This is one of a series of articles on how content marketing fueled a company’s success. The article was originally published on my LinkedIn site.
In 1917, Chester Lange was the editor of a local newspaper, the Syracuse News Standard. General Electric was based in Syracuse at the time, so anything happening at GE was worth reporting in his newspaper.
The only problem was that every time Lange approached the company for news, they either had nothing to share or what they delivered to him was written in a “commercial language” that the paper’s readers either could not understand or had no interest in reading.
Lange, being quite enterprising, approached GE to be their news person – delivering content, stories, and news to local and national newspapers, magazines, and radio stations around the country.
GE liked the idea and hired him.
He became one of the world’s first storytellers, content marketers, and public relations directors, even though those terms, the concept, and the profession had yet to be created.
Lange created the GE New Bureau in 1921 to get the ball rolling. Due to his efforts, almost every local and national publication soon began reporting about GE. This helped the company develop a positive image here and worldwide – one it never had before.
Going further, in 1922, GE created its own radio station at Lange’s urging.
“Radio caught my fancy because it was a means of communication [and] disseminating news much like the newspapers were doing.”
To garner even more interest in GE’s radio shows, the company hired celebrities of the day to talk about GE. Amelia Earhart and Harry Houdini were among them.
It is believed that these celebrities and the GE radio show eventually led to the creation of the General Electric Theater in 1953, with Ronald Reagon as host. It became American television’s third most popular program, attracting twenty-five million visitors.
Side Note: GE had hired Reagan before to be their traveling reporter. His job was to cris-cross the country, visit more than 130 GE labs and factories, and report on everything from jet engines to the future of electricity – the day’s hot topics.
According to GE historians, Lange was repurposing news stories and broadcasting them on different news channels, much like the company uses LinkedIn today.
“Lange’s stories helped people understand how the technical work of the GE scientists and engineers could improve their lives,” says Chris Hunter, a historian and vice president of the Museum of Innovation and Science (MiSci) in Schenectady, New York.
GE continues its content marketing programs today using several online media platforms, including blogs, videos, social media, and podcasts.
Known as GE Reports, these online platforms draw millions of readers and viewers from around the globe, and the GE Brief, the company’s newsletter, enjoys more than 70,000 subscribers.
Looking back on his accomplishments with GE, Lange says it was due primarily to one thing, something that might help us all today as we get the word out about our organizations:
“I was most careful to never forget I was a newspaperman. By that, I mean I would not attempt to hand out a story I didn’t feel was news… I think it was that careful handling of news which made General Electric a welcome arrival at the editor’s desk rather than going straight into their wastebasket.”
Robert Kravitz is president of AlturaSolutions. For more than twenty-two years, his company has provided communications services for B2B industries, helping them become thought leaders in their industries. He can be reached at: email@example.com