Dallas Morning News reintroduces itself with campaign designed to win over new readers

How do you make print journalism matter again? That was the big question for Dallas agency GoDo Discovery Co when they were presented with the challenge of coming up with a campaign for the 135-year-old Dallas Morning News in Texas.

The answer was to reintroduce the paper to the city, especially to younger audiences who may have never picked up a paper in their lives. They had to convince the city that the paper still matters and should play a role in their lives. To reach generations raised on digital, they went about it in a decidedly analog manner – they hit the streets and talked to people to find out what matters to them in their city.

What came out of those interviews makes up the ‘What Matters’ campaign, which is being rolled out over the next two years. It consists of posters, stickers, free copies of the paper and a lot of live events in the community where the type states what matters, like “Local Journalism Matters,” “Democracy Matters” and statements on coffee cups like “Free Caffeine Matters.”

But before the campaign could even be shown to the public it had to pass the test of those who worked at the paper.

“We got to spend two days in the Dallas Morning News building and conducted over 40 interviews with their employees. Their employees are members of the community,” Olivia Cole, co-founder and chief operating officer, GoDo Discovery Co, told The Drum.

“This campaign started with an internal launch. We treated it like a mini-market. These folks returned to work and their entire building had been transformed into the campaign. From swag on their desks, posters, clings on the windows. The idea was if they bought into this, they’ll be able to sell that in,” she added, stating that the buy-in of editor Mike Wilson was key to the internal success.

Publisher Grant Moise was also on board from the beginning. “We selected [GoDo Discovery] because we bought into their philosophy of finding our brand truth before we built the campaign. It could be odd to some to think a 134-year old brand needed to re-define our brand truth, but we found it to be a valuable experience to find our true north.”

He said that the majority of the staff was excited that the paper was reclaiming its brand in the market. In turn, Moise was pleased that the campaign included talking with the community, including millennials and Gen Z members.

“When we launch it, we are going ask them what matters to them, so we can in turn cover this community in a way that is relevant to their lives. Younger audiences are thirsting for media to interact with them and to allow them to be heard. If we try to speak from ‘on high’ to them, they will be turned off. What we want most is a relationship with these younger readers centered on the concept that local content matters and can impact their lives in powerful ways,” Moise told The Drum.

Part of the launch will include new digital products, including a revamped website, which the agency and the paper hope will build a more engaged community. On that front, they hope to secure local stars to help them get the word out. One is Chad Houser, a well-known chef who started Café Momentum, which trains and employs at-risk youth.

Between them and the reinvigorated message, GoDo Discovery and the Dallas Morning News hope to convince people that local journalism truly does matter.

“One of the taglines we’re using is ‘Real Local Journalism’. Local journalism has been lost…While it is something you have to pay for, if you don’t it goes away,” said Todd Lancaster, chief creative officer, GoDo Discovery.

The video and television portion of the campaign is still in the works and won’t be rolled out until the team has talked with enough people and gathered enough footage of real people voicing what really matters to them.

“What I want people to realize is that what we do matters. Ultimately, I want them to feel and experience how our news and information can empower their lives,” stated Moise.

See campaign elements by clicking on the Creative Works box below.

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