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#51 What media fragmentation means for building your professional profile

Once upon a time in America, if an event didn’t get covered on the six o’clock news of CBS, NBC or ABC, it was like it didn’t happen. There were “major news media,” and there were those that didn’t matter.

In a business context too, there were major media like Fortune and the Wall Street Journal, as well as specialty publications like Engineering News Record – titans that stood like gatekeepers, between “sources” with expertise to offer, and the readers of those publications.


Sooooooo much has changed. Increasingly, people get their news and opinions from a shattered mosaic of sources – their Twitter feed, news aggregators like Digg or the Unz Review, new-model media like Huffington Post, Slate and The Drudge Report, from bloggers with a small but influential following, and other narrow sources.

There’s a LOT that I don’t like about this trend – and it’s largely because of the “echo chamber” idea, in which people tune in (that’s an old-media term) only to channels that agree with and confirm their views.

As a Canadian watching the political jousting in the United States, it feels like watching MMA or WWF fights, or maybe a real-life Hunger Games. And I naturally trend towards media from the left side of that spectrum, Huffington Post and Slate among them.

But I also make a concerted effort to look through Breitbart and Red State, just for some balance. The number of people who just rely on Fox News is frightening – not just because of the biases of that channel, but because they’re inside an echo chamber that only reflects their own views. And the left-wing echo chamber is just as biased.

But the fragmentation of the news media is a reality today. Many people pick and choose channels based on what’s of interest to them and which confirms their worldview.

This has big implications for business professionals who want to get known for their expertise. It means that it while there are many ways to get your ideas expressed publicly, there’s less chance that your ideal clients will be listening to those channels.

It means working smarter, not harder.

Piggyback on news and trends affecting your market

Post #49 talked about the importance of focusing your content on the most serious problems facing your clients. If you don’t address their problems, they’re not likely to listen to what you have to say.

This helps make sure that the articles, speeches, blog posts and other content you produce is relevant to the people you want to reach, so that current followers will continue to follow. But it’ll also go a long way to bringing yourself to the attention of people who don’t know you yet.

Say, for example, there’s a new regulation from some influential organization – maybe the International Labor Organization, the World Bank, right down to your municipality’s building code. We’ll call it “Regulation 49B” just for fun.

If the people you want to reach are concerned about Regulation 49B, they’ll be entering that term into their search engine. If they aren’t, they won’t. So, creating content with “Regulation 49B” in the headline (without keywords spamming) will attract the attention of those you want to attract, and like oil and water, will repel people who you don’t want as clients.

This approach works only if Regulation 49B actually matters, has legal teeth (fines, jail time, public shaming…), and people in your market know about it.

Use keywords and search terms appropriately

Terms like “mansplaining,” “privilege” and “manspreading” have come to popularity in much of the left-leaning/progressive media I tend to favor, just as “entitlement,” “takers” and “SJW” have gained currency in more conservative media.

So if you write on these topics, the use of the right keywords will help your ideas gain more traction because you’re seen as being up to date, as well as improving your search engine rankings.

But it’s important to use the terms right. For example, that SJW thing. It means “Social Justice Warrior” and is used as a pejorative by people on the right side of the political spectrum – SJWs are meddling in business that isn’t theirs.

Now, I really can’t see why anyone would be opposed to social justice. I read about people in the gig economy who feel exploited by the companies they work for, but then they don’t really work for those companies -- they’re in theory, independent contractors for the likes of Uber and Deliveroo. I still think that those companies still have a responsibility to make sure that the people who make their business model successful, have a chance at a living wage.

But there’s not much chance that someone on the left side of this discussion would use the term “SJW” in that it’s been co-opted by the Right.

You also need to use terms correctly. In my part of the world, there’s a lot of discussion about the exploitation of “dirty oil” in northern Alberta. Proponents call these deposits “oil sands,” while opponents prefer “tar sands” because it sounds worse.

Be sure to use understand how your prospective clients use terms like that, and speak accordingly.

Be where they’re looking

In my own efforts to stay up to date, I use three specific apps on my iPhone – Digg, The Atlantic, and BBC. There are plenty more I could use, but these three work for me. There’s also a limited universe of sites on my list of Bookmarks in my browser of choice, Firefox. I think that most people are like that – they gather their news from a limited range of media.

The fragmentation of media means that you need to take extra care in finding the right place to put your ideas. By the “right” place I mean the places where your clients, prospective clients and referral sources are looking. I went into this idea in some depth in post #30 about public speaking, but it applies to all types of content.

I think that the explosion of content over the past ten years or so makes it increasingly impractical to expect potential clients to come your way by means of a Google search. There’s just so much competition for above-the-fold search results. This means that it’s increasingly important to have your ideas where your clients are already looking.

I’ve gone into the question of how to find the right publications for you, in blog post #35. It adds a level of complexity in your quest to get your ideas in front of the right people, but I think it’s worth the effort. The alternative is to have your blog posts and other content sit there unread, which is the equivalent of doing an amazing presentation to an empty room.

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Carl Friesen

Carl is the Founder of the Thought Leadership Resources and helps business professionals gain the skills they need to build their profile as subject-matter experts and thought leaders.

You can connect with Carl on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter

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