Written by: Perfect Kashoti

There is a direct relationship between media and business development; these are two sides of a coin that make it worth the cost. Media can easily be understood by the mention of its types: print media (newspapers, magazines), broadcast media (radios, TV), outdoor media (billboards), and the internet.

People are very attached to media in their everyday duties, and that gives it a huge reach and audience. This, therefore, presents an opportunity that local business developers can tap into, especially if they own creative enterprises.  

For starters, once a creative business has been set up there is a great and pressing need for market reach that can translate into convertible leads. Business owners' first focus when trying to get market reach is owned media. This is the type of media that is controlled by your company and helps you control your publicity or exposure. It is (supposed to be) unique to your brand. This might be a website, a blog or social media pages owned by the company itself. 

The benefit of this media is that it gives your audience a platform where they can easily find and interact with your brand. 

Developing businesses also stand to benefit from what is known as earned media, also defined as word of mouth. In the digital world, this can be likened to a retweet, share, blog post by one of your customers, a newspaper article or a television feature. This is where your loyal customers are able to defend your product with or without your knowledge and recommend it to their friends or relatives. The magic happens mainly because traffic is driven to your business without your involvement in the persuasion process and with little cost and effort involved on your part.

There is also what is known as paid media. As the name suggests, this is paid advertisement and unlike the two above-mentioned mediums, it is a deliberate step taken by local business owners to drive traffic to their product. The good thing about this media is you’re able to choose where and when you would like to place your advertisement so it generates more traffic or leads. Paid advertisements can be seen on TVs, radios, social media ads, outdoor advertising (such as billboards) or newspaper advertising.

Although each of the above mediums is stand-alone, combining the three (owned, earned and paid media) is a great strategy for using media for business development.

As with most forms of communication, content is key. This drives at explaining what would make your business newsworthy. Novelty or rarity? Is the story unusual? A lady by the name Michelle launched Nankhoma’s Baby Sitting Services aimed at offering baby-sitting services. In a country like Malawi, this idea is out of the box as it contradicts what has been the norm of our culture for decades. 

A story is also newsworthy if it is impactful. What impact will talking about your business bring to the people? In the same line of thought, you may also want to consider the timeliness of your story. For example, an invention that has to do with COVID-19 prevention would be rendered irrelevant once the disease is no longer a threat. There are more reasons that determine newsworthiness - timelessness, the relevance of the source of the story - the list is endless, however, these were favoured, as they appeal to our topic of discussion.

It is important to note that the extent to which a business uses media hinges on that business' ability to finance media/ promotion/ advertisement operations and/or efforts. It also depends on the business' need for coverage (i.e. why do you want to be featured on media platforms) and the willingness of media houses and/or journalists to actually provide news coverage for these businesses. This dynamic explains how there's an interdependence that, if utilized correctly, can further the success of businesses or hinder it. 

Covering stories of small businesses and offering lower costs for them encourages the growth of these institutions. Doing the opposite of this is what kills businesses since most of them run on restrained budgets. Also, note that negative reporting about businesses can also hinder their growth as much as not reporting about them at all does. With most media houses focusing more on political issues and sidelining businesses, business development and sometimes, sustainanility, is affected. Perhaps we could draw lessons from the Minister of Information, Gospel Kazako's visit to MBC in July last year. Are there other crucial areas that media could pay more attention to? Is Malawi's growth hinging on the stories that media houses cover or do not cover? How can business owners change their narratives into ones that actually grab the attention of the media?

In conclusion, media and businesses can form a deeper relationship to further the efforts of both parties. A strong partnership between the two could lead to the growth of small businesses and rich and appealing content from the media.