I recently read a smart post from Seth Godin on the topic of “having a media voice vs. being a media company,” and it inspired me. To understand the difference between the two, Godin shared the following: “Just about everyone is in the media now. If you've published something online, you know what it is to create and spread ideas. But that doesn't mean you have to become a media company.”
Think about it—you’re riding along in the passenger seat of the car when all of a sudden traffic comes to a stand still. You see that a tree has fallen into the street from the storm, so you snap a picture, post it to Facebook and Twitter, and advise others nearby to find alternate routes. You have a media voice and could even be considered a citizen journalist.
What about events that affect thousands, if not millions. Superstorm Sandy that hit the Northeast, the Boston Marathon bombings, and the mile-wide Oklahoma tornado that tore through homes and an elementary school? Each of those disasters brought out many, many citizen journalists. They helped tell the story, sometimes from a different and more personal perspective. The media also reported on those stories because that is the business they are in, producing content for the purpose of earning a profit. That makes them a media company, writing with a motive. We still read and (often) highly respect their news, but we know that they are, in the end, a business.
Another interesting and ironic point that Godin makes—
The three qualities (personal, unpredictable and interesting) that contribute to earning attention, trust and revenue are more often found in amateur media, or from someone with a media-centric voice, rather than an actual media organization.
Why are some media companies missing the mark? It’s a lack authenticity, and it is readily apparent when it happens. As brands, we have to fall somewhere in the middle of citizen journalist and media company. Companies have to drive revenue, but at the same time, shouldn’t underestimate the value of true authenticity in content.
The agenda has to be to inform, not to sell—as it would be if you were a citizen journalist. Ultimately, yes, the reason to distribute your ideas is to position your organization as an industry thought leader, to drive business. But, when writing with an attitude of authenticity, that will become the end result of your collective works.
Lisa Tilt is founder and president of Full Tilt Consulting, a national brand development and strategy firm.