Do entrepreneurs & enterprise get a rough deal in the media?

Today, most of the leading papers boast coverage of high-flying new business bosses, and the web is packed with sites targeting the self-starter with news, opinion and articles. As a professional managing PR and media communications across the enterprise sector, I began to wonder whether a study of how the media handles our news might be timely.

So I took my cue last September from the opportunity to ask a few questions through the online quarterly surveys Business Barometer (www.ukbb.ac) and the Business Adviser Barometer (www.ukbab.ac) run out of Nottingham University Business School. Three simple questions to both small business owners and their advisers would help me to measure their perceptions. I followed this with a survey of around 100 ‘enterprise’ journalists and presented my findings in November at the International Enterprise Promotion Convention.

Business perceptions and journalists’ needs
Less than 5% of business respondents could see themselves and their own experience reflected in media coverage and 15% said it bore no relation at all. Is this due in part to the common press use of powerful imagery to portray the larger-than-life business owner and their opinions? A further question looked at the use of such ‘celebrity entrepreneurs’ and the possible distortion of people’s perception of business. Less than 10% in each community saw no real distortion effect whilst the vast majority of all respondents said that ‘celebrity’ does give the wrong impression.

We have to understand why and how the media works today. Writers are under enormous pressure and ‘Celebrity’ sells. One of my clients, former Dragon Rachel Elnaugh, has her own views. She says that  the ‘celebrity entrepreneur’ profile really does a dis-service to business and does not reflect the majority of entrepreneurs nor the new way of doing business – which is highly collaborative, ethical and supportive.

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When asked, the majority of business owners said they would like to work more closely with journalists to improve coverage, so what does the press need?

Journalists told us that although the volume of stories had increasing significantly over the last 10 years the quality of those news items had not. Work remains to be done on the news value and interest of items being submitted to news desks.

That given, I wanted to know from journalists what would make a strong entrepreneurial story and three factors emerged:  the ordinary business owner – doing extraordinary things, personal triumphs and failures, and rapid business growth or decline. In other words it’s about new heroes, people we can relate to and a bit of drama.

(Pictured – TV Dragon & successful entrepreneur Peter Jones with Dragons’ Den’s biggest ‘winner’ Levy Roots and his Reggae Reggae Sauce)

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