Great media companies have different strengths, but one common trait

Arif Durrani, head of media at Campaign, editor of Media Week
Arif Durrani, head of media at Campaign, editor of Media Week

If you could work for any media company in the UK, which one would you choose? It's a loaded question, revealing perceptions of an organisation's heritage, culture and future growth prospects.

Ultimately, we’re talking about a company’s reputation, and a great reputation continues to attract top talent as surely as a bad one repels it.

Well, The Lighthouse Company has asked precisely that question to 350 leaders already in or around the industry as part of a wide-ranging qualitative study into senior media talent.

The study, to be unveiled tonight (Thursday), finds the UK’s most desirable media companies to work for in 2014 are Twitter, Google, Sky, Channel 4 and ITV. All are well-known but represent entirely different propositions.

In terms of scale, they don’t come much bigger than Google, on its mission to "reorganise the world’s information". Passing ExxonMobil’s market capitalisation last week, Google became the second-most-valuable organisation in the world after Apple, at $395.42 billion. But we all know it’s culture, not size, that makes Googlers wax lyrical.

Any tech-led company run out of the West Coast and post-IPO needs to have a strong identity in London

Its San Fran neighbour Twitter may be dwarfed in value ($28.83 billion), but its aim of "creating and enabling a free and global conversation" clearly still excites. Any tech-led company run out of the West Coast and post-IPO needs to have a strong identity and momentum in London to continue to attract top talent.

The remaining companies on the wish list, in a great result for TV, are all home-grown. No surprise that the re-energised ITV (market cap: £8.13 billion), "at the heart of popular culture", is in the mix. Similarly, the satellite leader BSkyB (£14.01 billion) continues to be propelled by the belief that people wanted a better choice of TV.

The "born risky" Channel 4, meanwhile, is a publicly owned, ad-funded public service broadcaster – try explaining that to Americans. But, as it reminded us only last week by adopting the colours of the rainbow flag and producing a camp-cabaret trailer ahead of the Winter Olympics, this is a company steeped in values.

To me, The Lighthouse findings suggest people with the luxury of choice like working for companies that stand for something. It feels poignant as we’re knee-deep in Campaign’s 2014 School Reports. It’s notable that only 10 per cent of those surveyed wanted to work for a media agency. How many have a truly unique ethos?

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