In order to be an effective media outlet for your business, you should abide by some basic journalistic principles. While the technologies that support journalistic endeavors are constantly changing, the basic tenets of good journalism have remained constant for hundreds of years. The challenge for you is to use those principles to establish the branded media outlets you will employ to share information with the public.
It's not about replacing traditional journalism. That's neither desirable nor possible. But in a broad sense, you can perform a valuable service by keeping your niche customers informed and entertained about things that matter to them, and in the process, spread the word about the products and services you have to offer. Here are six strategies to help you do that.
Identify Stories. Your first job as your own media outlet is to find stories to tell. This may sound harder than it really is. After all, your whole life, and the life of your business, is a story.
People love stories. They cannot get enough of stories. They are used by non-profit organizations to increase donations. They are used by for profit organizations to influence buying decisions. They are also used to encourage readers to disclose what is important to them. This kind of data is then used to identify even more stories, and the cycle continues.
Finding stories in your own life and community may see challenging at first and it does take some practice. Check out your local community magazines and newspapers and you'll find dozens of story ideas that can form the basis for stories you can tell in your blog, newsletter, YouTube channel, etc.
- Communicate. Once you identify a story, use the branded media outlets of your choice to communicate that story. For example, the opening of a new store in your town is a story of interest to everyone in the community, especially these days! Why not combine your visit to the store as a shopper with a visit as a blogger? Take your camera and snap a photo of the store. If you have time, ask the owner a few questions and let her know you want to feature her store in your blog. Once you publish the story, be sure to let the store owner know about it. If she has a blog, she may share it with her readers with a link to your blog.
As you continue to identify and communicate stories of interest to your readers, you develop relationships with them, and also with the people featured in the stories. This may or may not form the partial basis for a future business relationship with the store owner, who may wish to learn about products you offer that could be sold in her store.
A note of caution: don't go into the store with the attitude of “trading” the story for a profitable business relationship. That would be unfair to the store owner and your readers. Business is all about relationships. When relationships are initiated on an honest and level playing field, good things happen no matter what. Never use your blog or other media outlet to exert undue influence another person.
Inform. Just like informed citizens are the cornerstone of a democracy, informed readers are the cornerstone of your business. As much as people complain about information overload, we all still get up every day and look for more information. As you choose the stories you will share, make sure that they inform people and provide them with information that enhances their lives. If you keep your readers informed about things that matter to them, they will see you as a reliable source for the type of information contained in your blog, newsletter, podcast, etc., and they will reward you by using social media like FaceBook, Twitter and others to share your media with others.
- Entertain. People like to be entertained. They like to be amused. They like to have their curiosity piqued and they like to be captivated, charmed and fully absorbed. Whatever type of media you use to spread the word about what you do, be sure to incorporate things that make people smile and that encourage them to use the social media outlets they enjoy to share their discovery (you) with other people. This gives your message legs and ensures that what you publish does not stop with your direct audience.
Be Honest. Truth and veracity is the cornerstone of quality journalism. This was drilled into me as a journalism student years ago and it's just as important today. We were told that, no matter how good our writing style was and no matter how favorably people responded to a story, if it was not true, we were a disgrace to the profession.
As the producer of your own content, trust is your most valuable asset. In fact, the lack of it has given traditional journalism a bad name many times. Remember journalist Janet Cooke's 1980 Pulitzer Prize winning invention of a child drug addict in The Washington Post> Or how about Jayson Blair, the New York Time reporter who was forced to resign after it was discovered that he had invented facts in half of the stories he had written between 1999 and 2003.
Were it not for these incidents, I may not even think it would be important to emphasize the importance of truth because we all know that it's wrong to make things up. But when it's late at night and you are exhausted, yet you feel like you have to produce a blog post or radio show, it may be tempting to make something up just to meet your own publication deadline. Don't do that.
Traditional media outlets have a huge impact on culture, and thus, they have a huge responsibility to deliver an honest stream of stories. They often fall short, but we don't have to. Always tell the truth.
Encourage and Inspire. No matter what's going on in the world — in good times and in bad — people want to be encouraged. They want to be lifted up and inspired. There's enough negativity in the world. Your audience gets it at work, in the grocery store line and in rush hour traffic.
It's all about your audience! If you can remind them of their true value and, through your publications, encourage them to reach for their highest potential, they will engage with you and tell their friends. These inspiring interactions naturally pave the way for you to do business with them as well.
Live Your Story!
One of the advantages you have as a business owner with the ability to create your own media outlets is that you don't have to think too hard to come up with good stories.
You are a good story!
Consider how many of your favorite magazines contain stories about people who took the bull by the horns to launch their own businesses! Maybe they were laid off or quit a job they hated, or maybe they started a business slowly while they still worked in a traditional job. These stories inspire people to live life to the fullest — to refuse to get to the end feeling regretful that they never took a reasonable chance on their dreams.
As a small business owner, you are doing this every day in one form or another, and believe me, people are interested in that.
Your life is one big story! Blog it. Audio tape it. Video tape it. Photograph it. Publish it! I guarantee that if put my tips to work on a consistent basis, not only will be you become a trusted source of information for your customers, but you enjoy more sales, become more profitable and take advantage of more lucrative collaborate opportunities.
Questions: What do you think of these strategies? Did I leave anything out? What are your experiences like? What questions do you have?