Media Literacy for Brands and Entrepreneurs: What It Is and Why It’s So Important

UPDATED: April 24, 2024
PUBLISHED: April 20, 2024
Young business women learning about media literacy

In 2021, Burger King UK posted the tweet: “Women belong in the kitchen” on Twitter, now known as X. The tweet was meant to shine a positive light on a scholarship program for women who want to enter the culinary industry, but instead, it garnered the exact response of outrage you’d expect. Burger King ended up deleting the tweet and posting an apology. 

This scandal is just one of many that have plagued the business world since the internet became ubiquitous, accelerating the speed that information reaches the public. 

When you’re building your brand, this lesson and others are very important takeaways. Understanding media literacy, how you represent your brand in the media, what type of information you share and your conduct on social media are all going to come back to you as a leader. 

In a world where we record our every move and share information across multiple platforms, media literacy is a skill set that all decision-makers need to nurture and develop. Entrepreneurs are the face of their brands—one LinkedIn post can lead to higher approval from prospects and clients, or it can alienate a client base entirely. This is why training leaders on effective use of technology is so necessary. 

What is media literacy?

The National Association for Media Literacy Education defines media literacy as “the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create, and act using all forms of communication.” 

Media literacy skills are required in order to use and understand the information that we consume—and this also ties directly into critical thinking skills. There is so much information available on the internet and social media that it can be overwhelming and hard to discern which sources to believe. 

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Media literacy training for leaders

Entrepreneurs are corporate decision-makers because they are public representatives of their companies. Everything they say and do tracks back to their organizational affiliations. This means that among other leadership development, leaders must also develop media literacy skills. 

Brand exposure is how you sell your ideas and educate the public about your product. Approaching media outlets for coverage is a great way to build brand recognition and to become recognized as a thought leader. Strategic communication and good media coverage help you establish yourself as an expert in your field—whether that’s via a spread in your favorite magazine like SUCCESS or an op-ed in your local newspaper.

Dustin Siggins is the founder of Proven Media Solutions, a communications consulting firm that helps their clients get placement in the press. According to Siggins, getting media coverage is great, but if you’re using your media coverage to drive sales, you need additional strategies like a strong social media presence, a great newsletter or a compelling website. 

“There are two strategic approaches for media,” Siggins says. “One is brand exposure. You just want your coverage. You want to talk about your ideas for whatever reason you want them out there and you don’t care if it drives sales or any other outcome.” 

“Or you want to drive an ROI with earned media,” Siggins says. “Typically for that, you need to have a robust marketing team in place. Because if you don’t, it’s just hanging in the ether in today’s media world. It doesn’t do much for you to get in the press… your team should have a well-developed, well-thought-out, well-executed marketing plan that is going to take earned media and drive more value from it.” 

It’s also a good idea to be honest with yourself about who the right person is to speak to the media. In some cases, you may want to have another representative of your organization do the interview.

“And then you have to think about the kinds of media that work for your company and the tone that you want as the spokesperson,” Siggins explains. “If you’re the CEO and you’re a nerd, maybe USA Today isn’t the best, but maybe The Wall Street Journal is or Gartner or Forbes—or if you have a stutter and you’re very shy or camera-shy, you probably don’t want to go on CNBC. Maybe have somebody else do that for you.”

It could also be helpful to take media literacy training or hire a coach to learn about speaking to the media. Often, journalists will ask questions that are unexpected, and your response to these questions could have high stakes. 

“We have a briefing book we give to our clients, and we review the interview ahead of time,” says Siggins. “This is so they are ready for what they say, but also for if they get pushback or a tougher interview. We call it ‘block and bridging.’”

Understand the value of media coverage

It’s also key to decide what media outlets to approach for coverage and if they are relevant to your brand. 

“If you have a great connection with a consumer products reporter at The Wall Street Journal and you’re talking about lawyers and accountants, it’s not really going to work,” Siggins notes. “You have to have the three T’s: right topic at the right time from someone with the right title.”  

Misinformation on social media matters 

It’s also very important to make sure that information that you come across is valid and accurate—especially if you are going to respond to it or share it. 

Misinformation is prolific today and can often spread faster than it can be fact-checked. It’s not even uncommon for news outlets to share information before it’s actually verified. Siggins gives the example of a Fox News story that claimed that homeless veterans were being kicked out of a hotel to provide shelter to migrant individuals seeking asylum in the state of New York. The story was proven to be false, but not before it went viral

When people share information on social media, it is often from a place of emotion. When conducting yourself online, sometimes it helps to wait before sharing information, no matter how upsetting it may be. 

“Wait 48 hours [to put] an opinion out there,” Siggins says. “Second, If you care about the subject matter, seek original sources.”

Understand social media conduct 

Aside from verifying the information that you share on social media is correct, your general social media conduct is likely under scrutiny as an entrepreneur. It’s vital to separate your professional and personal social media accounts and lock down your personal pages. 

When you represent your brand, you have to remember that your personal brand is also essential and should match your company brand. When writing posts, they should be consistent with this notion. 

“The one exception to that is if you have a platform that is not ordered toward your business, like if you have a Facebook account that’s only really largely family and friends,” says Spiggins. “That’s different. But even then, you should be very aware of what you’re posting.”

Your media presence goes back as long as you have been on the internet, and people can and will dig up things that were posted in the past. If you posted a controversial tweet 10 years ago, you will have to be prepared to address that tweet now. Even deleted posts can be found either through screenshots or websites like the Wayback Machine.

You might also find yourself to be the target of criticism from people online, and it’s crucial to respond carefully in these cases. 

“Unless they’re relevant to your target audience, ignore them,” says Spiggins. “People have too much time on their hands today. There’s easy access to the internet. Also, generally don’t talk about politics if you can avoid it.” 
Remember that media literacy is a skill, just like any other hard or soft skills that you develop. In the digital world, it’s paramount to know how to use media deftly.

Photo by Gorodenkoff/