Beyond Ego-Driven Tactics - Fear Is The One Thing That Can Erode A Brand Faster Than Anything Else
February 18, 2014
Binging on Season 2 of the Netflix original series "House of Cards" this past weekend left many of us homebound, not accomplishing much else - unless, of course, it was just me sofa surfing and shoveling snow.
So, what better for this week's "Merge" than to go back to a piece from last year about the hit series, that spoke to the "silent rage" that many long-time veterans in print, radio and TV feel about the social and digital assets that have disrupted the traditional media landscape.
Tom Hammerschmidt, the editor of the fictitious "Washington Herald" gives voice to the feeling that many media veterans have about the torrent of digital and social platforms that have rocked his world.
Hammerschmidt is a traditionalist, clearly annoyed with the Herald's new journalist, Zoe Barnes. That's because she uses Twitter and blogs to gather news and tell stories.
And Hammerschmidt is not the only one uncomfortable with Zoe's social proclivity. Other colleagues gave Zoe a nickname that speaks volumes about the denial, angst, anger, and fear that's really happening with many in the media:
The friction between Barnes and Hammerschmidt eventually comes to a head. And Zoe ends up leaving the paper (but not before tweeting about the verbal slur Hammerschmidt called her).
Zoe leaves and it is now the moment of truth for Hammerschmidt as he is left to explain his actions to the Herald's owner, Margaret Tilden (a seasoned Katherine Graham type).
When she explained that "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 that sums up a lot of media traditionalist thinking – and frustration:
"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 responds, "That's your resignation letter. Hand it to the lawyers on the way out."
While "House of Cards" is a televised screenplay that attempts to depict 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 Hammerschmidts throughout the media world.
So much is happening socially, it's leaving brands that operate out of fear and ego vulnerable to becoming forgettable.
Fans want to use their preferred platform(s) to communicate and interact with your station or your show. 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, being able to operate in this new era of "earn" and start showing up for the fans – shifting from control to collaboration.
And let go of the fear.
Reach out to me anytime on Twitter @lorilewis.
Please enjoy MERGE archives here.