What Managers Can Learn From a News Show Anchor

By Mike Elgan  |  Posted 2015-03-23 Email Print this article Print
Best Practices

Many of the actions that go into hosting a news show are best practices for any successful endeavor in which people work together to create something of value.

4. Embrace checklists.

To be honest, I learned this one from my flight instructor while working on a pilot's license. There's an old saying in aviation circles that learning to fly makes you better at everything, and there's truth in that.

The culture and laws around flying are obsessed with checklists. The mechanics have them. The air traffic controllers have them. And pilots have them. That's the only reason planes are safer than cars.

It's easy to say (as I did in item 3) to never stop evolving. But checklists are the foundation of that evolution.

A huge number of talented TWiT people created the context for TNT, but for the day-to-day creation and execution of the show, it's mostly just my producer, Jason Cleanthes, and me. The two of us do the work that would require dozens of people on a network TV show.

Prepping for and actually doing the show involves literally hundreds of discrete steps, and each one exists on a checklist. To improve the show, we continually edit the checklist.

5. Start with the best partner you can.

I believe TNT is the best tech news show ever, and I work hard at it. But without TWiT, I would be streaming low-quality sound and video over YouTube.

By "partnering with" (OK, working for) TWiT, I can take advantage of brilliant engineers, editors, lighting people, ad sales people, operations people, broadcasting IT infrastructure geniuses and so on. Plus, I have access to the highly engaged TWiT audience, as well as to the wit and wisdom of the company's founder, Leo Laporte.

The self-made man and self-made woman are myths. We all rely on the people and companies we work with to succeed. So always choose carefully.

6. Serve the customers you want, not just the one's you've got.

Premium brands—from Apple to Starbucks to The Wall Street Journal—got where they are today by reaching higher than their average customer at any given moment. In a best case scenario, the companies that succeed in giving existing customers what they want can hold on to those customers.

Visionary companies grow toward a higher-quality audience. Forgive me if this sounds aristocratic or snobbish. The truth is that for companies like Apple, which makes 93 percent of profits in the global smartphone industry, success depends on targeting people who spend more.

In the case of TNT, my show exists in an industry filled with fluff and hype and distraction. People who ultimately don't care that much about technology create shows for audiences that don't care that much about technology.

Those shows "apologize" for the tech with a dog-and-pony show so the audience doesn't get bored with the content. They try to maximize the size of the audience by dumbing down the content.

Not me. We have a lot of fun on the show, but we target people who are obsessed with technology and are already knowledgeable about it. We don't dumb down anything. As a result, we are emerging as a premium brand among the highest quality audience.

As you can see, these things I've learned are powerful best practices for any successful endeavor that involves working with people to create something for an audience or customer base.

It's not exactly breaking news. But it's what I've learned about achieving long-term success.


Mike Elgan, a Baseline contributor, is a Silicon Valley-based columnist, writer, news anchor, speaker and blogger. http://elgan.com/


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