Mastering the New Media Landscape

March 30, 2016


Barbara Cave Henricks and Rusty Shelton teach us some ways to futureproof our media presence.

Excerpt from Chapter 12:
from Mastering the New Media Landscape: 
Embrace the Micromedia Mindset 

by Barbara Cave Henricks and Rusty Shelton
Berrett-Koehler Publishers (March 7, 2016)



BASEBALL GREAT ROGER MARIS ONCE SAID, “You hit home runs not by chance, but by preparation.” This advice is particularly relevant as you prepare to step into an unknown media landscape that has reinvented itself in the span of a few decades and that shows every indication of evolving further at increasingly blinding speed. Whether you are drawn to the latest app or digital tool, or become overwhelmed at the prospect of mastering a new method of communication, there is no time like the present to dive in. With preparation, you will be ready for the evolving media landscape.

Become Discoverable

It is no secret that today’s journalist searches for story ideas and sources in the online space. What once was the domain of the intrepid reporters hungry for facts and willing to traverse the world is now accomplished with an exceedingly short trip to the office or laptop, access to global information at the press of a button, and a few solid search words. A 2010 study conducted by Cision (a media database firm) and George Washington University, revealed that 89 percent of working journalists looked to blogs for story research, 65 percent to social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, and 52 percent to microblogging services such as Twitter.

Both rented social media spaces like Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as your owned real estate which includes your website and blog, are ripe for discoverability. Make those places work for you with great, timely content, a very recently updated bio, and well- chosen keywords. A little effort here will help you be discovered at just the right time by someone who wants to give you exposure or hire you.

Own, Don’t Just Rent

Online discoverability is controlled largely by four companies: Amazon, Facebook, Google (we’ll lump YouTube in with Google, as its owner), and Apple. These companies continue to increase their influence as we expand our use of their products and services. They control what results are returned in a search based on their own proprietary algorithms, and as these companies continue to evolve, it is hard to know whether the environment will always be as free as it is today to reach and grow an audience.

Those who are building their micromedia audience on rented space within Facebook, YouTube, or other third-party-controlled channels put themselves at great risk (changes in algorithms or a false copyright charge that shuts down a page, among other risks) over the long term if they don’t take ownership over the connection with their audience by converting them to their own list. To prevent any problems in the future, you should be working to move your audience onto channels you control fully so that you continue to own the connection for years to come. Providing clear, concise, credible and consistent information in your owned channels will draw and keep an audience. Add in a call to action, like an assessment, a free one-on-one consulting session, or access to private group will up your game even further.

Make a Written Plan

Decide exactly what kind of a presence you would like to have and commit to a strategic plan before you attempt to create it. If your goal is to have a website that showcases your skills, your speaking business, and your new book, make that a goal. If in the next calendar year you would like to contribute regularly to the Huffington Post and Harvard Business Review.org, add that to your list. Next, assess your comfort level and participation on existing social media platforms. What two or three sites have you added to your daily routine? Add those to your goal list, with an eye toward becoming more strategic with your activity there, as well as a push to understand how those outlets relate to your other goals, like booking more speeches or becoming a regular contributor. Add, or at least research, another platform and add it to the mix of what you are currently doing. Don’t expect to fully understand how to execute on this strategy, but strive to broaden your thinking so that it encompasses content, activity, and effort across all platforms. Write it down. Refer to this document whenever you find yourself trying to do “something” to promote yourself.

Create a Community to Surround Your Platform

The 1989 film Field of Dreams, in which an Iowa corn farmer follows the command of voices he hears while working on his land comes to mind as a good analogy when creating owned media and driving audience there. In the film, Costner builds a baseball diamond so that a long-dead, dream team comprised of the farmer’s late sports idols will arrive to play ball. This gave rise to a popular and often quoted lesson to “build it and they will come.” Yes, we know it worked for Kevin Costner on the big screen. But its applicability in the micromedia landscape before you is regrettably far less effective. Don’t build it and hope they will come—build it so they will come, and give them a very specific reason to do so.

We wholeheartedly urge you to build a website, start writing a blog, begin participating in social media, and consume traditional media that covers your industry, focuses on thought leaders and experts, or highlights areas of personal interest. All of these activities, in varying degrees and combinations, are very effective means of increasing your visibility or, at the very least, giving you solid knowledge about how to contribute yourself. Notice, too, that they all require some level of commitment, generally either in the labor associated with creation and participation, or in the time required to read, listen, and watch content from others. By all means, start with these activities as you build a platform. But do not stop there.

Once your architecture is in place, replace the list of startup activities with ones that will draw an audience. This task is harder but must be done deliberately, rather than left to fate or chance. We repeat: don’t build it and hope they will come—build it so they will come, and give them a very specific reason to do so. This is an area where, again, you need to become detailed and specific. Creating your platform has ideally equipped you with some very valuable knowledge on what differentiates you from your competitors. Do not assume, as many we cited in the early stages of mastering the new media landscape, that everyone is interested in your message, your mission, your project, your service, or your book. You should now know very specifically who in the vast general space is most likely to come into your auditorium and take a seat. Know who you want to sign up for your content this year, this week, or in time for that big talk you’re giving next month. Have a list of what we call stretch targets, ideal contacts who will visibly ratchet up your reputation and visibility. And finally, don’t forget the first adopters. Just as so many people chase that single, elusive, national target and ignore the smaller ones on their path, be very certain your offering does not alienate those who came in the door first and gave you strong indications that your idea was viable.

Parting Thoughts

The game is not only afoot, but here. We’re in the early stages of a new opportunity, one where the power to get a message out is shifting from traditional gatekeepers to you, the individual. Those who go forth bravely stand to gain the most.           

Reprinted from Mastering the New Media Landscape by Barbara Cave Henricks and Rusty Shelton.
Copyright © 2016 by Barbara Cave Henricks and Rusty Shelton.
Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., March, 2016.
All rights reserved.


Barbara Cave Henricks is president of Cave Henricks Communications, a full service media relations and consulting firm, specializing in book publicity, media strategy for thought leaders, and platform development. Barbara has spearheaded campaigns for some of the biggest names in business today, including Jack Welch, Tom Rath, Ram Charan, Larry Bossidy, Maria Bartiromo, Clay Christensen, and Marcus Buckingham. A former journalist at NBC, Henricks has represented over 40 bestsellers during her publishing career.

Rusty Shelton first spoke at Harvard on the changing world of PR and marketing at the age of 23. Today, as CEO of Shelton Interactive, he leads one of the country’s fastest-growing digital marketing and PR agencies. Founded in 2010, Shelton Interactive features a unique and forward-thinking communications model that integrates PR, social media, graphic design, website development, and SEO—services that are normally handled by multiple agencies—under one roof. The company has launched more than 30 New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers.


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