Missouri weekly customizes state association’s promo ads

By Sky Chadde

HOUSTON, Mo. – For almost two years, the Houston (Mo.) Herald has used the series of MPA ads to promote itself and its community.

MPA launched the "Know It. All." ad campaign September 2008. It used focus groups of member papers' publishers along with the creative thinking of its staff to produce the campaign.

Doug Crews, MPA executive director, said that 30 to 40 newspapers, about 15 percent of the association's membership, have utilized the ads to their advantage.

"A dozen or so [of them] have really adapted and tailored it to their local community," Crews said.

The "Know It. All." campaign at the Herald features local people and businesses.

The ad series is designed to encourage newspaper readership and subscriptions.
They are also highly customizable, serving as templates for each newspaper to decide how tailor them for their own needs. Houston Herald Publisher Bradley G. Gentry said circulation at his weekly has increased because of these ads.

Only minor modifications to the existing layout of the ads are required to implement the series of ads, said Kevin Jones, chief operating officer for the St. Louis American, during a presentation at the 2010 National Newspaper Association's Convention.

"We tried to make [the ads] really simple and generic as we could," he added.

Examples of the ads range from "Know It. All. About Your Town," where the local paper would insert its town's name; "Knew It. All.," which focuses on our Founding Fathers for the Fourth of July or Presidents Day; "Father Knows Best" and "The Mother Of All Know-It-Alls," which puts the focus on either a local dad or mom, respectively; and "Nominate A Know-It-All," which allows people in the community to nominate someone they believe is deserving of notice.

Jones also said at the NNA's convention, "The possibilities for personalization are endless for this campaign." The MPA strongly encourages each newspaper to populate the ads with photos of local folk.

It has been a huge success for the Herald.

"I have people call me up wanting to nominate a know-it-all," Gentry said.

Each week in the Houston Herald, the ads feature a local Houston area person or business, either someone that has volunteered to have his or her picture in the ad or has called into the paper to nominate someone.

"We tailored the ads so they were localized, using local people," Gentry added.

"People need the recognition for [doing] something exceptional," said Kathy Richardson, a feature writer and special projects manager, who also takes the photos of the locals for the Houston Herald "Know It. All." ads. The campaign has allowed the newspaper to spotlight about 80 local people during the two years it has been running the ads.

Overall, the project has been good for the Houston Herald. Gentry and Richardson said the ads are positive and have been beneficial to the newspaper and their close community as a whole.

"[The ads show] that the newspaper supports the community and the individuals who read the newspaper," Richardson said. She added that the newspaper's readers look forward to seeing who the know-it-all is each week. "[The ads] have become a social event."

Gentry noted, "[The importance of a newspaper is to get] new people acclimated to the community." The "Know It. All." ad campaign allows the Houston Herald to do just that.

MPA has also made these house ads available to all NNA members. They can be accessed at http://www.mopress.com/know_ it_all.php.

Sky Chadde is  a student in the University of Missouri School of Journalism.