Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Virginia Press Women Conference

I had the pleasure of meeting a dynamic group of women at last Friday's VA Press Women Conference at the Taubman Museum. From the national president to local writers to novelists such as Sharyn McCrumb and Sally Honenberger, it was a day of stimulating panels and great sidebar discussions. The Twitter panel was probably the best, because the panelists focused on using Twitter to establish yourself and your works as a brand. (They were not interested in what we had for breakfast, but were interested in retweeting messages to broaden brand marketing reach.)

Sharyn spoke about how difficult it is to change stereotypical perceptions. She asked four questions and asked the audience to write down the state in which each act took place. Then she asked if any of us had chosen WV, VA, KY, or TN for any answers. When the majority raised hands saying yes, we had, she told us we were the problem. Not one of her questions, not even "what was the last state to convict a man on cannibalism?" took place in an Appalachian state. (For your curiosity, it was Colorado.)

That reminded me of a panel I was on in the early 1990s. I was speaking to about 250 newspaper publishers and editors, most of whom were lamenting that they had difficulty reaching a youth market, a women's market, various ethnic markets, yet none had a teen, women or Latinos, for example, on their staff. I mentioned that in looking at the audience, I could see the problem. They were mostly older, mostly male and mostly pale -- and they didn't get it. They had no idea how to reach what they said were target demographics. How could a balding white guy know what a 14-year-old Hispanic girl want to read??

Lesson learned from Sharyn. Fewer lessons learned by the newspaper moguls (mongrels??).

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