Check out the full NC Local newsletter from July 28, which includes related reporting on the impact of rising U.S. Postal Service rates, updates about Sherry Chisenhall’s departure from The Charlotte Observer, the latest job postings and more. Sign up to get NC Local in your inbox every Wednesday.
By Eric Frederick, NC Local Newsletter Editor
“When we bought The Chatham News and The Chatham Record two and a half years ago,” publisher/editor Bill Horner III told me the other day, “the very first thing we did was to combine them to make it The Chatham News + Record. And that created some confusion. One of the things I heard was confusion about the new name … and the other thing I heard was, ‘I didn’t know Chatham County had a newspaper.’
“So obviously, you want to try to leverage anything you can to create brand awareness.
“And I’m not a coffee geek at all, but … Chatham County has a pretty cool coffee culture. A lot of neat, eclectic coffee shops. We did a really nice two-page photo essay and story about the coffee culture, and one of the things that I learned in that story was that Aromatic Roasters (in Pittsboro) was the only roaster of coffee in Chatham County. So, at that point the light bulb went off, and it took me about five seconds to connect the dots: ‘This is a place that we need to approach.’”
With support from one of his business partners, Kirk Bradley, who’s a coffee aficionado and an Aromatic Roasters fan, Horner reached out to Erin Munson, managing partner at Aromatic, and made the pitch for a co-branded breakfast blend, which was perfected after several experiments and taste tests.
The name was a natural — Chatham Brew — because the News + Record already had a thrice-a-week M-W-F newsletter by that name. Since late winter this year, Aromatic has been roasting small batches of the beans and packaging them whole, in 4-ounce and 8-ounce bags in the News + Record’s signature blue color.
Retail sales are in the works, but for now, the 8-ounce bags are subscriber premiums, and the 4-ounce bags are for the advertising rep to use on sales calls: “Here’s my card, and here’s some coffee,” Horner said.
“It’s brand awareness for The Chatham News + Record, and it’s brand awareness for our newsletter, which is something that we focus a lot of our energy on right now,” Horner said. “And for Aromatic, it’s kind of a no-brainer as well, because we’re doing a little bit of a trade-out with them, in terms of advertising for this, and if you’re getting the coffee as a subscription premium you actually have to physically go to Aromatic to pick it up, and while you are there, you may buy something.”
Horner said he’s had discussions with a developer who’s planning a brewery in Siler City to do a Chatham Brew beer, and he’s talking with a local bakery about co-branding a sandwich. (It’s gotta be a wrap, right? Or maybe a Grilled Big Cheese.)
Horner’s advice for other newsrooms? Wake up and smell the opportunity.
“I’ve always lived by, ‘You have not, because you asked not.’ So just get creative,” he said. “We’ve got to shake a lot of trees. Look within your own market for opportunities to leverage and to co-brand.
“Everybody should have one of these.”