Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Be your own media

You're the media now

Last time, I talked about the problems facing media relations. There’s too many media outlets and not enough listeners, viewers and readers. Worse, there’s a growing divide between young and old on how they consumer media. The younger prefer online, the older still like print and TV.

None of that should be surprising to you.

But here is something that may astonish you.

If the world of local media is in disarray and isn’t giving you the PR/advertising venue that it used to then why don’t you just become your own media.

Yes, I mean you.

Start by realizing that these days anyone can start their own media empire quite easily. An email newsletter, a Facebook page or a Blog is all it takes. Yes, none of those will ever have the same circulation as your local newspaper, but that’s actually a good thing. Your local media have to be everything to everyone and more times than not they take a least common denominator approach to news. The result is that the value of the content is often diluted. You, as the upstart media outlet, have none of these challenges. The benefit of being a small niche media outlet is that you can attract real audiences who seek your content. And finding one of those people is a gold mine. If you can reach one person who believes in your cause that is worth ten people who aren’t.

Next, take a look at your communications channel. If you’re like most organizations likely you will have neglected some of these – they may be old, out of date, their content is dry and their format is less than perfect. No matter. Give them a shake. Take each one and make it content-ready. You need to add news streams to your website. You need to connect your news feed to your social media. You should add an email newsletter to push content out the door. And you need a database that is ready to receive “subscriber” information (such as emails). Plus, buy a real camera that can shoot pictures and short videos. Don’t skimp and buy something more geared to holiday snaps. Get something easy to use, but as near professional as possible. If necessary, add software that automates things like movie-making. Now, you’re ready.

What do all media outlets need? Readers, viewers and watchers, of course. Many of you likely have few of these to start. If you’re lucky, you might have an existing email list or Facebook fan list. No matter. The first thing to do is go out and recruit more readers. Set up a system to connect to your database and find as many people who want to sign-up for your “media channel” as possible. Ask every one of your stakeholders if they’d like to get your email newsletter or sign up for updates at Facebook. They won’t do it out of niceness. You’ll have to give them a reason to sign-up. That’s what you already did in asking questions about what they want and how to give it to them. Figure out what the value is and pitch it to them.

Here’s the hard part. Stop thinking like a pitiful, helpless non-profit organization who is at the mercy of the traditional media. You are now the reporter, the editor and the publisher all in one. Act like one (of three). Begin by asking yourself what kind of content do your stakeholders want. Then ask yourself how to give it to them.

Say you’re in health care. Great. You’re now in the health media business. Find stories in your own organization and push them through your own media system. Add in some freely available related health news stories from the web (such as government health authorities). Say you’re an environmental charity. Great. Now, you’re part of the Green media. Do the same thing. Find your own stories and others available online and combine them into one media product.

Now, add in interactive material. Good media don’t just tell you things, they ask things. So add surveys and polls. Here’s a hint. People love seeing their name and picture in the media. So, run quotes, pictures and even videos. Make your stakeholders superstars.

Finally, don’t be boring. People will only be a part of your media empire if there’s value in it. If you’re boring, too opinionated or annoying they’ll drop you. Spice things up with a contest or two. How about a free lunch with your CEO as a prize? Simple, easy and fun. That’s what’s needed.

Measure everything as you go along. You need to be able to monitor what people do in your media channels. Find out where they go and what they click on. Draw insights and give them more of what you think they want. Every once in a while, stop and evaluate things. Ask for feedback from your loyal readers. Be brave and ask them hard questions and don’t be afraid to hear their hard criticism.

And here’s a trick. Aim for a subscription target. Don’t just start publishing. Push yourself to hit a specific number of subscribers and keep increasing it.

So, you’re the media now. And when the traditional media won’t use your press releases, fail to come to your events or spell your organization’s name wrong, don’t worry. Your media channels will always be there to assist you.


  1. Great post, thanks John. And of course, when you own the media, you have to up your game with the quality of the content you're producing.

  2. Interesting.

    For me, the biggest challenge for an organization «being its own medias» is that, in opposition to a newspaper or a radio station, which are neutral and can broadcast on almost everything that might sound interesting to their audience,organisations often publish mostly on their own products or services, which is not always the most interesting content.

    Do you think, for instance, that a Law School should publish about a useful and interesting event for their students, even if they are not personaly organising them? Even if another Law School is a sponsor of the event?