A New Year and a New Era for Local Engagement

We’re only a few weeks into 2013, but here at the Altitude Group, we couldn’t be more excited about the year ahead and what I like to call the “landscape of local.”

2012 was a huge year for us. We had the opportunity to work with some incredible brands, partners and talent.

In one amazing ongoing project we are helping Cargill bring Truvia® natural sweetener to local eateries by combining radio, TV and outdoor with a hugely successful Facebook sweepstakes. In another, we helped WalMart promote its Local Basket Challenge in key markets around the country.  And in a third, we created an innovative branded content program for Fiat through a “storytelling” series.

Of course, 2012 was a big year for the media business overall. As marketing professionals know, we’re witnessing an explosion of new ways to reach people in the communities where they live. There are more platforms, channels and narrowcasters than ever, and consumers are faced with a dizzying array of new ways to experience local messaging.

And this whirlwind of innovation is no surprise when you consider that a recent BIA/Kelsey forecast predicted that advertising revenue for all local media will reach $147.1 billion by 2016.

So the opportunity in local media is huge. But today, when water cooler conversation turns to a hot local band, an amazing interview or a review of a great new restaurant, it can be tough to know where that conversation started, let alone who is best positioned to amplify it.

For marketers, it has never been more important to be at the center of local conversations anywhere and everywhere that they happen. That’s why enduring local brands and personalities are more important and more influential than ever.

Sure, there is a seemingly endless array of media options in local markets, but which ones actually drive results? And what do all these new options mean for so-called “legacy” brands?

The answer might surprise you.

Perhaps David Carr  put it best recently in The New York Times: “not long ago, I watched CBS’s chief executive, Les Moonves, argue that everything that was supposed to be bad for his business — tablets, the growth of ad-supported cable, DVRs — was actually good for his business.  And looking at his share price, you have to admit he is sort of right.”

Media companies like ours offer a depth of reach, resonance and results that is, in fact, only turbocharged by the latest developments in mobile, digital and social. Here at CBS RADIO, this has been our mantra for some time: inundate audiences with the best information, news, sports and music wherever they are and on whatever platform they choose.

In the past year, we’ve made incredible strides in this direction. Our groundbreaking creation of the CBS Sports Radio network is one example, as is our recent deal with TuneIn, the leading service for listening to music, sports and news streams from around the world.

Of course consumers have never had more options and wielded so much control over the mediums before them. Radio is undoubtedly the first interactive medium, though it’s no longer the only one.  But most of these folks are barking the same ineffective message: pick me, choose me, buy me.  Podcasts, hyperlocal community sites and niche music blogs just don’t possess that indefinable quality that makes the biggest difference: the power of story.

Amidst the explosion of acronyms and channels, one thing hasn’t changed: the insanely effective combination of personality, reach and story. If you’re able to get your story told by the right people at the right time, you’re going to win every time. What’s so exciting about leading the Altitude Group is the chance to connect the assets to the people who do exactly that.

Let me delve a little more into the power of story.

I recently had the opportunity to check out a book that reminded me how the incredible power of narrative can inspire people to passion, conviction and action. Peter Guber’s “Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade and Triumph With the Hidden Power of Story” contains a ton of great information and insight, but one passage about “emotional transportation” particularly resonated with me.

Guber explains:

“What do I mean by ’emotional transportation?’  I’m talking about the complex system of action and reaction that operates within stories to move listeners. Stories that ‘work’ transport audiences emotionally. They move us to laugh, cry, gasp, sigh or yell in sympathetic rage, and every listener intuitively demands this emotional propulsion…  So in any business, as in show business, if you fail to transport your listener emotionally, you will lose your audience.”

Reading this, it instantly fell into place for me. When it comes to powerful, emotional storytelling — the kind of intimate and local storytelling that motivates people in the gut — nobody’s better than the Altitude Group.

We have an arsenal of incredibly strong people and properties at our disposal: on-air and live touch points, local television with an enormous footprint, customized out of home and digital programs and, of course, superstar personalities. Now, more than ever, we’re able to reach people in any and every way.

So here at the Altitude Group, we jump at the chance to embrace the future. We truly believe it’s never been brighter.

Do you have thoughts on the landscape of local in 2013? Be sure to send me a note. I’d love to hear from you!