Yes, your media outlet can learn something from the Kardashians

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Something I try to point out from time to time (okay, all the time) when I’m talking about the new-media landscape is that media organizations need to look much farther afield than they usually do, in order to figure out what works and what doesn’t in this new environment. In other words, they shouldn’t just look at other newspapers or broadcasters to see what they’re doing but at Reddit, or SnapChat, or Red Bull — and yes, maybe even at the Kardashian family.

Just to be clear, I’m not recommending that news sites or individual reporters focus as much attention on certain parts of their anatomy as say, Kim Kardashian does, although if that works for you then by all means, please don’t let me stop you.

But whether you like them or not, the Kardashians have become a powerful brand, and therefore a media entity in their own right — just like Red Bull, or Coca-Cola. And there are lessons that can be learned from the way they approach the media, and National Public Radio digital strategist Melody Kramer has helpfully written an entire blog post about what they are.

If you work in the media and you aren’t already following Melody in some way — either on Twitter, or through the NPR Social Media Desk blog that her Kardashian post appeared on — then you are missing out, because she and the team she works with are not just experimenting in a number of interesting ways (the Tumblr blog being just one of them) but they are also doing it in full public view.

So what kinds of lessons can we learn from the Kardashians? Melody came up with six that are worth paying attention to, including:

Get your team involved: If we think about the Kardashian family as a media entity, which I’m betting matriarch Kris Jenner probably does, then each sister is a key part of that team and each of them helps spread their message or content. As Kramer explains, each one releases a different promotional photo or video for each new episode of their TV show, and thereby engages with their own specific audience. If your media entity isn’t doing this, why not?

Promote others: Every time someone in the family gets some kind of deal or honor, the others mention it and respond, and that helps reinforce the image of them as a family and the idea that they are a single unit. As Kramer says of NPR: “Look at what others in the building are doing, and if you like it, talk about it.”

Don’t spam your followers: You might think the Kardashians only talk about themselves and the products they endorse, but this isn’t the case. They appear to deliberately space out the endorsements and intersperse their social behavior with other things their audience might like. Many news organizations still see their social feeds as just a glorified RSS feed of their content, and that is a mistake.

Be consistent: The Kardashians and their advisors probably refer to this one as staying “on brand,” but it amounts to the same thing — namely, be aware of who your audience is and what they expect. As Melody puts it: “I don’t turn on the Kardashians for hard-hitting news. I turn on the Kardashians because it’s escapist and absurd with little cost. I know exactly what I’m going to get out of them.” In other words, stick to what you do best.

Whatever you think of the actual content they generate (and I am not even close to being a fan), the Kardashians understand one crucial thing about the way that brands and media work today: namely, that it is very much about the personal relationship that your audience has with you, or at least feels like they have. That relationship is arguably the most important asset you have, and you should be doing everything you can to maintain it.

In the end, that relationship is why people will read what you write, it’s why they will share your content with others, and ultimately it’s why they will get out their wallet and pay for things you are involved with — whether those things are news stories, tablet apps, or the chance to meet you in person at an event. It’s why they trust you. Nothing else matters.

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