Media Mentoring Topics

By Barry Sweeny, April 7, 2011

Mentor and Protege TalkingWhat should a mentor in the media be talking about with his or her protégé?

Well, there are always task-related issues, such as skills to be built, knowledge to be gained, and goals to be set for improvement. But, what about the bigger issues in media? What about more strategic and long-term topics? What should media mentors be sure that their protégés understand and put to work in their work, careers, and lives?

This page is about one such strategic area and the topic was illustrated just today by the announcement that the (unnamed) News organization is dropping the daily (unnamed) Show, once a staple in their portfolio of sure “winners”.  For obvious reasons, we’ll call this media magnet and spokesperson by the name “Jim”. The message is the same.

Jim is outrageous. He’s unpredictable – You NEVER know what he’ll say. He’s very controversial, and he’s always entertaining, especially for the key demographic group of 18 to 40 year olds who like these qualities. These qualities always ensure that the audience is “there” every day and that the audience members always have personal knowledge of the latest topics of discussion on the social media “channels”. To have watched Jim any day means you are in the “know” – you can always interact with your friends on the phone, on Facebook, Twitter, whatever, and be seen as “with it” and current – regardless of whether Jim was accurate or truthful. That is not the point. And being in the know makes YOU the focus of the conversation, which feels very good.

No wonder Jim is popular, at least with some folks!

However, apparently, Jim is NOT popular with his advertisers and the marketing folks and business managers at Unnamed News.

  • THEY don’t like unpredictability.
  • They hate controversy.
  • They don’t want to talk about the latest Jim outrage, rage, or rant.
  • They’re put off by the latest Jim insult to conventions, to the President, the Democrats, or even to the Republicans.

Those things make the marketers, managers, and their advertising clients very nervous. Those things may make advertising to the younger set profitable, but what about to the boomers and others? What if they don’t go for Jim’s shenanigans?

And that conflict is what has hit Glen Beck in his career.  It’s a typical media career issue, for marketers, for media personalities, for anyone in media management who is trying to balance ratings popularity with advertising popularity.

It’s a critical balance to keep because it’s all about keeping the the entertainment flowing out and the ad dollars flowing in.

In other words, for Jim, and for any protégé YOU may be mentoring in the media business, the question is, “Can a media manager or personality be both popular with a part of the audience (high ratings) AND popular with the advertisers (ad dollars)?” The true masters of media can do both, and they manage to do these both at the same time.
Maintaining Balance in the Media

It’s the same issue in almost every business, almost every walk of life you can think of – it’s called, “Maintaining a delicate, dynamic balance.”

  • We need to do it in our careers, whether in media or not.
  • We need to do it in our work teams, departments, sections, and partnerships.
  • We need to do it in our mentoring relationships and other professional growth-oriented experiences.
  • We must do it with our friends if we want to keep them as friends.
  • We need to do it in our marriages.
  • We need to do it in our parenting.

It is a KEY issue in life – maintaining a dynamic balance between opposing forces.

Jim couldn’t do it. He forgot, or never had a mentor tell him, “Popularity AND profitability. Relationships and Tasks”

It’s a truth in media careers, relationships, and life that every mentor must understand, must model, and must help protégés learn and live. Proteges need to learn and be able to do it, so mentors need to teach it, not just the need for it, but HOW to do it. If not,  the clash leads to a crash.  Right Jim?