Your values can sometimes get you in trouble.
The Daily Telegraph in NSW doesn’t exactly have a reputation as being a stellar, academic read. It’s a tabloid paper that everyone claims bangs the political drum of its (Murdoch) ownership. But the Daily Tele has a readership that is fiercely loyal.
They’re the kind of readers who have been readers for 60 years. They’re as loyal as they come.
Until you push things too far, that is.
Like that time the Tele published a front page claiming that the Minister for Communications was just like Stalin in wanting to control the press. (True story; here’s a pic.)
It was blatant and dramatic.
When the call teams saw it at 0615 that morning, we couldn’t really speak. We sighed; some were shocked. Conversation was unnecessary. There was an unspoken, collective understanding that we were going to have a rough day and there would be nothing we could do about it.
Boy, was that an understatement.
We got so many calls that the lines were jammed up the wazoo, and huge numbers of people cancelled their subscriptions. They were the types of cancellations you couldn’t save. It was: ‘This is disgusting and I am not paying for this’. Then it became, ‘wtf — answer the phone — this is disgusting…’ etc.
How do you save your readership when it becomes a values war?
You don’t. It’s too hot. All you can do is be gracious and helpful; meaning: Help the customer achieve his or her outcomes. He or she is so wild, nothing on earth will save them. It has nothing to do with the service, or the staff, or the price, or the internet. It’s simply and purely a value-set that spilled over into the content.
What’s the lesson in this story for you then, fledgling business publisher?
It’s this double-edged sword:
On the one hand, hold tight to your values, but don’t allow your publication to become a blind soapbox. Keep your eyes open and know how much power the people who keep you afloat actually have.
On the other hand, it’s that being blatant about your values will force the refinement of your readership to the people who really matter. In many cases, this is why unsubscribes are such a good thing.
Thought leadership is tricky business because this overlapping territory can be difficult to navigate. On the one hand you are passionate about XYZ; on the other, you have a business that does ABC.
Reconciling them, finding your community — the right one — requires absolute clarity.
Do you have what it takes to find it?