell our stories and meet the needs of how news and information is consumed differently.  In terms of strategy, for PR campaigns and Marketing plans it means that new media opportunities are equally important as traditional tactics.  As you develop future campaigns, it is important to include and leverage new tools such as web media, on-demand audio and video, and downloadable media such as Podcasts.  Certainly, traditional methods radio, TV, and print are still very important, but with how differently today’s audiences get their content we need to communicate using those same tools that are making it easier for audiences to consume media in whatever way best fits with their schedule.

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