Brand or Media House: Have you mastered demand, built trust and created an experience?
Over the last week there has been some of the most informed discussion on the future of both corporate and media content that I have consumed for a long while. It all stems from Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson article in the FT on The Invasion of Corporate News which has led to a great deal of productive commentary, not least from Matthew Ingram at Gigaom and Frederik Fillous at Mondaynote. This is my take on that debate.
Whether you are leading marketing and communications at a brand or monetization at a media house I can hazard a guess that you are worrying about the same thing. What resources should I have in my organization for success now and in the future and how do I monetize content. Instead of worrying about solving these two big issues I suggest focusing on finding answers to 3 other questions which may give you a clue about the larger strategic headaches. These would be How do we: Master demand, build trust and create experience.
Mastering the Supply & Demand Dynamic
Firstly it needs to be recognized that the opportunity to get coverage in traditional media is shrinking fast. This has been a trend that has continued at pace over the last 30 years but never more so than in the last decade with now over 4 PR people to every traditional journalist, up from 3 PRs to one journalist 10 years ago.
This trend is being fueled by 2 dynamics. The rise in importance in corporate reputation as a source of competitive advantage at companies and a fundamental reworking of business models and resource bases at media houses as many struggle with the transition from the print to digital era. That being said the demand for news and content has never been higher with Marc Andreessen suggesting in the best post of the year regarding medias future that demand has increased 100x due to the mobile revolution and prices have only contracted 10x due to the demise of print so the future is very bright for the generation of both brands and media with its resources focused on the right tasks. With this diminishing opportunity in traditional media for reputation building brands are now turning to self publishing to achieve their objectives. As Thomas Kellner a former journalist who worked at Forbes and now works for GE said in the FT piece
“People these days don’t care as much about where the story comes from as long as it tells them something.”
Whilst I don’t buy this argument in totality as I still believe there is a lot of value in being a trusted source and considerable brand equity which traditional media has built up over decades I do believe the power has switched from the supply (media) to demand (reader side). Traditional media have always stated they truly understand and only exist as they serve their audiences but no longer is the power in their editorial hands. As Matthew Ingram has stated content consumers now rule, not producers.
Whilst some traditional media will continue to argue they can be the only trusted source due to their quality, impartial and professional journalism, brands face the challenge of building trust in their editorial position. As a person who has worked in and around media houses most of my career I have never bought the impartial, balanced journalism argument. The fact is most media houses across all geographies are owned by a very small group of powerful families or individuals each with their own objectives and political and commercial motivations. Call me cynical but I believe journalism (some more than other will always be subjective and liable to influence from owners or editorial bias.
For brands however perhaps the key for building trust in the new era is to take inspiration from the most trusted media brands. For me public service media in all geographies usually have the most trusted stamp and the most global of these is the BBC.
Embodied in their charter from inception to the present day is a mission to Inform, Educate and Entertain. Brands have often mastered the inform bit, in terms of selling the products but in the self publishing world they need to seriously up their game in the education and entertainment stakes. My predication is some will succeed in this mission but many will fail and the perennial debate around native advertising, sponsored content and the “church and state” dynamics will continue to rage as content marketing matures from a brand perspective and business models are adapted on the media side.
One thing is for sure, if you want to prosper in the self publishing age, creating a WOW experience for your audience is key. This does not just involve hiring a bunch of laid off, or “soon to be laid off” journalists and tell them to create a corporate newsroom and owned media property which is an evolution of your press release archive on your website. This maybe the starting point but brands need to do much more. In my opinion there are three key fundamentals here:
- Developing a trusted editorial position with a mission to inform, educate and entertain is one step in the right direction.
- Taking a multichannel approach which crosses both the digital and physical world’s is another key element.
- Recognizing the power of story co-creation is key. A good story can come from anywhere. Engaging both your internal audience (employees) and external community (customers, partners, investors, brand fans, industry media etc) to create stories with you is vital
Add to these elements a layer of user experience (UX) thinking across technology and service offering which must constantly address the questions: Is it useful?, Is it easy to use? and Is it desirable? and you are onto a winner of creating a great experience for the content consumer.
One thing is for sure the playing field is now level. Whether you are a brand or media house, you now compete. Those who get their mix of creative, editorial, data and technology resources in proportion and organised well will win. From my observation it is legacy brands and media houses that have the biggest challenge as many of their talent bases and organisations are not fit for purpose in today’s world.
Some are doing great things though. If I were a small business owner I would prefer to go to the owned media/community platform Open Forum by American Express rather than looking at content from a business writer at a newspaper that’s for sure. On the other hand the irony is not lost on me that this post was inspired by a long form quality journalism piece feature in the FT. Both can be winners going forward if we accept that the church and state argument is now defunct. Now it’s all about meeting demand, building trust and creating a great experience.
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