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July 11, 2012 Edition

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What I learned
at convention

John Bland
Publisher

It is hard to put into a few sentences what one takes away from attending a seminar, convention or meeting. The Arkansas Press Association conventions truly offer much-needed educational, motivational and encouraging programs and speakers.

Russell Viers, one of our speakers at the recent APA convention in Little Rock, is called a transition expert in the publishing world and talked about newspaper technology.

Viers encouraged us to read "Is Google Making Us Stupid" and said that people are reading more words these days, but our attention spans are getting shorter. In Viers' opinion, newspapers should think first about visuals, such as photos and graphics, before words.

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As noted last week, Alice Walton was named "Headliner of the Year" for the good headlines she made for Arkansas by establishing Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville. In a newsletter, Tom Larimer, APA executive director, highlighted some of her comments upon receiving the award.

He noted that her acceptance speech was quite entertaining and well received. She was not afraid to poke fun at herself either, as some of her headlines were far from flattering.

"Bored billionaire babe buys Bentonville Boondoggle" was one headline she quoted. A columnist for the Wall Street Journal referred to her as a "culture vulture" for her acquisition of renowned art for the museum.

However, she was most gracious and appreciative of the APA honor - and rightfully proud of Crystal Bridges.

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Speaker and consultant Tony Marsella of Augusta, Ga., encouraged newspapers to randomly deliver extraordinary customer service. He told of having his car serviced by a dealership and later realizing that the ashtray, where he kept tollbooth change, had been inadvertently removed.

When he contacted the dealership, he was told that they had the ashtray and that he could pick it up. Marsella replied that he was on his way to teach a college class, then was headed out-of-town and did not have time to pick it up that day.

Marsella shared the story with his class, which then did a quick survey of how other dealerships would handle the ashtray incident.

No sooner had the students surveyed the dealerships when Marsella received a call from Lexus. Lexus had to make a delivery in his direction and offered to stop by the other dealership and bring him the ashtray.

Marsella said that this type of service was "out of the ballpark" customer service.

He challenged newspapers to do likewise. Other speakers encouraged us to serve our readers with information they need and want and to service our advertisers to help them meet their goals. I hope we can continue to do that, but even better, in the future.

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