I Won't Be Distracted By What's Fashionable
September 17, 2013
"House of Cards" fans may recognize the title. It's a line that resonated from Episode 5, and speaks to the "silent rage" that many long-time veterans in print, radio and TV feel about the social and digital assets that permeate the media world today.
On that show, it was Tom Hammerschmidt, the editor of the fictitious "Washington Herald," that gave voice to that feeling that many have about the torrent of digital and social platforms that require attention from media partners.
"I won't be distracted by what's fashionable" speaks volumes about denial, angst, anger, and of course, fear.
Hammerschmidt is a traditionalist, clearly annoyed with the Herald's new "journalist," Zoe Barnes. That's because Zoe uses Twitter and blogs to gather news and tell stories.
And Hammerschmidt is not the only one uncomfortable with Zoe's social proclivity. The seasoned vets at the Herald gave Zoe a nickname that is one of the worst things you can call a woman:
After a series of events, the friction between Zoe and Hammerschmidt comes to a head. It ends with Zoe leaving the paper (and of course tweeting about the verbal label the editor called her).
But the moment of truth is when Hammerschmidt is left to explain his actions to the Herald's owner, Margaret Tilden.
While Tilden explained, "The Herald needs people like Zoe," Hammerschmidt wouldn't have any of it. He revealed himself and his inability to adjust with the time in this final rant:
"I'm very aware of how much we're hurting, Margaret. Staff reductions, dip in circulation, (and) each one of those faces and every subscriber we lose - they keep me awake at night. Now, I won't argue the business side of things – it's neither my place nor my area of expertise, but know this: Zoe Barnes, Twitter, blogs, enriched media – they're all surface. They're fads. They aren't the foundation this paper was built on, and they aren't what will keep it alive. We have a core readership that thirsts for hard news. Those are the people I work 80 hours a week for. And I won't be distracted by what's fashionable.
With that, Tilden tells Hammerschmidt, "That's your resignation letter. Hand it to the lawyers on the way out."
While "House of Cards" is a televised screenplay of real world journalism and politics – there's nothing exaggerated about Hammerschmidt's character.
And what plays out with his character on the show isn't about age or generation – it's about fear.
Fear of losing control.
Fear of cannibalization.
Fear of the audience and their voice.
Fear of change.
Fear of the unknown.
And beyond ego-driven tactics, fear is the one thing that can erode a brand faster than anything else.
Fear is blinding the many Hammerschmidts throughout the media world.
They look at social media as whimsy, when in fact, it offers brands the opportunity to serve fans and communities, disseminate information to a wider base (and faster, too), and be discovered by a new audience every day.
Just look at Twitter. Its strength for brands has always been discovery. Apple just bolstered that value by announcing that with iOS 7, Siri will be able to search tweets (real time talk) for content the user is seeking. (And of course, Twitter's user growth has since prompted the platform's decision makers to take it public.)
On Vine, everyday people like Nicolas Megalis, that have become remarkable at telling 6 second stories, are now getting hired by companies to help them with messaging. These brands are increasing their worth by admitting they don't know how to speak in this social space, and are thus turning to those everyday people who do.
And in just two years, Snapchat, the app that many people smirk at (this is where people share fleeting pictures that disappear in 10 seconds or less), now rivals the monster social site, Facebook, for photo exchange.
So much is happening socially, it's leaving brands that operate from fear and ego vulnerable to becoming forgettable.
Fans want to use their preferred platform(s) to communicate and interact with your station. It's not enough to just have a Facebook page, ping Facebook posts to Twitter and call it a day.
Radio has some of the most creative people in all of media (and some really do shine socially).
But we need to get past "The Hammerschmidt Effect."
It's time to dig in.
If you want to build real purpose and lasting value for your brand, you need to be OK with being vulnerable and finding someone who can help your brand effectively communicate its strengths socially.
And let go of the fear.
Reach out to me anytime on Twitter @lorilewis.
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