Are values important in the media industry?


Last week I attended the National Student Leadership Forum in Canberra, a 4-day conference exploring faith and values and the fundamental role they play in leadership.

It was hosted at Parliament House, and activities included small group discussion, seminars from current leaders across business, politics, and education, an afternoon of community service, and a sports tournament.

The experience was utterly unique and created a culture where strangers – be that the person sitting next to you or The Hon Joe Hockey MP – could share their story in an open and respectful environment.

Each described the people and experiences that have shaped them. Their underlying values and subsequently their approach to leadership was revealed – their DNA unraveled.

Here’s my perspective on 3 key takeaways for the media industry:

Integrity is everything: As an agency, we have our own values and vision and form part of our clients’ wider value chain. Heith Mackay-Cruise, a former marketing manager at PepsiCo described what he most valued in an agency: integrity and innovation. Whilst the glitz of the latter may be important, it won’t mean anything without the former. In order to build successful relationships, sell ideas and design strategies we need to be genuine.

Cherish people: Jihad Dib is a Principal at Punchbowl Boys’ High School in south-west Sydney. In 7 years he has turned the school around – reducing absenteeism, boosting morale and academic results. One of the first things he did was stand at the front gates and shake the hands of every pupil who walked in, knowing each by name. The media industry is nothing if not a tapestry of characters and an agency will only be as good as its people. Understanding each individual’s story and focusing on their unique strengths will get the best out of them.

Recognition of Power: One of the first questions posed was – whether we wanted to be leaders and secondly, whether we wanted power. Less than 10% agreed to the second. Negative connotations around ‘power’ mean people are less willing to accept responsibility. The media and advertising industry has the power to shape and influence culture, which should be considered an honour. Post the GFC, it’s clear companies cannot operate in silo from society and that business ethics are pivotal– the media industry is no exception and we have the power to make a positive impact with the decisions we make.

The media industry plays a leadership role to its clients, people and society at large.

Understanding the values that underpin our approach and creating a culture that celebrates diversity will differentiate us from our competitors, create better work and relationships and have a lasting impact beyond the walls of the industry press.

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