How Media Companies Fit Into The Fifth Estate

The following is a guest post from Future Buzz community member Geoff Livingston. If you’d like to contribute thinking here, please read the guidelines.

One of the rising memes in the marketing social web is the idea that every company is a media company, and in large part due to this blog. In Welcome to the Fifth Estate, a core topic focuses on how companies become a part of the independent Long Tail of voices and content creators.

That’s the whole principle of the Fifth Estate, a theory originally proposed by Professor Stephen Cooper in the mid-2000s. Every company, every person, every individual can use electronic media tools to 1) provide their own voice and 2) hold traditional media and power structures accountable. In fact, using these tools companies can compete with traditional voices.

The benefits are many. From winning in the court of public opinion and developing loyal customer communities to SEO  and tangible ROI through carefully woven calls-to-action, a company can achieve much through its media offering.

Several examples have come to prominence over the years. In the mid 2000s, GM contested media reports with Vice Chair Bob Lutz writing on the FastLane blog. Curt Schilling contested baseball writers, and eventually became a primary source for news with 38 Pitches.

In recent years Procter & Gamble has entertained millions with the Old Spice Guy, its 10 million person Pringles Facebook page, and its somewhat gross Pepto Bismol Facebook page. More recently, Cisco turned its PR page into a news site called The Network, which includes pieces written by independent journalists.

Really there are so many examples of companies creating content successfully, the question isn’t can you do it. It’s why aren’t you doing it?

Often companies wrestle with ways to approach creating great content and serving an audience. Invariably, all of these methods involve getting out of messaging approach, and becoming a true media company that serves related meaningful information and/or entertainment that serves a core stakeholder group(s). This runs counter to how a generation of marketers have been conditioned, which is why it is such a difficult concept for most to grasp.

One can take a trade journal approach with an editorial mission. There is the entertainment route with fun content. Can’t create your own content? Then curate others’ media in a useful way to your stakeholder communities.

There are so many options to serve stakeholders, it’s hard to imagine that your company can’t find a way. Imagination is the only limit. Joining the Fifth Estate just comes down to culture, capacity and creating the actual content. Easier said than done, but that’s the nuts and bolts of tactical execution. Modern marketing and PR pros can do it.

Is your company a media company?

Geoff Livingston provides superior communication consulting, training, and strategy to help mindful organizations affect social change. He has worked as a public relations strategist in the Washington, D.C. region for more than 17 years.

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