Why did you go into business? That question often is faced by business owners, often when the tough times come. The answer for many is so they can be the driver of their own destiny and make their own decisions.
Yet, we end up listening to people who have no vested interest in our business; who likely do not know our own industry as well as we do ourselves. Who are these sage individuals we give so much of our future to, you may ask?
The media! Everyday, business owners and decision makers listen to the news and the other media sources and make decisions based on the articles, releases, etc. Based on what they hear, read, and see, decisions are made that affect their businesses, their employees, and eventually their own client base.
Do not misunderstand me. I am not saying to pull the cartoon ostrich trick and stick your head in the sand, being oblivious to the world around you. It is important to watch for trends, to know what the rest of the community around you is doing. If you want to grow your business, you need to be aware of your world and stay ahead of the curve on innovative ideas and be flexible to move where the markets are taking you.
But, let us not lose sight of the fact that the media, in all of its incarnations, is a business in its own right. Each form of media is an industry to itself. By extension, each individual and company in that industry has its own agenda. Whether that is an individual reporter who has biases like you and me and now has a forum to air those biases and opinions, or a broader media giant who are propelled by their own need for profit, what you see, hear, and read is slanted to meet the needs of the messenger and not necessarily your needs.
More and more, our Fourth Estate, the media is editorialized. This does not make it wrong, just slanted. Newspapers have as much editorial content as straight news content. Read any headlines and articles, and you can identify the angle of the writer. Radio stations kowtow to advertisers. TV news looks for the sensational event to get you to watch, all to meet the needs of their advertisers. These are all “hidden” agendas.
I am not saying they are right or wrong. Some I agree with, some I do not. That is irrelevant. But, the media does not go out of its way to explain they are biased in any particular direction. Anyone who has been interviewed will have the experience that some of what was aired, “was not exactly how I said it”. Or, look at the recent “breaking news” that has dominated the airwave, the Swine flu pandemic. While this is cause for alarm, more people die annually of traditional flu outbreaks than from this version. Yet, this outbreak is portrayed as putting us on the verge of the end as we know it with hourly reports from some news sources on each case around the region. Yet where are they in reporting the mundane influenza that strike yearly?
When we listen to all of those reports we are susceptible the slant of the message. We are at risk of basing our decisions on an opinion that may not have any bearing on our own circumstances, both good and bad. When we decide the “economy is not going to be good”, we can fall into the trap that it means for us too. We stop driving our business forward and cut spending. We stop doing the things that brought us success and start reacting. We stop investing in the tools, “just in case things go bad”.
We let sales and marketing people go to cut costs, instead of hiring more to gain marketshare. We reduce the quality of products to save money, losing long term revenue in the form of clients and customers who came to us for our high quality. We reduce staff levels, putting more stress on our best people and reducing the level of service delivery, thereby weakening our reputation.
Again, I am not saying media is “bad”. But, they have their own agendas. Those agenda may be against our best interest. I am not saying ignore the world around you when it is on fire. Remember what got you to success, though. Continue to do the things that have propelled you forward and invest in areas that help you grow.