I have just delivered a speech at the 2018 Conference on Corporate Communication at the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame. I appreciated the opportunity to speak about the challenges corporations and communicators face in trying to reach their stakeholders due to the problems plaguing traditional media. My assertion is that it’s time to Go Direct. Every company should become its own media company, and every organization, public and private, should have a news operation that speaks to stakeholders directly through its owned and social channels, and through its leaders and employees. You can read the full speech here, but here is the key message:
I propose a new structure — not intended to supplant traditional media, but to serve as a necessary supplement to it — for outgoing content from the communications function comprised of two equally weighted arms: “Promote” and “Educate.”
- The “Promote” arm tells the company’s story directly through journalistic-quality content, led by a team of experienced journalists who go beyond company walls to gather sources and stories. The “Promote” arm also offers online communities that encourage direct conversation between the company and its stakeholders, providing a forum for employee or customer comments. This arm will be vital for companies in low-interest categories no longer covered sufficiently by mainstream media.
- The “Educate” arm operates with a civic mission, investigating local issues that matter to employees and the community, working to fill the news hole left by disappearing local media outlets. This arm would be structured as a non-profit foundation, supported by the company but functioning independently, and would be overseen by a government representative, an industry leader, an NGO expert, and one or more highly qualified former journalists. The “Educate” unit will not only generate original content, but also serve as an aggregator of important news and analysis from other sources.
The ultimate goal of Go Direct is to create an information safety net. By keeping employees informed and advancing the cause of truth, business can help ensure an educated populace and safeguard the fact-based discourse that is essential for a well-functioning democracy.
Richard Edelman is president and CEO.