These 4 Companies are Humanizing Business Content for the Mainstream
Business news has gone mainstream. Millennials are educating themselves with meme accounts and even sharing their investments on social media.
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The Internet has democratized business just as it has nearly every other industry. The way people consume business news is changing thanks to disruptors like Morning Brew and an ever-growing pool of content creators like Bullish, which specifically focuses on the financial markets.
And what about traditional business education? Studies show that MBA admissions were already down across the board pre-COVID 19—and remote learning is primed to surge as people increasingly question the high price-tags of IRL higher ed. That’s a big advantage for online education startups like Section4, which is on the mission to democratize access to business strategy training.
During the #SMWONE panel “Business, But Make It Human,” creators from Morning Brew, Section4, and Bullish joined Public.com’s marketing lead Katie Perry for a candid conversation about how new media and education companies are translating business-speak for mainstream audiences. Public is an investing app that puts a social layer on the stock market, allowing investors to easily share the “why” behind their trades and exchange ideas in the comments and in dedicated group chats.
Here are the primary insights and takeaways:
- Authenticity is the name of the game
- New formats like video and audio increasingly helping
- Humanize business content for the mainstream
Business goes mainstream
While traditional business outlets like the Wall Street Journal still play an important role in the way people learn about happenings in the financial markets, new players are playing an important role when it comes to analyzing this information for younger audiences who prefer to get their news from people who act like they do.
Kinsey Grant should know. She cut her teeth working as a traditional business news reporter before joining the Morning Brew as Business Editor and host of the Brew’s popular “Business Casual” podcast, which you can check out on Apple and Spotify.
“We are our core reader and listener. A lot of the people who are creating content for Morning Brew are the kinds of people we would target with that content,” Grant said. “I know my audience well because I am part of that audience.”
On the podcast, Grant sits down with executives and entrepreneurs—recent guests include Mark Cuban, Arianna Huffington, and Chamath Palihapitiya—to give listeners an inside track into how today’s business leaders think.
Her interviews also tend to give listeners a rare glimpse into these leaders’ humanity. In a recent interview with Palihapitiya, she gets the VC to disclose his daily routine, which includes striving for 10,000 steps a day by pacing around his home during calls.
Brian Hanly, CEO and Founder of Bullish, says he started the media company after realizing that there was a gap in the market for people who are “curious” about the public markets. His company focuses on enlightening its audience through unique formats, like mini-documentaries and even a satirical series that links astrology to personal finance.
“We’re focusing a lot on video storytelling,” he said. For example, Bullish just launched a series called, Trendline, which tells the stories behind public companies in straightforward and conversational language.
Time to reimagine the MBA?
With universities wrapping the year early and the 2020 fall semester called into question, the debate around the rising costs of higher-ed has accelerated in recent weeks. Regarding advanced business degrees like MBAs in particular, Section4’s head of creative product Jerllin Cheng says that a myriad of factors play a role, but cost is the big one.
“The MBA is not dying,” she said. “There are very few people who get an MBA and think, ‘I got nothing out of that.’ But what you do hear people say is, ‘That cost so much money.’”
Section4 is an online education venture built around the insights of Scott Galloway, the outspoken entrepreneur and NYU professor who recently inked a deal with VICE for a new business show designed for millennials.
Cheng says that the primary format for Section4’s curriculum is video, and its focus is on training professionals with tools needed to solve business problems in the modern era. It’s not designed to replace the MBA, she said. Rather, it’s a tool for bringing this level of thinking to a wider audience.
“If you take our courses, it’s okay if you don’t know what EBITDA means,” she said. “We try to make sure there’s a safe community where it’s okay to ask. We don’t need you to know the terms. We’re really trying to teach you how to think and give you the tools to get to the insights yourself.”
When leaders tweet
It would be difficult to have a conversation about the humanization of business without broaching the topic of CEOs who now, thanks to social media, can share their thoughts with the world in real-time.
Some recent examples of this: Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky’s heartfelt memo to employees regarding layoffs and Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield’s illuminating tweet-storm about how COVID-19 was impacting his company. And then there’s Elon Musk, who has never been shy to showcase his personality and opinions on social media.
“What we’re seeing pan out is a true 21st-century leader. It’s not only about shareholder value and returns, but also employees,” Hanly said. “What is happening at a lot of companies is a lot of indecision, so I respect the directness of leaders like Elon.”
Grant added that consistency plays a role when it comes to whether a CEO humanizing themselves is seen as negative or positive. And for leaders navigating a crisis, there are few things more important than transparency and communication.
“Now, more than ever, the CEO as someone who is willing to be open about their own experiences is more valuable than ever,” she said.
The big takeaway: Whether you’re a brand marketing to a new generation of consumers, a media outlet informing and entertaining them, or an education platform training them, authenticity is the name of the game.
Want to start investing alongside friends and experts? Use this link to download Public’s free investing app and get started with a free slice of stock. Valid for U.S. residents 18+. See Public.com/disclosures.
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