Whether I like it or not, much of the world is unhappy with the mainstream news media today.
As somebody who spent the first part of his professional life as a journalist, I have a perspective on the problems, the causes, the impacts…but that is a blog post for another day.
I am disappointed in much of the B-to-B media as well, which focuses more and more on what advertisers and sponsors want to the detriment of industries’ thirst for information.
I am even more disappointed in the way both the mainstream and B-to-B media have abandoned their roles as community builders. Starting way back with my first job as the editor of a weekly newspaper in a small suburb to my most recent role as the editor of a multi-platform B-to-B organization, I have always thought of myself as somebody whose responsibility it was to provide the “meeting place” for a community, the vehicle it uses to learn about itself.
Media organizations, large and small, have for the most part abandoned the following four tenets I think are necessary to be a true community builder – the good news is that they are tenets your event could adopt:
- The news report: A community-building news organization provides the story, the facts that make up the community or the industry – who did what, when, where and how.
- The data bank: In my newspaper days, we called it the “refrigerator door file”: Who won the track meet and what was their time, which house on your block sold and for how much. The story of a community told in the numbers.
- The honor roll: Who won the awards presented by the industry association? Who’s doing something interesting that nobody knows about yet? Who are the stars of the smallest companies and the biggest?
- The industry op-ed page: What do members of your industry think about what’s going on? What are the issues important to them today?
And, by the way, the news organizations that fulfilled these four community-building imperatives also managed to make a good living selling ads while providing a public service.
As the economics of the media business have changed and media organizations have begun to shrink from their responsibilities, they present events with opportunities to take their place as an industry’s community builder – and to sell a few sponsorships and booths along the way.
- With your conference content, you give your community the vital information it needs.
- With the data and research you and your exhibitors compile, you provide your industry with its “refrigerator door file.”
- With your awards programs and ceremonies, you honor the heroes of your community.
- And you carefully select the keynoters and speakers that constitute your industry’s live “op-ed page.”
Event organizers have never had a better opportunity than today to put themselves at the center of the industry community they serve – and make a few dollars at the same time.
Michael Hart is a business consultant and writer who focuses on the events industry. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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