For too long, the media has misrepresented and underserved Black men.
No matter where you look, whether that's online, in video games, or in tv and film, you'll often find negative portrayals of Black men.
For this reason and more is why media entrepreneur Eric Thomas decided to create The Quintessential Gentleman. Originally started off as a blog, The Quintessential Gentleman is a media startup that was created for Black men to have a voice and share their own narratives based on their personal experiences and perspectives through enterprise, lifestyle and the arts. Every year, outside of their digital platform, they release a print magazine several times a year and have featured everyone from Sammie, to Leslie Odom Jr., to even DeRon Horton from Dear White People.
In a time where we are seeing more niche media brands flourish and the media industry growing faster than ever, The Quintessential Gentleman is ensuring that Black men are not left out of the conversation and in the content because #BlackKingsMatter.
Recently, we chatted with the founder Eric and talked about everything from the challenges that media founders face, to some of the things that media entrepreneurs should do in the early days of launching their company.
Once you have your biz idea, what are some things you should do first?
Well first, let it be known that I am a domain hoarder. When I’m feeling creative or get a new idea, one of the first thing’s that I’ll do is purchase the domain. I always say that the domain of your website is so much more important than your social media, because you don't own your social media. You can have 40,000 followers and they could disappear today, or the social media platform could go away, but your website will never go away. You have control over that.
Next, now that you have an idea for something, just start. I know this may be the opposite of how other people have launched their business, but speaking from my own experience, when I started the Quintessential Gentleman, it started off as a blog. I didn't do market research or anything like that. I was just solving a problem or a need that I had. However, once we got to a certain point, then I was like 'okay now I got to figure out how much this is going to cost to scale and I have to figure out the actual foundation part of really building this idea.' The problem that I see now is that a lot of people wait too long and think things have to be perfect before they can start. Waiting on that perfect moment will let too much time pass away and you’ll never get it done.
Nowadays, you don't have an excuse. You can easily build your website using something like Squarespace or Wix, so there’s no reason for you not to purchase your domain and just start somewhere with getting your business idea off the ground.
Next in the early days, you'll want to establish your brand voice and tone early. When it comes to your brand voice and tone, it's super important that you are authentic. At Quintessential Gentleman, our authenticity is what sets us apart from all the other people who are in the same lane as us.
In my company I can share my experience as a Black man better than someone who is pretending to be a Black man or someone who is telling a story of a Black man, that's not a Black. Your authenticity is key so use it to your advantage.
Last but not least, you have to be consistent in all areas of your business. The way you speak on your website needs to be similar to how you speak on your social media channels. Also, if you use a certain color scheme on your social media, it should be the same on your website.
In the beginning when you’re just starting out, doing this can feel tedious but it’s important because people (your target audience) remembers things like that and you want people to remember you and your brand.
What would you say are the biggest challenges that media founders face when trying to attract their target audience?
It really depends, but I’ve found it more challenging when you have positive content. There are a lot of media platforms that promote a lot of negativity, like the gossip blogs or tabloids. That type of content is very amusing and interesting to people, and people tend to gravitate towards it. Unfortunately, positive news doesn’t get shared as frequently as gossip content. People are more likely to share a negative point of view over a positive one.
Another thing, when you're creating your platform, it's super important for you to create things that you like and that are interesting to you. I literally started this company creating content based on the things that I am interested in, and doing interviews with people that I wanted to reach and were interested in speaking with. Oftentimes, people create platforms that they think other people are interested in, and then they get worn out easily and get tired of doing the work. My advice would be to build something that you're interested in, and then form a community around that.
What is one thing media founders sleep on?
I don't think people realize the power of LinkedIn. Looking at our analytics, I see that we have a lot of traffic coming from LinkedIn so we make sure we really focus on that platform. Also, as a founder or editor in chief of a media company, you should be using LinkedIn more so you can solidify yourself as a leader in this space.
Even though LinkedIn isn’t as cool as something like Instagram, when you’re trying to get more social media traffic on your site, you have to remember that Instagram was not created to drive you away from their platform. Yes you can do the link in the bio thing but every time you have something different, then you have to update the linktree or the links, and it’s just not user-friendly.
With our Instagram, what we do is put the entire article, or a good portion of it inside of the caption. This will engage our followers on Instagram, and if they want to read more of the content, then they can go to our website. Ultimately, you have to understand all of the social media platforms and how their users interact with it.
How do you retain your website visitors?
We have a newsletter that comes out every week so that helps, and also we find ways to keep people on our site. For example, you can do things like adding related posts or other content within the articles so that if people click on the links, they’ll still be on your site. From a media platform standpoint, it’s important that you build your site in a way where it’s not static and doesn’t encourage people to read one thing and go away.
As far as our newsletter, we also do a lot of giveaways where we’ll partner with companies and give away stuff for free. People enter to win the free stuff by subscribing to us and that helps our subscriber list. Once you start getting your subscriber list up, you can reach out to companies and let them know you want to give away one of their products. When you pitch the company, let them know how many subscribers you have, and for the most part, they’ll see the benefit.
For the company, they're getting exposure to your audience, they're getting backlinks to their site, and it's helping their social traffic and brand awareness because you’ll post about the giveaway on social media.
What are some tips on developing a content strategy?
What we do at The Quintessential Gentleman is create an editorial calendar that serves as the basis on what type of content that we’ll have for the entire year. At our company, we have a print magazine that goes out a few times a year (we have a power, style, culture, family and sports issue). We plan content for the magazine based on those themes we've created.
We also have a content calendar that our managing editor updates on a monthly basis for our digital platform. He’ll research any holidays or big events that’s going on to create the calendar and structure our content from there.
Lastly, what tools or software do you use to help grow your business?
For me, Google Analytics is free and it works. When you’re just starting out, you should have Google Analytics on your website, in your newsletter, and on any other web page you create. You should also be looking at your analytics often.
With the content you share, you want to know where the traffic is coming from when someone clicks on a link whether that’s in your email or social media channel. In order to grow, you want to pay close attention to those things and check it frequently.
In your Google Analytics, you want to look at what are the top pages people are visiting, what are the top referrals, where your social traffic is coming from, etc.
Lastly, another tool we use that people forget about is Google Alerts. I think every founder should have a Google Alert on their name and their company, so that you know who is posting about you, whether it’s good or bad.
Both of these tools are easy to use and set up. If you're starting a business or just launched one, you should be using them to help you grow.