The Golden Rule of Media: Ask Nicely and You Shall Receive

I am more open to a relationship when someone treats me the way I wish to be treated.

In fact, the Golden Rule has become nearly trite. "Treat others as you wish to be treated" is heard constantly from childhood on.

If I think about any political, religious, business or family battle I've witnessed in my life, all could have been overcome if the participants had followed this time-tested, but too infrequently applied, concept.

And so I ask this question: "Should the golden rule be any different for we in the media business?"

If your answer is no, then why do marketers continue to scream, spam and interrupt people?

Is media exempt from the Golden Rule? I think not.

Two examples of media that follow the Golden Rule, in my view, are and WorkPlace Media.

While I don't have much to tell you about the former, I do know they respect their audience so much that they've created a new media called "free shipping." That is, after spamming me, interrupting me with cute slogans, and snail mailing me uninteresting offers for years, they had a change of heart a couple years ago and now they:



1. Ask my permission to e-mail me, and

2. Send me e-mails that relate to my prior purchases, and

3. Use the money they saved in media to ship everything I buy to me for free

Maybe this isn't good for the traditional media business but do ya think there's a message here?

I'd like to think my own company, WorkPlace Media, learned a similar lesson around 2001. That is, after drop-shipping and cold-calling employers to try to get them to take our clients' stuff for over 10 years, I started FIRST asking if they wanted to hear from me.

The result is nothing short of incredible - a network of 900,000 employers who distribute incentives from us for clients like Lenscrafters, McDonald's and Wrigley Gum to their 65 million employees.

I like to think of and WorkPlace Media as empathetic marketers. That is, we treat others as we wish to be treated. And it seems to work, certainly better than the millions of "drop-ships" being done by all those "spray-and-pray" direct marketers who think they're actually reaching consumers, but rather, are just feeding trash bins.

Here are some of the "secrets to success" used in transforming our workplace employer media network:

1. Treat host employers as if we are in their living rooms because, actually, we are.

2. Encourage those uncertain of whether they want us to send stuff to say "no." It saves us time and our clients money.

3. Establish options, not commands, about how to communicate with us. Is the Internet our preference to communicate with our host employer network? Of course it is; it's cheaper and more efficient. But we gear up to welcome them to dialogue with us in the manner they, not we, prefer whether it's fax, toll-free number, snail mail or Pony Express!

4. Send only what they need and request. That is, if they have 63 employees, send 63 samples and a small gift for the distributor. More or less than that is disrespectful and says, "We care more about our cost of printing than about you."

Can you transform your current medium to fit the general philosophy of these rules? I don't know, but I do believe that all media should consider how to make more friends (translated into "sales") by creating similar secret sauces of respect.

Although seemingly trite, the Golden Rule is one item that stands the test of time. Personal relationships that last do so because friends and family empathize with one another and strive, albeit difficult at times, to put the concerns of others ahead of their own. Why should marketing be any different?

Tim McCarthy, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and speaker, has been studying the media business since 1975. More examples of empathetic marketing, or just interesting dialogue, can be provided via

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