On a Mission
Marketing expert Amy Sutnick Plotch has developed branding programs, national product launches, and advocacy campaigns, and has worked with dozens of nonprofits to develop communications programs that improve fundraising. Plotch recently talked with Youth Media Reporter about how sharpening a youth media outlet’s mission prepares it to respond to national events of global significance, like last fall’s elections.
Q: How can defining a media organization’s mission help it determine its audience and what kind of stories to cover?
A: For a corporate media company like the New York Times, their mission is to make money for their stockholders. So they have to come up with stories that will both attract viewers and interest advertisers.
For youth media organizations with a clear mission, they need to figure out which audience can help them achieve their mission and what that audience needs to know about and learn from the media outlet in order to support the mission.
Say the organization is committed to promoting youth activism. If their mission was to enable adults to understand young people better, then they could reach out to adults.
If they want to get young people involved in social change, then they’d reach out to young people. They would want to cover the issues that young people might be interested in, whether that’s the environment or education, but it probably wouldn’t be social security. They’d probably want to cover young people who are already involved and taking on leadership roles so their audience would know what organizations to contact if they themselves wanted to get involved.
Q: How does defining a mission and audience help an organization know how to respond to events of global significance, like the elections?
A: There are so many different ways you could cover the election and you can’t do it all because you can’t stretch yourself too thin. You can use your mission to guide you to decide what are the stories you want to get and what are the stories that will be very helpful to your audience and would be really valued by your audience.
Once you’re clear about your mission, it also becomes easier to find the funders that will support it. When you look at the plethora of funders out there, it helps you make the right cut if you’re clear about your mission and your goals.
Q: Many youth-made media organizations have more than one audience—for instance, some of what one outlet produces might be intended for an adult audience, some for a teen audience. Is it important for an organization to stick to one audience?
A: An organization will have one mission statement, but many different audiences might be affected by that mission statement, and there might be more than one audience whose support you might need. So you can have many different audiences.
From a marketing standpoint, you want all of these different audiences to see your organization the same way. Public television is a great example of that. It has programs for all ages, but they are bound together by educational cultural value.
Q: Some youth-made media organizations feel divided about whether their main mission is to serve the teens they work with or their audience. How important is it to be clear about this?
A: I think that you can do both in a way that they strengthen each other, and you might wind up with better product and better process. If you really think through your mission and audience carefully, and develop a product to have the impact you want to have on your audience, you’re doing two things: you’re pushing yourself creatively and analytically, and maybe learning more from the process, and you may be developing a better product.
Marketing expert Amy Plotch discusses how sharpening a youth media outlet’s mission prepares it to respond to national events.