Thursday, August 31, 2006

Next in line at Meijer

It's hard to know if Meijer released a story about its new president because their online news releases are not available as I post this.

Nevertheless, the story in the Grand Rapids Press about Mark Murray visiting Meijer stores in his first month on the job is interesting for several reasons.

For one, it's good to see the instinct of a corporate leader to spend some serious time getting to know business fundamentals. But I'm also glad to see the article mention that Murray is meeting employees. (Self disclosure: as a faculty member at Grand Valley State University, I know Murray, former GVSU president). I'd have to say he was remarkably adept at getting to know large numbers of people in such a large organization.

The article didn't say, but I would hope he also talked to Meijer's primary public: customers. I talk to one a lot--my wife. She points out the following complaints: the newest store locations (Sherman Street in Muskegon) are featureless boxes with no trees in the parking lots like some of the previous Meijers (Grand Haven); changes in store layouts (which the article says they plan every three years) are annoying and make hunting items a nuisance; she has to keep two lists now, one for what she's buying at Meijer and another she creates in the Meijer store for items or brands that have been discontinued that she now has to purchase at other stores.

Others have echoed these complaints. It'll be interesting to watch if Meijer changes course to be a step ahead of Walmart, Spartan and other stores. Otherwise, the "price drop zones" and other recent Meijer innovations make them look like they're copying Walmart gimmicks. That's a strategy to ensure that Meijer will be, as their slogan used to say, "next in line" in supermarkets as opposed to a category leader in the Midwest region.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

FOX Morning Debut Shines

WXMI Fox 17's new local morning news program debuts this week and is a hit. The 6-8 a.m. program, ably anchored by FOX 17 News charter member and until recently weekend anchorAmy Turner, the program delivers what was promised in promos: you can get your news, get your weather and get going.

Compared to other local morning programs, it is a refreshing dose of solid local and national news. Other programs have on the half hour updates of just two or three stories, often recycled from the previous day's 11 p.m. cast. And then they return to network morning blah blah shows for more recipes and celebrities. FOX 17 has a good mix of local and national stories, with the national stories from the FOX network feed but the whole program anchored locally.

It is also interesting that the local markets have a heavier apetite for news in the mornings, with a significant increase in 6 a.m. viewers over 10 or 15 years ago. This tidbit was well explained in a detailed article by former TV 8 personality Colleen Pierson in the Grand Rapids Press. Note, however, that the Press places this article about TV news in its own "entertainment" section.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Press Blogs

Alas, the Grand Rapids Press now has blogs.

I recall many years ago sitting in Press editor Mike Lloyd's office and being chastised for suggesting that the Press could post some information on its then new Web site. "I need to sell papers!" he nearly yelled at me. I should have known better than to suggest to a newspaper editor another way to inform the public. In retrospect, I can see how my idea too clearly resembled, you know, journalism.

But now, Press reporters are blogging. The paper version started alerting readers to these offerings several weeks ago. So far, the blogs seem to make a conventional mistake--merely posting information, in this case columns, online. Blogs are supposed to be about dialogue--two-way dialogue, We PR professionals know about two-way communication; we can't expect journalists steeped in a tradition of agenda-setting, gate-keeping, one-way dissemination to adapt too quickly to the blogosphere. But it will be fun to watch.

Readers are able to email the reporter, but that's nothing new. It would be better if all readers could view both the blog and the readers' comments. Perhaps that is yet to come.