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The Evolution of a Content Entrepreneur

Lee Horwich of USA Today was the first to say it, during a recent media panel at the City Club of Cleveland.

When Cleveland hosts the Republican National Convention next July, his colleagues will want access to video, audio and social media to report the news.

His point? Don’t think of USA Today, or other major media such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, as purely “print” media.  

One-dimensional content creation no longer exists at national newspapers.

Thirty years ago, when I became a journalist for a one-dimensional newspaper, we received one-dimensional pitches from public relations professionals. These people would call and write journalists, suggesting stories – in print, or course – about a product, executive, politician or governmental entity. Their pitches reflected the limitations of the media they were contacting.

Such one-dimensional content pitching no longer exists.

In light of these changes, too many communicators have been content complacent. They create content for content’s sake and distribute it via massive email releases.

The immediacy of technology and the benefits of bandwidth have forever changed the potential for effective content. Rather than a content creator, today’s communicator must be a “content entrepreneur” to be effective.

Dictionary.com says an entrepreneur can “organize and manage any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.”

The website says content is “something that is to be expressed through some medium, as speech writing…”

Content may be king, as communicators often say, but without the correct vision and skill, without the ability to match content with a business objective and communications platform, that king has no clothes. What begins as a promising presentation can quickly turn embarrassing, or worse, damaging.

Consider Starbucks Corporation’s #RaceTogether campaign, which launched with such promise but quickly stumbled as media criticized its flawed assumptions. (See my post on Starbucks’ stumble.) CEO Howard Schultz had a vision, but he didn’t have a content entrepreneur who accurately assessed the risks involved in the campaign.

This is part of what content entrepreneurs do: they absorb elements of a story and craft a strategy to communicate it effectively, utilizing only the tools appropriate for the task.

Think about successful entrepreneurs you know. They likely have some or all of the following entrepreneurial skills, as defined by Monster.com:

  • Motivation, optimistic, always thinking about their business
  • Creative and persuasive; have capacity to recognize and pursue opportunities
  • Versatile
  • Business skills
  • Drive
  • Vision
  • Flexibility and open-mindedness
  • Decisive

Content entrepreneurs are able to apply these skills to strategic communications, with impactful result.

These communicators devise content to support the business strategies of their clients and organizations. They are passionate about the organizations they serve, seeking to learn as much as they can about them and creatively telling their stories in interesting and powerful ways. To do so requires a versatile approach and ability to bridge the needs and goals of the organization with the interests of their target audiences.

The content entrepreneur embraces this intellectual challenge, weighing a strategy’s risks against the potential benefits of transparency and brand enhancement. They must be decisive yet flexible and open-minded.

In the 20 years I spent in newspapers, the best journalists I worked with were proactive and innovative. Today, they are entrepreneurial in their content generation.

In the 10 years I have spent in public relations, technology has heightened the demand for strategic communications. Content creation without strategy is like decaffeinated coffee. It may feel good going down, but in the end, it doesn’t do much for you.

Content entrepreneurs apply a strategic approach to media relations, marketing, social media, websites and more. They integrate the tools available to them.

For them, content with strategy is king. And it has clothes.

Join me in the conversation on Twitter by using #contententrepreneur – or if you have any questions or comments about the concept of the “content entrepreneur,” please feel free to send me an email or give me a call at 216.241.2145.

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