Long time independent newspaper The Seattle Times has lost my vote because I don’t know whether I can trust them anymore. They crossed the line last week and I moved from proud print subscriber to a non-subscriber overnight. They stopped living their brand while searching for new revenue streams. When they did that they lost my trust.
Revenue is essential to every organization. In a declining industry like print news a new revenue stream is critical. However, no company can afford to lose customers (even indirect customers) in their quest for new revenue streams. To keep an existing client base a company must continue to fulfill its brand promise.
They must live the talk.
A company’s brand is comprised of reputation, mission, vision, values, culture, community commitment, attitudes, actions, and more. It is what you stand for and want to be known for. A company who successfully manages their brand knows that:
- Brand exists at all times, in all places
- Brand is independent of the company because it exists in the minds of its customers
- With today’s instant social media connections brand maintenance is essential
Maintaining a brand is an ongoing challenge for every organization, whether it’s for-profit or not-for -profit, large or small. We’ve seen many examples of “brand blunders” in the last 12 months alone. Remember the Netflix switch? How about the Susan G Komen debacle? The Seattle Times has just been added to my list.
Here is some background on the controversy:
The Seattle Times Co. jumped into two of the state's hottest political contests Wednesday, launching a $75,000 independent-expenditure campaign… The Times Co. began the effort with a full-page ad on page B6 of Wednesday's [10/17/12] newspaper…
The decision to run the ads was made by the corporate side of The Times, and was "completely separate from the journalism functions of the newspaper," Alan Fisco, Seattle Times executive vice president, revenue and new products, said in a news release.
Fisco described the effort as a pilot project to show the power of newspaper political advertising and to attract new revenue. He said the company will analyze the effectiveness of the ad campaigns and present the results to political consultants and campaigns to try to persuade them to advertise more in the newspaper.
But the ad campaign was swiftly criticized by some journalism and political experts who said it threatens to damage the credibility of the newspaper's reporting.
Credible news journalism is founded in its impartialness. All news organizations have editorial boards and owners that flavor the content of their publications (think of the Wall Street Journal and Rupert Murdock). However, when the owners buy full page ads for the candidates and causes of their choice and run them in their own publication, they have gone too far. Readers must now question the credibility of The Seattle Times.
The cynic in me tells me that that they were never totally impartial. They have an opinion that they state in their editorial pages. But, it was always up to the reader to evaluate their opinion in a factual manner. Now, unsuspecting readers (who don’t always read the fine print) may be unwittingly drawn in by advertising that the seemingly impartial publication has paid for itself. How long will it be until those opinions influence the reporting of the same publication?
The Seattle Times has broken a basic brand promise stated on their masthead:
Independent and locally owned since 1896
Of course, the owners and editors of the publication will say things like, “Never.” And, “Not on my watch.” But as a thinking, active, concerned citizen my response is and can only be, “Who are you trying to kid?”
Your company has a brand, whether you live up to it or not. Your ability to continue to grow and increase profitable revenue depends, in part, on managing and using your company’s brand to your advantage.
Here’s a piece of news The Seattle Times ignored:
Your organization can find new revenue streams
AND live up to your brand promise.
Here are four steps you can take
to ensure you keep your client’s trust.
- Know your brand - What are your company’s brand promises?
- Use your brand as one way to filter your decisions
- Make sure your employees, vendors and clients know your brand
- Your entire organization needs to live that brand every day
If your company keeps its existing client base, you can then afford to dedicate time and attention to new revenue streams. It doesn’t work the other way around.
If you’d like help creating new revenue streams while maintaining your brand promise let me know.
I have a mission to increase profitable revenue while keeping as many companies as possible off of the “brand blunders” list.