The City of Chicago has started a newsletter from Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Called “Our 77”, the publication establishes a direct link to the residents of the City. It helps to fill an information void left by the dismembering of the mainstream media, with newsroom counts down by 50 percent or more in the next decade. It also seeks to overcome disinformation in social channels on such important issues as vaccination.
Run by the City’s press office, Our 77 has an open rate of 40 percent and a click-through rate of 5 percent. According to Michael Fassnacht, who runs World Business Chicago and is formerly CEO of FCB U.S., “You need to be the publisher of your own brand. You need three legs of communications: Traditional Media; Social Media; and Direct Media.” Begun only at the first of the year, Our 77 has 25,000 readers, with an objective of 500,000 by year-end.
Fassnacht organized the first in a series of monthly streaming events that enable the Mayor to speak to specific constituencies. Last night, several thousand parents of Chicago public school children were able to interact with the Mayor, the head of the public schools and the director of public health directly. “They asked the hard questions and got straight answers,” said Fassnacht.
The initiative by the city government is only one part of the new forms of journalism spawned of necessity. The Our 77 Project is a “storytelling and media project that shares a narrative of Chicago’s neighborhoods from the inside out.” This is citizen journalism “shining a light on organizations and individuals making an impact in their local areas.” An example is Sisters in Cinema from the South Shore Area, a media center focused on serving Black girls and women, while being an online resource on the history of African American women in filmmaking. The Chicago Ideas festival also has a podcast featuring Chicago “solution-makers” such as the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus. Xfinity is a generous corporate sponsor of all these projects.
Smart companies will recognize that they have home markets, not just global ones. The success of their communities depends on storytelling that is fact-based and inspirational, allowing people of all economic levels and backgrounds to be seen and heard. Every company and organization must consider itself a media company. Do this by going direct to your own employees and stakeholders and support efforts by the community to tell their own stories.
Richard Edelman is CEO.