The journey that led me to start Media School
Every good business has a story. The essence of how they came to do what they’re doing. The reason why they’re doing it.
If you can articulate that for your business it’ll give you the seeds of some authentic content to engage with your audience on the internet and the motivation to keep at it.
This post is the story of how I started training people to use new media. And why I love to help them use social media to pursue their own goals and dreams.
My business and advertising foundations
I originally studied Business at Queensland University, graduated and realised pretty quickly I needed to do something creative. It led me to work in advertising.
I landed a job at one of the country’s leading ad agencies (The Campaign Palace in Sydney.) It was an innovative place and had won lots of awards for its creativity.
It also had a strong strategic focus and I worked closely with an experienced Strategy Planner. The budgets and campaigns were big and I learnt loads about approaching marketing and communication in smart, strategic, creative ways.
But there was something missing. Authenticity.
Work with small business, causes and in media education
I escaped corporate advertising and freelanced promoting small businesses and causes.
It was at that time I stumbled onto a job running an ad course at Charles Sturt University – which gave me the flexibility to work on interesting, worthwhile projects with students. Often the budgets were tiny but we worked out creative ways to get things happening in the media for all sorts of charities, small businesses and startups.
Enter Facebook (and social media)
After moving to teach at the University of Western Sydney, one day early in 2007 I got an email from a student asking: “Will you be my friend on Facebook?”
Err, nope I thought, and anyway what is Facebook?
Turns out now it’s the most influential media platform on the planet. The penny began to drop that year and I set about learning as much as I could – by way of courses and diving in and using these new emerging media platforms myself.
By 2009 I was teaching social media in my advertising courses. And even set my students the task of promoting a new kind of client in my Campaigns class – themselves. I got them to promote their own personal brand with the tiniest budget possible – zero.
Carving out a niche online
It was a promotion campaign that worked straight up for a number of students who were offered a job before university had even finished – thanks to employers finding their blog and social media profiles online.
I’d known the power of the media from my days in advertising. But now, with social media, you could get into the media for free. Anyone could find an audience, carve out their own niche and build a reputation.
What works on the web
While I was at university I studied who was successful online and why. What I found, ironically after working in corporate advertising, was that authenticity was now the key.
To do something that’s true to you. Something where your passion shines through. Something that helps the world, even a small way, even to a very specific group people. That’s the stuff that works well on the web.
My low budget online success
I know this, not just from research at university and my work with students, but also from diving in online myself.
One of my other passions is sustainability. Another is radio. On the side in late 2007 I started reporting environmental stories for 2ser. On the back of it in early 2008 I had a go at launching my own blog and podcast. By April that podcast reached Number 4 in the News & Politics section of iTunes, just above the Channel 9 News.
Further confirmation for me that “the gatekeepers were no longer in control”. You no longer needed a truckload of money to make a mark in the media. It also taught me you’ve just got to get in and give things a go in this new media space. (If I’d worried about ROI in the beginning, I’d never have got that far.)
The trouble with university
The future was clearly digital. I developed a Digital Media subject for the university but was told it would take at least 3 years before it would hit the ground – thanks to uni bureaucracy.
I was also being pushed by the uni to publish papers and do a PhD that would take 7 years and produce a thesis I knew would end up on a dusty shelf in a library somewhere.
At the same time my uni subjects had become sausage factories – pumping through ever-increasing numbers of students. Some lectures had 400 people. And around me the academics being promoted were the ones that theorised the most and taught the least.
So instead of spending 7 years theorising, I ditched my secure, well paying job for the potential and risk of my own small business, and to plant my feet firmly back on the ground.
To teach small classes. To really help people. To help them do good things – like launch new ventures and new careers and make a difference in their own way.
To be in the here and now of the new media world that’s changing all the time. And to do my own practical, new media projects.
Back to authenticity. (Some things don’t go away.)
The joy of teaching
In the last few years since I’ve started Media School, I’ve had some wonderful people in classes: other small business owners, marketing and communication professionals (promoting big brands and worthwhile causes), and courageous folk starting new careers and launching interesting new creative ventures.
It’s been a joy to teach them and help them learn how to use new media to further their goals.
And you can even see what a course looks like via our Instagram. (No longer 400 students in a class, but 6 to 12.)
And what about you?
How did you come to do what you’re doing now?
Whatever you’re promoting, there may well be the seeds of a great campaign in what’s behind it and how it came to be.
Why you started it.
(Simon Sinek reckons “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” It’s far more compelling. Check out Simon Sinek’s TED Talk. He explains how ‘finding your why’ works.)
Get in touch
I’d love to hear what you’re working on, why and how it started, and how I could help. You’re welcome to give me a call on 0403 517242.
If you want to see what we do in courses you’ll find lots of detail about our flagship social media course here. If you come you’ll learn more about creating compelling content and how to get new media to really work for you.
Best of luck, Phil