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10 Media Mistakes That Will Damage Your Brand

By

A photo of a frustrated media manager banging his head against the wall

Before media mistakes can lead to head-banging, avoid the pitfalls that will damage your media brand.

Photo © Steve Cole / Getty Images
Media mistakes happen every day, no matter if your job involves print, on-air or online communications. A misspelled word can be quickly corrected and forgotten. But 10 media mistakes which are easy to commit can cause a trail of damage that's much tougher to correct.

Media Mistake #1: Cutting Costs Above All Else

Running a media property is expensive. If your media sales team is struggling to make budget, you will likely be forced to make cuts. Even profit-making businesses are sometimes asked to reduce expenses, so that the bottom line looks better for investors.

Media advertising usually takes a hit when the economy sputters, so occasional cutbacks are inevitable. Before mindlessly crossing items off a budget, decide whether the savings are helping or hurting your brand.

A radio station that's built an audience through holding contest giveaways could choose less expensive prizes or trade advertising time to convince a car dealer to donate the shiny red convertible that listeners hope to win.

Cancel your popular yearly contest and you've saved money, sure. But you've opened the door for a competing station to take the opportunity to steal a valuable part of your brand and own it. Next year, you may have lost the chance to get it back.

Media Mistake #2: Forgetting the Expectations of Your Audience

Most media managers won't totally turn their back on their audience. Instead, they're guilty of shifting their focus to provide information that the audience never asked for and doesn't want.

Say you're the publisher of an auto magazine. You send reporters around the world to report on the latest cars. It might be tempting to have reporters also write stories about the exotic locations they're visiting -- the hotels where they stayed and the cuisine they've enjoyed. Suddenly, your publication has become a travel magazine and you wonder why sales have fallen.

Concentrate on your core mission. Conduct tests on how best to build your magazine brand before you unleash a major overhaul on your readers.

Media Mistake #3: Making Unneeded Changes to Your Product

Most of us complain when we find our favorite website has suddenly made a major layout change. Content is hard to find, the buttons we used to click are gone and online ads seem to be popping up, under and scrolling everywhere.

It's far too easy to make media website design errors that chase away visitors. Before you relaunch your site, decide how you want it to enhance your brand.

Chances are, you should keep your current site and instead focus on making behind-the-scenes improvements. If you want visitors to stay on your site longer, make your site sticky to generate more clicks. If you simply want more people to use your site, improve your search engine optimization (SEO) so your content will perform better in Google.

These tricks are just two ways to boost web traffic without disrupting your visitors. Whether it's a website or a form of print media, avoid making drastic layout changes just because you're bored with your look.

Media Mistake #4: Mishandling Important Talent Changes

In television news, the TV personalities you hired over the years have become a critical part of your brand. Making a sudden change in the anchor team can bring consequences that take years to fix.

A long-time news anchor may push to have her salary doubled when she negotiates her media contract. She won't budge, even though you've only budgeted for a 5% raise.

Coping with the unreasonable demands of talent is frustrating. But if you carelessly cut the anchor loose, she can easily play the victim in public and position you as an uncaring manager.

Once you realize that losing her is inevitable, you must protect your brand from the impending turmoil. Use a TV consultant to strengthen the identities of the other members of your team and use the consultant's expertise to slowly diminish the departing anchor's role, while seeking to boost the exposure of the next anchor who hopefully is already working for you.

Media Mistake #5: Falling Behind with New Technology

A media manager's day is already packed. If you've been in the business long enough, you may remember the moment that an employee came to you and said, "Why aren't we on Facebook?" or "We've got to be on Twitter."

Facebook and Twitter are both easy, free ways to build your media brand on the Internet.

A teenage son or daughter can help you with social media. But you need an expert's hand to guide you through all the other, less obvious technological breakthroughs that are available. You can't wade through it all yourself.

A newspaper may be able to get photos and video from a plane crash onto its website long before anyone else in town. That victory can usually be traced to the smartphones it's bought for reporters and which service it uses. Find a tech guru inside your company to investigate and make recommendations on how you can beat the competition and have a cutting-edge brand identity.

Media Mistake #6: Choosing Not to Interact with Your Audience

Media companies strive to cultivate loyal audience members, yet many have no desire to actually talk with them. Some seem to go out of their way to make contact nearly impossible, even on the "Contact Us" page on their website.

In this age of social media, that can be deadly to your brand. Your users don't just desire to interact with you, they demand it.

Learn from the social media trends the celebrities use. After all, they personify branding and have to stay in the public eye to remain popular.

Beyond online tools, look for community outreach projects. Face-to-face contact can cement your brand in the hearts of the people you want to reach.

Media Mistake #7: Overlooking the Competition

Most people who work in media are keenly aware of their fiercest competitors. Time should be spent investigating the priorities of your rivals and whether they're paying off.

That's easy for people who work in television, because the Nielsen ratings are a regular report card on audience size and demographic strength. Radio has the Arbitron ratings, which are similar.

You should know how competitors are focusing content, using social media and promoting themselves. That gives you insight on whether there are opportunities or threats for your media brand.

Media Mistake #8: Mimicking the Competition

Tracking your competition has to be kept into perspective. Simply copying them isn't providing leadership or helping your brand.

60 Minutes is an iconic newsmagazine program on CBS. But when ABC developed its own newsmagazine 20/20, it chose a different presentation style and type of reporting. Decades of success show there is room for both shows to attract prime time audiences.

Discover the niche for your media brand that will forever set it apart from all others. When a rival has developed a breakthrough that forces you to react, decide how you can stay true to your branding goals.

Media Mistake #9: Neglecting to Correct Editorial Mistakes

Creating a policy to correct or retract errors in content wouldn't seem to relate to branding. But professionalism in handling mistakes forges a bond of trust with your audience.

Think of the last time a restaurant messed up your order. How you were treated as a customer when you pointed out the mistake probably determined whether you would ever return to dine again.

Too many media companies ignore their editorial mistakes, or worse, treat anyone who questions their information rudely. That's simply poor customer service.

In Washington state, a news council has even been set up to handle media complaints, because people were tired of their voices not being heard. Respect your audience even when you make an embarrassing error.

Media Mistake #10: Ignoring Crises that Reach Your Audience

The world's largest corporations have plans on handling damage control. The most effective strategies tackle the problem and not just ignore it.

If you're the general manager of the top-rated radio station in town and your morning DJ is arrested for drunk driving, it's your problem and not just his. Expect reporters to call you for answers to questions like, "Is the DJ fired?" or "Will you send him away for treatment?"

A company's human resources policies and confidentiality agreements may restrict what you say. But it'll be obvious to everyone if their favorite DJ is no longer on the air and has had his bio removed from the website. Candor goes a long way to ending a crisis and helping you move forward.

Brand-building is a long, complicated and inexact science. Unfortunately, a simple misstep can crumble what took you years to create.

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