Thinking like a media organization

I ran across this 2-minute video (also embedded below) recently (hat tip to @steverubel for the find). It resonated with me because it affirms what I and many others in the higher ed marketing and PR fields have been thinking about for some time now.

“Think Like A Media Company” is the title of the video. The speaker is author David Rogers, and he’s talking about the shift occurring from traditional brand-building techniques (read: advertising) to one less dependent on established brands and traditional channels. The money quote comes at around 1:30 in the clip:

So, from a brand point of view, what this means is rather than piggybacking on this really powerful brand with a huge built-in audience [i.e., television], we need to look for opportunities to engage by creating our own content. Thinking like a media company, not like an advertiser.

David Rogers: Think Like A Media Company

For a lot of us in the higher ed marketing and communications fields, we’ve been forced to think in those terms anyway, because we don’t have a huge ad budget to begin with. (And if we did, once upon a time, it has been slashed.) Or if we aren’t thinking in those terms, we’re still pinning our hopes for engagement on traditional PR and media relations efforts. That’s a losing game, too. Because as ad revenue declines in traditional media, the news hole shrinks.

But maybe the fact that we haven’t had big ad budgets puts us at an advantage in this new world. Higher ed is blessed with having a wealth of stories to tell.

The greater challenge, perhaps, lies in our ability (as marketers and communicators) to convince the leaders of our institutions that engaging our audiences with great stories that resonate with them will ultimately strengthen ties better than advertising ever can.

Of course, this is not an either/or situation. Media organizations spend money to advertise themselves in order to build awareness and attract audiences. (You’ve seen those billboards around town for your community’s “number one news team,” right?) In the same way, traditional advertising can be used to drive audiences to your self-created content. It isn’t the splashy ad or the big mainstream media coverage that matters (although both are nice) but the content we create ourselves, for our audiences. (Related: When we do get those big media hits, what matters is how we parlay that third-party endorsement to inform our most valued constituents — the ones who tell us we never get any notice from the big-time media, etc.)

And by using social media, we do rely on established channels (i.e., Facebook) to help get our word out. But it’s cheap.

A bit of blatant promotion here — just to illustrate the point. Here’s an audio slideshow some members of the Missouri S&T communications staff put together as a feature for our website (thanks Lance, Brad and Jessica). The audio portion of the show also ran on our public radio station, KMST. It just went live late last week, so the number of views is modest. But it’s an example of how a campus communications team is using the tools and talents at our disposal (the web, talented content creators) to create our own content.

How is your operation thinking like a media organization?

Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

12 thoughts on “Thinking like a media organization”

  1. Great post, Andy. Reminds me of our discussion following Mark Greenfield’s Higher Ed Live appearance and the value of stories for an institution. The whole gist of content marketing is that businesses need to realize that they are publishers, and they better act like publishers if they want to be competitive and successful. In higher ed, our stories are our greatest asset. To be competitive, we have to be creative and assertive in how we tell them. And yeah, we have to be a bit scrappy. But as this slideshow indicates, you don’t need big budgets to tell great stories.

  2. Too True! But you still need the people to create the content, which from a budget perspective can just as much of a challenge as simply buying media.

    But I think the greater point is that this philosophy requires a paradigm shift to become a publisher and not just a purchaser.

  3. Georgy – Thanks for sharing your perspective. I agree with you that stories are our greatest asset for higher ed marketing. We have an advantage over many other sectors in that regard.

    Sara – You are correct: A university needs people to tell its story. And these days budgets are tight. But transitioning from a more traditional marketing/PR approach to a storytelling approach might pay dividends for an institution in the long haul. At least, I hope it does.

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