What business are we in?



If you’ve ever watched your local PBS station, you probably also recognize the call letters WGBH.  This is Boston’s PBS member station and it’s been responsible for NOVA, Frontline, The French Chef, This Old House, Masterpiece, Antiques Roadshow, and more.  The GBH stands for Great Blue Hill, the highest point in the Boston area.

The station is now rebranding itself to just those GBH letters, losing the W, as of September 1st.  The W meant that it was a broadcaster east of the Mississippi (K leads the call letters for those west).  And the truth is, for them, while TV and radio will be important, their mission transcends these stations and channels; it’s ” enriches people’s lives through programs and services that educate, inspire, and entertain, fostering citizenship and culture, the joy of learning, and the power of diverse perspectives.”

That means TV, radio, podcasts, streaming, social, events, and more.

This is recognition that the mission isn’t the channel is one that we all could take to heart.  It wasn’t too long ago that NPR said it wouldn’t promote its podcasts or app on air, so this is an important shift.

All this reminds me of Theodore Levitt’s Marketing Myopia, where you think you are in a different business from the one you are in:

“The railroads did not stop growing because the need for passenger and freight transportation declined.  That grew.  The railroads are in trouble today not because that need was filled by others (cars, trucks, airplanes, and even telephones) but because it was not filled by the railroads themselves.  They let others take customers away from them because they assumed themselves to be in the railroad business rather than in the transportation business.  The reason they defined their industry incorrectly was that they were railroad-oriented instead of transportation-oriented; they were product-oriented instead of customer-oriented…”

The pandemic is giving us a [expletive deleted] opportunity to look at what business we are all in.

Share Our Strength | No Kid Hungry’s model was getting food to kids through schools.  When there were no schools, they immediately went to work to rewire its efforts around the school, getting meals to kids where they are.  Museums are putting their collections online and promoting virtual tours.  Support for victims and survivors of diseases and crimes have moved online.

This type of pivoting is very different from the mission creep that can often happen.  Mission creep is changing your mission to meet your funding or leadership pressures or the like.  This is focusing on the mission and remaining agnostic as to how you get there.

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