Three recent headlines made me realize that modern media companies could benefit from some basic brand development and management from the ground up. What is the vision and positioning of the media property? Why are its readers loyal to its content over that of others? What are its values and how do they guide the behaviors of its employees? A disciplined approach to brand strategy development, articulation, and management could help media properties to properly guide their businesses.
According to the Washington Post and other media sources, Elisabeth Murdoch, the daughter of News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch, said in a lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival that “News Corp. is currently asking itself some very significant and difficult questions about how some behaviors fell so short of its values.” The Vancouver Sun quotes her as saying, “Personally I believe one of the biggest lessons of the past year has been the need for any organization to discuss, affirm and institutionalize a rigorous set of values based on an explicit statement of purpose.” In essence she seems to be blaming the phone hacking scandal on the vacuum of explicit brand management at News Corp., leading to illegal and unethical behaviors by its reporters.
Another story is the spat between two technology media properties about a broken press embargo for the recent launch of start-up Lyft. In a TechCrunch article, reporter Ryan Lawler complained that the launch of the start-up was ruined by the premature leak of the story by a competing news property, (self-identified as as GigaOm in the comments section). The reader comments (120 of them!!) include emotional outcries by readers themselves telling TechCrunch that they read the media property for its perspectives – and not for its timeliness of news. TechCrunch calls itself a leading technology media property, dedicated to obsessively profiling start-ups, reviewing new Internet products, and breaking tech news. And yet Ryan wrote that with the 12-hour lead of the other media property, he questioned whether his story would have news value.
Being first to publish is certainly a priority with breaking news. However, media properties like TechCrunch are highly valued for their unique perspectives on the news, which are still valuable days or sometimes weeks after the news has been reported. Readers trust their media sources and follow their favorites on Twitter, Facebook, RSS feeds and other channels. Or – like me — they have their stories delivered to their iPad’s via FlipBoard, which they read once a day or less, to catch up on the latest trends and information.
As a reader, I trust my favorite news sources and reporters based on their perspectives, insights and breadth of understanding. Being first to report ranks lower on my list of attributes. If you read the comments on TechCrunch, that puts me in good company. However, as a PR professional I also recognize that reporters largely still believe it’s very important to be first with the news. So it’s our job in certain situations to ensure that we don’t provide what could be perceived as an unfair lead to one journalist over another. But we should also be tailoring our pitches to the unique perspectives of the media properties themselves.
Apple vs. Samsung
Late yesterday, news of Apple’s huge $1 billion jury verdict against Samsung was announced. While I definitely read the first article I saw (which also happened to be written by one of my trusted sources in the electronics industry – Brian Fuller, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief at UBM/EE Times ) I have read at least six different articles about the verdict in the past 24 hours, looking for all the various perspectives — impact on consumers, on mobile device manufacturers and on the semiconductor supply chain. For these articles, I turned to a variety of trusted sources, none of whom needed to be first to cover.
Modern media must rethink their brand strategies in the new age of online journalism and revisit their statement of purpose, their values and their unique differentiation to drive reader loyalty. By undertaking a disciplined brand management methodology, News Corp could have had a framework in place to protect its reputation and enforce its stated values. With introspective thinking on the meaning of their brands, media properties may start to rethink their “first to report” priority.