By Richette L. Haywood (NNPA Contributor)
St. Thomas, VI – Equal access. Those two words dominated discussions, during the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) 2011 Mid-Winter Conference. Recognizing the need to grow its reach into federal and corporate arenas, the oldest and most influential Black newspaper association had executives/consultants from the top 25 Fortune 500 companies and industry insiders present the publishers with concrete lessons learned and best practices to expand its penetration into those markets during the country’s economic recovery.
“We pride ourselves on being very on point. We focus on the influence that we have. And, we have a responsibility to enhance the quality of life for our Black brothers and sisters,” NNPA Chair Danny J. Bakewell Sr. told the group. Collectively, the association needs to implement a strategy to gain equal access to advertising revenue.
Based upon an audit of the country’s Black owned and operated newspapers, Chuck Morrison, executive vice president and general manager of Uniworld, pointed out that the Black Press had no advertising reciprocity, based on the data he compiled. Specifically, he said that of the top 25 companies with a significant market share in the African-American community, some firms did no advertising with the Black Press during the review period.
The companies that consistently spent advertising dollars with the Black Press, in alphabetical order, are: AT&T, Comcast, Ford, General Motors, Home Depot and Macys.
Developing strategic approaches positioning the Black Press to gain equal access to federal and corporate advertising dollars were discussed during several workshops. Dennis Hunn, NNPA executive vice president advertising and marketing stressed,”… we need to know where we are, define where we need to be, and, finally, develop a step by step plan to describe how we get there.” Among the strategies discussed to help the newspapers generate revenue was marketing and special events. In addition, as a part of its overall strategy, the NNPA is developing an enhanced infrastructure to expedite execution of its internal processes.
The call for equal access did not end with its members. But, extended to the people of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, the conference site. Mr. Bakewell told the publishers the association’s support of the U.S. Virgin Islands 30-year agreement with the owners of locally produced Cruzan Rum, was the right thing to do. The Black Press will continue to support economic development in St. Thomas, specifically as it applies to the competition between St. Thomas and Puerto Rico to secure the manufacturing rights for Cruzan Rum.
Nathan Simmonds, senior policy advisor for the United States Virgin Islands, told the publishers “the benefits of the rum agreement are not just paper deals.”
Economically, the agreement with the company will generate $50 million in revenue this year and is projected to triple within in the next six years. Applauding the publishers for not “believing the hype,” Simmonds said “thank you for getting the facts and utilizing your power of the press to help us move forward.”
During the closing night Salute Dinner, award-winning actress and author Victoria Rowell thanked the membership for its coverage of the ongoing challenge faced by Blacks to gain equal access to jobs in the entertainment industry.
She commended the association for its support that recently resulted in the hiring of the first African-American writer on the popular daytime soap opera “Young and the Restless,” where she appeared for 17 years. “This is only step one” said Rowell, referring to the three-time award winning writer being hired on a six-week trial basis for the show. “None of this could have been expedited had it not been for you. The Black Press has always been good to us. We have a long way to go in Hollywood. But, none of this could have happened, the way it happened, had it not been for the Black Press. We need access. And, this is what the fight is about.”