Why collaboration lies at the heart of modern media

It might sound obvious to say that successful media work depends on networking and communication, but what a lot of people miss is how much this is true behind the scenes. Even technical specialists who never go in front of a camera or participate in project development depend on it. Whether you work in print, broadcast or online, in a busy studio or out of a home office, nine-tenths of the work you do is generally going to involve collaborations – and that’s just at an individual level. A quick glance at the credits on films and TV programs will show you that it also happens between companies.

Most projects need multiple talents

Take something simple such as an interview conducted in the street. Theoretically, all you need is one person with a camera and a basic directional microphone, plus the interview subject, but it’s hard to guarantee getting professional-quality footage that way. If one person is looking after the camera while another takes care of the sound, then the interviewer is free to concentrate on steering the conversation. Each of those involved can be a specialist with the skill level necessary to get optimum results. Scale up to filming a dramatic production and many more people will be needed, including a director (possibly with assistants) to coordinate them and assorted people (from runners to caterers) to look after them. This is the reality of most modern media work. At a production level, it often involves bringing multiple organizations together in order to ensure that the right talent is involved.

Talent has to combine with expertise

Once talent has been taken into consideration, there’s also the matter of expertise. In some areas, it’s not enough to be skilled – to get good results, whether as a journalist of a creative professional, it’s necessary to have specific expertise. Some people have built their careers around filling that gap – consider Nick Palazzo, who specializes in sports media, providing a point of connection between program-makers and event organizers, athletes and their managers. This type of collaboration enables project coordination to run much more smoothly. For every expert you hear participating in a radio debate, there are five more behind the scenes providing context and background information.

Working together cuts costs

As technology continues to advance, the cost of entry-level gear for freelancers is falling, but top-of-the-range equipment gets ever more expensive. Most independent productions now hire gear or collaborate in order to pool what they have and make savings. Large studios tend to have their own equipment but have additional overheads related to their premises, security, insurance and so on, whether or not they’re active. This means that whenever there’s a gap in their schedule, and they’re not using their facilities to produce their own content, it benefits them to collaborate with production companies that can pay for the use of the space. Many popular locations also have media collaboration strategies to support this kind of arrangement.

Funding depends on trust

When trying to get together the money to cover the costs of a production, reputation is everything. Sometimes, a single individual or company’s reputation isn’t enough, but partnering with another company can make all the difference. In other cases, such partnerships provide access to bankable stars, and in still others, one company has everything it needs to put a project together, but the other has valuable contacts among potential funders. Collaboration can also open up access to different sources of local and national funding in order to get struggling projects off the ground. Often, partnerships built on this basis prove to be enduring and generate multiple projects.

Collaboration maximizes promotional opportunities

The more individuals or companies involved in the project, the more people there are available to promote the finished work – sometimes to very different groups of people. It’s important to coordinate this so that everybody respects the agreed marketing schedule and stays on message, but it can be very valuable, especially on smaller productions where there’s no big-budget publicity or in cases when collaboration means access to different big names with large, well-established followings. Doing all promotional work in-house is now fairly rare even for big companies, so collaborations with specialized media marketing companies are commonplace.

As in any industry, bringing in too many people has the potential to lead to disaster. It’s essential to make sure that everyone is on the same page and that there are no competing interests. With this in mind, however, collaboration in media is generally the easiest and most effective way to bring projects to fruition, from one-off radio plays to long-running television current affairs series. It’s a way of working that enhances creative energy and tends to bring out the best in all concerned.