The media has the power to shape public opinion and change perceptions. Every day millions of people around the world consume at least one form of the media, whether voluntary or involuntary.
But why is the media so powerful?
Is the media simply a mirror to the world? Or is the media all powerful and capable of brainwashing the masses to radically alter their behaviour, values and beliefs?
This question is central if you want to harness the power of the media to build or manage perceptions. The media can be a powerful entity, but this doesn't mean only for positive benefit.
To answer this question you must first understand why people need the media and how they use it.
Management or marketing theory is famous for Maslow's Hierarchy of needs. Taking this concept and other readings and applying it to the media, I believe there are 5 basic needs why people use the media.
1. THE NEED FOR KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING.
The media help make sense of an ever changing and complex world for us. We all have a basic need to understand the world around us. Inspiration, motivation, education and the ability to learn new ideas are all delivered by various forms of the media. Quite simply it's knowing what's happening, often as it unfolds and being involved.
2. THE NEED FOR REFLECTION, APPRECIATION, LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP.
You may have the opinion the media only reinforces negative stereotypes and popular opinion. But the media in its earliest form, such as sculpture, painting and art helps us appreciate and see beautiful things. It fulfils an emotive and aesthetic need. Despite the hype or perceived shallowness of the media it can bring people closer together and fulfil the need for love and friendship. Photographs far example can reflect moments, entice emotion and involve large groups of people instantly.
3. THE NEED FOR SELF ESTEEM.
The media provides enormous opportunity for self-development. Take this E-Zine for example and my goal of sharing my knowledge, ideas and inspiration with others. The media can fulfil our needs for self-confidence, stability, status and reasoning. It is a mechanism for supporting our personal endeavours and assisting others.
4. THE NEED FOR SOCIAL BELONGING.
Maslow's hierarchy of needs and teenage children prove that we all need to feel a sense of social belonging. This sense of belonging can be at many levels - family, friends, communities or even nations! The media brings us closer together and provides a sense of community.
5. THE NEED TO ESCAPE FROM THE DAILY GRIND.
We all know that amongst Western nations personal debt is increasing and people are working harder, spending longer hours at work and are under more pressure than previous generations.
Our attention span is also decreasing as the world becomes an increasingly crowded, cluttered and competitive place. We often yearn for a simpler life. The media provides tension relief from the daily grind and tedious nature of life.
Call it an escape, fantasy or diversion, the media provides an opportunity to tune out from the real world and enter another space.
Just look at the rise in popularity of lifestyle or reality TV programs where you can renovate your house, makeover your garden or go on an exotic holiday without leaving the comfort of your own lounge! The media can bring different aspects of the world into our homes, our computers or our cars offering insight and release.