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Three Takeaways from Today’s Interview With Patch EIC Brian Farnham

In case you missed the tweets (@PRNewser!), I moderated an interview this morning with Patch EIC Brian Farnham called “Building Hyperlocal at Scale.” Patch is a resource for hyperlocal news that launched in 2007 and now spreads across 800 towns in 18 states and D.C. According to the recent Vocus State of the Media 2011 report, of the 724 online outlets launched last year, all but 36 of them were Patch sites.

Reaching audiences at the hyperlocal level has become a goal for outlets and content providers including Examiner.com, Yahoo, editors and execs in the San Francisco area, and others. As part of New York’s Social Media Week, we discussed hyperlocal media broadly and Patch’s work over the past couple of years specifically. After the jump, a few takeaways for the PR industry to consider.

-According to Farnham, many publicists retrofit their pitches for the local Patch reporters. While it can work in some cases, taking a big national trend and trying to apply it to some of the communities that Patch is covering simply doesn’t work.

-The reporters working with Patch live in their communities, have a rich knowledge of the people and places in them, and are passionate about their towns and neighborhoods. So if there’s something relevant happening in these communities, there’s a captive and engaged reporter receptive to that info and an audience for that story, even if the audience is smaller than that of other outlets.

-Patch is performing a balancing act, in terms of its branding and marketing. According to one of the company’s marketers (who sat in the audience) the company wants to establish overall brand awareness, but its hyperlocal nature means it must stay true to the individual communities that are represented in the content. Moreover, Patch is an AOL company, but, according to Farnham, you don’t see AOL splashed all over the place and Patch is largely autonomous.

For brands that also have national and regional goals, publicists and other marketers must ask themselves how they want to establish brand awareness and promote themselves to these mixed audiences.

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