Media Rules: Mastering Today's Technology to Connect with and Keep Your Audience (1st ed.)

Kirk Hazlett (Curry College, Milton, Massachusetts, USA)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 1 August 2008




Hazlett, K. (2008), "Media Rules: Mastering Today's Technology to Connect with and Keep Your Audience (1st ed.)", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 25 No. 5, pp. 326-327.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

According to co‐authors Brian Reich and Dan Solomon, Media Rules “ís about helping organizations – companies, nonprofits, news providers, educational institutions, communities, individuals – understand how a rapidly changing society impacts their operations and communications” (p. xv).

Reich, Director of New Media for brand strategy and communications agency Cone, Inc., and Solomon, CEO of Virilion, a full service interactive agency, have combined their many years of innovative client service with insights gleaned from business leaders across the nation to present a compendium of advice and guidelines for today's communication professional.

The authors clarify their concept of “media” up front: “‘Media’ is the information, the experiences, and all the stuff that we consume and share every day … Media is virtually everything that we create, consume, and share in our daily lives” (p. 1).

From Chapter 1, “The media that matters,” Reich and Solomon lead the reader through a total of 17 easily‐digestible units, each focusing on a single point of advice with such intriguing titles as “Be organic” (Ch. 4) and this reviewer's personal favorite, “Be a public failure” (Ch. 14).

Humorous headings aside, Media Rules is a serious look at the modern‐day challenges of identifying and then communicating effectively with our audiences. Chapter 1, “The media that matters,” addresses the multitude of communication venues in use today, from blogs, to phones, to social media, video games … the list seems endless. “Technology allows each member of the audience the opportunity to find their own personal connection to something” (p. 2).

The bottom line, say the authors, is that we as communicators have to be aware of and willing to try anything that will enable us to connect with our target audience. “Technology makes it that much more possible to have an impact on the things that matter to you, and your audience, most – the things they encounter every day” (p. 17).

Chapter 2, “Translating transition,” addresses the challenges of understanding and describing the jargon du jour. What does “stickiness” mean? Or “open source”? “There are so many ways to say or interpret things that confusion is inevitable … What is most important is to describe what you are doing as an organization in the appropriate context so that your audience finds it relevant, timely, and compelling to them” (p. 28).

Customer expectations today are higher than most of us are accustomed to, say the authors, and Chapter 3, “Be all things,” discusses the need to meet the demands of an audience used to everything. “A recent study about customer service revealed that people want organizations to do four things: (1) provide prompt, friendly service, (2) fix their problem, (3) do something a little extra to make up for any errors or problems, and (4) have flexible policies and consider making changes when the audience doesn't agree with the organization trying to reach them. In short, customers want it all” (pp. 30‐31).

This is not meant to imply that one must morph into an unrecognizable and uncomfortable other being. “Customers engage more deeply with organizations that listen to their needs and respond by providing more targeted information or better value propositions … Don't differentiate by what you do, differentiate by who you do it for – and how well you do it” (p. 37).

Chapter 4, “Be organic,” acknowledges today's environmentally‐conscious consumer and encourages the business leader or communicator to focus on more than just profits in his or her activities. “For organizations to succeed they have to make an effort to connect with their audience … They have to be natural, not forced or over‐manufactured” (p. 40). For example, the authors point out, “Research says that Millennials are prepared to reward or punish a company based on its commitment to social causes” (pp. 40‐41).

From here, we move to chapter 5, “Be a guide,” and the realization that the customer's decision‐making process has been complicated … that a plethora of choices has led to increasing confusion on the part of the would‐be consumer. “The concept of guided choice focuses on helping an audience move toward the decision that is best for them (and that may happen to correspond with what you are offering” (p. 65).

Reich and Solomon next point out that, in this age of increasing specialization, danger lies in the tendency to over‐specialize. Chapter 6, “Be choosy,” advises against giving in too much to customer demands. “When the customer's demands make it impossible for a business to provide high‐quality service or sell products at a profit because of the expectations the customer has of them, it is time to say no” (p. 74).

Chapter 7, “Be a fighter,” focuses on communication from the realities of technology and the ability of consumers … and of communicators … to air grievances or express opinions quickly and publicly. The authors' advice is to respond quickly and by using the same venue and your antagonist. “There is a benefit to going public and being out in front in a fight. You control the dialogue, set the tone, and establish your credibility in the medium on your terms, not theirs” (p. 92).

Excellence and expertise are the focus of chapter 8, “Be an expert” … striving for excellence in everything you do … and communicating that excellence. “The path to expertise begins when you first discover the thing that you are passionate about, where you retain the detail most easily and communicate about it most fluidly” (p. 101).

Chapter 9, “Be part of the best team,” continues the train of thought with a discussion of assembling a workforce of, or developing partnerships with, the “right” experts. “In order to adapt and survive, let alone thrive in an environment where technology either dictates or supports almost everything we do, organizations and the people who work for them must change” (p. 110). And if you can't recruit the “experts” for your organization? “If you can't bring in the right people to your own organization, find the right partners and collectively provide the value that your audience expects, instead of trying to do things you can't” (p. 125).

The next three chapters – “Be ahead of your audience,” “Be second to your competitors,” and “Be fresh” – focus on strategies to distinguish your organization from others in your field. “Your goal should not always be to finish first, but to lead by innovating and improving on what those who have come before you have done” (p. 144). And, combined with this thought, “New ideas, and innovative thinking, comes in waves, so understanding and building on the lessons of the past is a key component of staying fresh” (p. 158).

Chapter 13, “Be geographically relevant,” discusses the role that geography continues to play in a technology‐driven world. “It is a major challenge for organizations to connect with, or at the very least function with an eye toward, the global audience and still retain local focus and values” (p. 167).

While its title may sound a bit odd, Chapter 14, “Be a public failure,” is a genuine reality check and offers sound advice to today's business leader. “The visibility of failure in the new media environment is more common, because everything moves so quickly, changes constantly, and reaches more people. More than ever, you are going to fail in full public view now, for everyone to see” (p. 173).

But, say the authors, “Being candid about your shortcomings will only help build goodwill with your audience … Develop a proactive approach to communicating the ongoing values of your organization, as well as your challenges … ” (pp. 178‐9).

Next, with Chapter 15, we discuss the continuing need for business leaders today to “Be connected and coordinated.” The point, say Reich and Solomon, is that technology alone is not the answer. “Technology by itself does not create value” (p. 187). Organizations must know what their customers are looking for as well as how they wish to receive that information.

Chapter 16, “Be a steward,” brings the discussion back home to the communicator with the need to communicate with and to key audiences. “It is possible to treat every member of your audience like she is the most important person to your organization. This is especially true in the new media environment where technology facilitates your ability to deliver specific, tailored, and personalized information … ” (p. 195).

The final chapter, “Be measurable,” is about just that. Media Rules is a book about communicating in a technological environment. But it is still about developing communication objectives that focus on and contribute to the organization's goals and objectives. And these must be measurable … you must be able to tie your efforts back to your organizations. In the end, as Reich and Solomon say, “That's it. Goals. Strategies. Tactics. Then resources. It's no more complicated than that” (p. 207).

Related articles