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Must Every Company Be A Media Company?

radio towerEvery company is a media company. Or it should be. That’s the cry of social and content marketers today. They point to the open and direct channel that businesses have to their consumers and the wider audience that did not exist, arguably, prior to 2004 when Chris Shipley popularized the term “social media” in his book, Clue Train Manifesto.

This channel is a very powerful asset to businesses but, as the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility. Marketers are quick to criticize companies who fail to take advantage of this opportunity and laud those that do. There are many great case studies about how business brands have wielded this power including the very recent example of the online battle fought between Tesla Motors, a popular car manufacturer, and the New York Times.

The issue arose when New York Times columnist John Broder wrote an article sharing a first-hand account of a Tesla Model S automobile that stalled on the highway.  Elon Musk, Tesla Motor’s CEO took his company’s popular blog and fought back.  Here’s a summary from the Content Strategist:

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, armed with 136,000 Twitter followers and a popular brand blog, fought back against a New York Times article by John Broder that offered first-hand account of the Tesla Model S stalling on the highway. Musk fought back on the Tesla blog, alleging that Broder falsified and sensationalized his account. Using data logs from Broder’s media testing, Musk presented compelling evidence to back up his claims. It’s hard to tell who’s right, but Tesla’s side of the story was celebrated and amplified throughout the Twitter and blogosphere.”

Many argue that clients create the brand’s perception – and thus reality – through peer-to-peer social media commentary. Yet, as proven by Tesla Motors, every business has the ability to self-publish its story.  Every business has the ability to establish a hosted environment from which it may tell that story and use it as a media platform to correct false brand impressions or sway the brand narrative.

The big social networks including YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and Google+ are getting a lot of brand love and media attention; however, the real power for business lies in weaving those networks into a hosted, brand-owned media site.

Adam Singer argued on The Future Buzz  that the “best play to build a community and brand that people react to is…to self-publish.” Too many businesses forgo their brand to the social stream, but that’s a risky move.  Even integrating a self-published media site as part of a content mix can backfire if it’s not established as the hub of a spoke ‘n hub communication strategy.

Join the debate! What’s your take?  Must Every Company Be A Media Company?

Sam Fiorella
Feed Your Community, Not Your Ego

Image Credit: Brett L, Licenced via Creative Commons



Join the Conversation

AmyMccTobin 5pts

Very interesting... especially the backfiring potential.  It's either Go Big or Go Home.  You know I'm a HUGE advocate for companies using social as a channel back to their hub where their real community should be built.  However, in discussions with a very nervous potential client who DOES have a lot to lose if they aren't doing it RIGHT, it's clear to me that they must the entire online marketing/communications plan their #1 priority, or stay out.

susansilver 5pts

Yes, I hear this a lot from people. To never build on another property. I really begin to understand this when I was discussing SEO with people. The idea that you are a hub and you release breadcrumbs through different media channels. The thing is, it always has to come back to you. Or else you won't be able to do anything with the conversation. Then you just have a lot of people talking over you.

barrettrossie 5pts

I think Judi @chieflemonhead has it right. If you don't contribute to your community with some form of content... your community will go elsewhere. At least, in a number of businesses. 

Or another way of thinking about it: Without published content, how much engagement can there actually be? You'd be a pretty boring conversationalist if you didn't add to the conversation. 

iancleary 5pts

When every company starts becoming a media company that's the time to not be a media company and be different!

chieflemonhead 5pts

Hey Sam -

This sounds familiar! :)

It is my humble opinion that every company must be an expert on whatever it is that it's gone into business for: cars, beverages, clothing, computers, etc. It is also my opinion that the use of media must be a part of the overall marketing mix for engagement. What digital (and social) media has done is change the way in which consumers want to interact with brands - and they are looking for a genuine level of humanity.

The recent hacking and reactions of Burger King and Jeep (http://www.mackcollier.com/attention-brands-sounding-human-makes-you-more-likeable/) have reinforced this. Now, whether this immediately turns into ROI and drives the sales of more Whoppers or Jeeps, I don't know. But it certainly provides an increase in brand value and goodwill, which are slowly finding their ways onto balance sheets.

All this said: do these companies HAVE to be media companies. No. Do they need to USE media to engage, connect and ultimately increase the brand & loyalty to it? Why, yes... yes they do!

Thanks again!


samfiorella moderator 5pts

@susansilver  Agreed. The problem is that too many businesses take the hub-and-spoke model technically. Meaning they create infrastructures to manage and monitor connections between their site/blog, etc - and the social channels its ecosystem.  They fail to understand the content strategy and business culture required to manage such an infrastructure. That's the reason I asked if everyone business must be a media company...they can't just build a blog, they must think and act like media companies too.


samfiorella moderator 5pts

@barrettrossie Agreed. However, there are differences in how a business communicates with its audience. Simply tweeting, posting status updates on Facebook and G+, etc. is not sufficient any longer. "Being a media company" means a business must have an owned platform from which it establishes an open dialogue with its audience. That requires more than just pithy one-liners and RTs but a focus on content that's newsworthy, evergreen and entertaining.  They must *think* like media companies.


samfiorella moderator 5pts


When every business follows what everyone else is doing on Twitter, Facebook, etc. – it’s time to think different. That’s what happens when everyone uses media as a communication channel. That’s not what we’re talking about. Understanding that your business must have a self-published media channel that fosters open, honest and frequent conversations with your audience is different than simply using social media channels as a marketing tactic.


samfiorella moderator 5pts


I disagree with you one item, Judi (and yes, even if I agreed with everything you said, I'd find something to disagree with you about).

I believe all companies must BE media companies, which is not to say they should all stop focusing on building and delivering great products to become publishers.  However, taking the stance that all businesses must just USE media channels to communicate their messages is placing the focus on the various technologies and mediums and not on business culture.

Becoming a media company means that your culture shifts from an introverted to an extroverted one. It means fostering an environment where internal and external communications are part of what you do, not a tool you use.


AmyMccTobin 5pts

@samfiorella @AmyMccTobin I would like to write "No ----", but remember, I don't swear in social.     But I KNOW, and I have done my job as well as possible to make that clear.  It is up to them to decide to take the risk.  Otherwise, they can continue to be beaten up online in a conversation that is ABOUT them, but where they have no voice.  Really, part of my job is making sure they understand that they are not alone, we are here to guide them and make is as low risk as possible.

chieflemonhead 5pts

@samfiorella Hey Sam - very interesting to link "being a media company" to its culture. In this regards, then yes - I would agree with you. All companies MUST be media AND social companies. It is a mindset and a culture. There needs to be an internal paradigm shift of encouraging to engage, sharing thought leadership, and transparency.

This said, however, the traditional definition of a "media company" reminds one of newspapers, media or radio. And in light of that, I don't think that all companies must be media companies. Not all companies need to own, open or create a "media" platform in that regards, though they should think about how they want to fill those platforms. They can become the journalists, the copy-writers, the video producers. They need to have the mindset of telling stories, of connecting and sharing.

Therefore - though you tend not to like these types of answers... I half agree. :)

Thanks, Sam... always great conversation.


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