The Media Chess Game

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I was at a networking event a few weeks ago after work and was chatting with someone about what I do, and his response was, “Oh, I don’t need all that.  I just need a social media guy.”

 

Lately, I hear this type of comment more and more, especially from small or mid-size businesses who are trying to handle all of their marketing and advertising in-house and feel a little overwhelmed by all of the social media options that are available these days.  Although many of these people do not use social media in their personal lives, they feel compelled to adopt it immediately for their business because they feel they’ve missed the boat.

 

Usually, these same people also firmly believe that they have a “good handle” on other media types because, after all, they use other media like TV, radio, and magazines in their personal lives.  Most often these people have decided they don’t need to experiment or explore these media types for their business because they don’t have a large marketing budget.  With news and advertising reports mainly focusing on digital and social media these days, other media types often get a bad rap.

 

I’ve heard this argument from many different viewpoints.  A few years ago, I was approached for a job by a client who was getting ready to launch a new brand and needed “a print buyer.”  This client didn’t want someone to review his business and marketing goals and create a media plan that was designed to achieve those goals.  He simply wanted someone to execute a print buy without any context of how that print buy fit into the rest of his marketing efforts.

 

I was explaining all of this to one of my friends the other day, and he said, “That doesn’t really make sense.  It’s kind of like a chess game.  The Rook does something different from the Bishop, and neither one of them is as powerful as the Queen.  But, the Queen can’t win the game by herself.  You need to at least start the game by considering all of the pieces you have available.  And, above all, you need someone controlling the game who is watching over the entire board and figuring out the strategy of how your Knight can work in combination with your Bishop to checkmate your opponent’s King.”

 

You can’t approach a media plan by deciding ahead of time “I only need social media for my brand.”  The plan, just like the chess game, needs to be approached from a higher-level view at the start, considering all available options and determining which ones will yield the best approach.  You have to consider your competition and think about what they will do and how they will react to your strategy.  You need to consider the timing of when you will make your big move.  Like a chess game, having a well-developed strategy in place prior to starting a media campaign is a near-absolute prerequisite, it does not guarantee success.  To be sure, unforeseen circumstances come up and no strategy is set in stone.  But you can only adapt quickly and modify your strategy if you’ve already done the critical thinking ahead of time.”

 

Sure, a novice can win a chess game, but this usually comes down to a combination of luck and an inexperienced opponent.  It’s not likely to happen again often, if at all. True chess masters spend hours studying and practicing their strategies against other players and computer programs.  It takes time, dedication, perseverance, and passion to learn the game and how your moves will precipitate certain actions from your opponents.

 

So, the next time you start thinking that you only need something more tactical like “a social media buy” or “a print buyer” or something similar, stop for a moment to consider whether a chess master would walk into a tournament and say “I only need one Knight for this game.”

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