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Gareth Cliff talks about making the media your business at Alumni Network’s #UJInConversation sponsored by Renault

About two weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the University of Johannesburg’s Alumni Network’s “In Converation With” talk which was sponsored by Renault. Tebogo Disthego and Gareth Cliff were the guest speakers. The theme for the evening was “Making Media Your Business” and both speakers got to share insights into what it takes to own a successful media business. Unfortunately I got there late and only caught the last part of Tebogo’s talk so I can only share the lessons I learnt from Gareth’s talk.

1. Your audience is the most important asset to your business

From the onset Gareth displayed his gratitude for his audience. He said “if I don’t make my show relevant, funny and entertaining to you, I do not have an audience or a job.” He then proceeded to say thanks to those who listened to him during his tenure at 5 FM and those who followed him to his newly formed Cliff Central.

2. Provide something useful

After the pleasantries he got straight to the business of the day. He boldly pointed out that although he admires Oprah, he is not a fan of her programming. His respect for her is rooted in the fact that she provided something that people wanted i.e., inspiration. Gareth says that the media is free and that there are many options available for people, but not all of the options are useful to the viewers so they move onto the next option unless you provide something useful.

3. Look at what is happening around you

In continuing with the example of Oprah, he went on to applaud the fact that she looked at what the world of TV was like when she decided on her direction. Television was filled with programming like Jerry Springer which did not really add value to people’s lives. He went on to say that looking at what is happening around you gives you an idea of what is not available and the chance to provide it.

Gareth Cliff at UJ

4. Care about your audience

This lesson ties in with the initial point. Here Gareth told us that when looking at the people who are successful in the industry, it is clear that those who are successful are those who care about their audience. He went on to say that when engaging with your audience, whether on radio, TV or social media it is good to take caution not to broadcast something that may be racist and bigotry.

5. Go about your business with integrity and authenticity

Gareth is known for his unapologetic personality. He says that no matter how you try to change yourself to impress people, the real you will shine through eventually. It makes no sense pretending to be inspirational if you know you are an idiot. Later on in the Q&A session he also said that integrity helps you not to do business deals just for the money. He said that it is important not to abuse your audience’s trust for money.

6. Opinions and criticism only matter if they inspire improvement

As with anything, there will be people who like what you do and those who do not. Many times we focus on the negative because unfortunately it sticks out like a sore thumb. Gareth says it is important not to be distracted by criticisms that do not add value or inspire improvement.

7. If it is not on mobile it does not exist

He went on to talk about how important the Cliff Central and WeChat deal was because people live on their phones, especially in South Africa where it is estimated that there are more cellphones than people. This means that content is especially more useful when they can access it on their phones.

Renault SA

8. Content must be free

Here Gareth highlighted how piracy has killed the music industry. He went on to say that media providers need to make content free and find other ways to generate income from that content. Musicians for example need to rather forget about selling CD’s and use their music to get performances and endorsement deals since people are going to download the music anyway.

 9. Get people who want to be part of the conversation that you are already having

Here he spoke about CliffCentral’s deal with Hirsch’s and MTN where they provided free data to listen to his show for those on the network if they bought R15 data. This reminded me of a lesson that one of my mentors Fortune Masina taught me. He said “Do it for yourself so that those who want to join you get on a train that is already moving.”

10. The audience deserves more

He reiterated for the third time the importance of the audience. He pointed out that media today is so over commercialised due to the fact that media houses value making money more than providing good content. He said South African audiences deserve better.

All in all it was a really insightful talk. There were also moments where the room was roaring with laughter because of Gareth’s signature sense of humour and delivery. Watch him in action HERE and watch Tebogo’s talk HERE.

Article written by:

Richmond Sajini is a musician and media entrepreneur in the public relations, television, radio and retail spaces in South Africa. He studied Public Relations and Communication at the University of Johannesburg and has worked on brands such as Coca Cola, Tsogo Sun, Heineken as well as the South African National Roads Agency. He has been told to shut up many times by people who don’t understand that he is in love with the sound of his own voice. For this reason he decided to start his own blog where he would share his thoughts and experiences without inhibition. Visit his blog, and follow him on Twitter @richmondsajini.


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