Monday, June 9, 2014

Communication--The Ongoing Stumbling Block

In our never-ending debate about whether Norristown's a city or a small town (with me always saying neither and no one else seeming to believe there's an in between possible because we'd rather have something to argue about), I'd have to say our communication problems prove we're not a small town In a small town, everyone knows everyone else's business. In places like that, word of mouth is an art form. Information gets passed around.

In a city, though, communication is more difficult, so the city compensates by having more than one type of media--at least one newspaper, and commercial radio and TV stations that concentrate mainly on news for that city. Being so close to Philly, Norristown is at a disadvantage. The commercial stations listened to or watched by most of our residents focus on Philly and we hardly ever get a mention, unless it's negative news. State College only has about 10,000 more residents than we do, but they have their own commercial TV and radio stations. Same for Wilkes-Barre.

Back in the '60s and early '70s, everyone in N-town seemed to listen to 3 radio stations: WNAR, WFIL, and WIP. They carried weekly announcements about things happening in Norristown. Now the stations have all moved or been turned into Christian radio stations. They might be great about broadcasting the Good News, but none of them seem to help spread Norristown news. Even if they did, their audience is a lot smaller now. We have local access cable stations, but really, how many of you ever watch them?

I've been thinking about this problem we have with publicizing Norristown events for the last month. When the Dragon Boat Club and Norristown Business Association did their Flea Market, many people come only because they saw us there as they drove by, or as one woman said, "I came over to Pizza King for lunch and saw you here." They wanted to know why it wasn't in the paper. Well, it WAS, and not just in the back under "Happenings." The Times Herald ran an article on page 3 a few days before the event. They put it online, too--links made the rounds on Facebook and Twitter. Yet it wasn't until the day after, when the Times Herald ran an article on page 1 with photos from the Flea Market and the cleanup afterward at Riverfront, that people came out of the woodwork asking why they hadn't been told about it.

Honestly, do our groups have to go door-to-door? Or hire a skywriter?

The same thing happened Friday night for the Family Feud at Caffe Galileo. Very low turnout, yet the next day when photos of the event hit Facebook, people were saying they didn't know anything about it. Yet, notices for it had been around Facebook for the last week. How did they see the photos, but miss the pre-event posts?

On the bright side, we've gotten better in the last year on posting notices. A year ago, half the time you wouldn't see a notice for an event until the day before or the day of. Now you see online flyers at least a month before most events. But people still don't seem to be reading them. I try to spread news of events I hear about here on the Diary each Friday. Shea Ashe posts events he hears about on the OIC community calendar. Still, we can't force people to go to our sites and read them.

I don't know the solution to spreading the word about Norristown's events. This week I'll be doing press releases for the History Day Fest at Selma Mansion on June 28th. I'll send them to the Times Herald, Montgomery News, the Lansdale Reporter, King of Prussia Courier, Main Line Times, the Plymouth Colonial and the Phoenixville Phoenix. I'll post it to 4 online community calendar besides the OIC calendar and our Municipal calendar. We've already begun spreading it around Facebook and Twitter. I'll put notices on Next Door. Regardless, after the fact, people will say they knew nothing about it.

How do you usually hear about Norristown events? How do you WANT to hear about them? Please don't ignore these questions. Communication is too important to our continued growth. What are your ideas?

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