What the journalism industry can learn from the U.S. Army

Advertising for the U.S. Army is everywhere — from movies to television to print ads — and all with one message: joining the Army is the coolest thing you could ever do and you should find out why. Media organizations should adopt similar marketing techniques to regain the readers that we so desperately need to survive.

Make use of the swag

When the Army sets up its recruiting tables, they are often stacked with Army-branded footballs, Frisbees and other assorted bric-a-brac so even if the taker doesn’t plan on joining the armed forces, they at least have the Army burned into the back of their minds.

Every year, recruitment tables at journalism conferences around the world are also filled with company-branded notebooks, pens and the like, but the people who take away the loot are mostly other journalists and media types who already have thousands of notebooks lying on their desks. Since attendance at journalism conferences will likely be down this year (lets face it, who can afford these pricey shindigs anymore?), why not give the swag to people in the community who will be genuinely impressed by the free loot? Many communities complain about lack of interaction with their local papers, so the leftover piles of swag are a perfect way to bridge the gap.

Go where the young people are

The U.S. Army is notorious for taking its recruitment efforts to colleges around the country as well as placing large ads in many college newspapers. While it may sound strange to suggest professional newspapers advertise in student publications, it does bring home a point — no one knows how awesome your coverage is if you don’t tell them. Media outlets cannot rest on being the long-standing source for news; they have to advertise directly toward the very demographic they complain about not reaching.

Get a new attitude

One of the biggest draws of the Army’s television ads is it makes enlisting look like the most awesome thing ever: steel-faced soldiers march through a mix of smoke and flashing lights while rock music plays in the background…it makes one want to drop everything and join immediately.

While newspapers and broadcast stations likely don’t have the cash to hire 3 Doors Down to sing a song about them, they can ditch the old gray lady/non-regional diction/holier than thou/old media attitude make reading the news feel a little more hip. One of the biggest draws of Current and sites like the Sugar network is they make the user feel cool just reading/watching just my changing the tone of the delivery. Coolness doesn’t require the massive advertising budget of the army, it can be as simple as presenting news stories in a more conversational — and less condescending — manner.

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