A Highlight From the Annual Meeting: Keynote Speaker Rob Curley

A Highlight From the Annual Meeting: Keynote Speaker Rob Curley

Rob Curley closed the 2020 Annual Meeting of the Columbia Basin Development League, the first virtual meeting in the
League’s history, with a message brimming with optimism and humor, which seemed to resonate with his audience during a pandemic.

Curley, the editor of the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, opened by addressing his reputation as an innovator, noting the dismal state of the newspaper industry and poking a little fun at himself.

“You all couldn’t get the horse-buggy maker to come and talk to you all about his innovations?,” he said.

After a quick rundown of his career from a childhood in Kansas with parents who subscribed to three newspapers to his experiences building HGTV.com and the website for the Masters golf tournament, to his time as editor in Spokane, the first time he applied for a job in his life, Curley got to the heart of his presentation: What he calls “The Virtuous Cycle,” the process through which he changed how his newsroom operated and how a company can better relate to the
community it serves.

The key is, you have to make people like you, he said.

To that end, he started featuring positive stories in the front page of the SpokesmanReview and shifting to longer, more descriptive stories. “Not to sound crazy optimistic but in 2017, my first year here, we became the only newspaper in America whose numbers went up,” Curley said. “From 68,000 to 88,000 subscribers. First circulation gain in the newspaper’s history since 1996.”

A way to implement the Virtuous Circle, Curley said is by implementing the Five Ps: Passion, Practical, Personal communication, Playful and Pleasure. Passion answers the question of “what matters in your town?”

Practical answers the need for practical advice. Personal communication is a winning strategy all its own nowadays,
Curley said. In a world where everything is technology, the only way to win is to be human, he added. Playful is the fourth P and a big deal. “Being playful shows that you have a soul. Playful matters,” he said. Pleasure is the fifth P and “why we work. We work our (tails) off 40 hours a week so we can enjoy our weekends,” he said.

The Five Ps “are not a business strategy for newspapers; they are a business strategy for every business that is succeeding right now,” Curley said.

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