The f-tank approach: How to stay relevant in the media industry

Andrew Pascoe
By Andrew Pascoe | 31 January 2024
Andrew Pascoe.

Andrew Pascoe explains why staying curious and giving a fuck are the key to keeping your finger on the industry’s pulse.

Given we’re an industry that prides itself on shiny new things, rapid technological evolution and being tapped into popular culture, there’s an expectation to keep your finger on the pulse.

It’s almost second nature when you’re 25. But as you get older and life becomes more complicated, staying in the know takes a bit of effort.

Granted, just because you're old doesn't mean you're out of touch. But if you don’t actively work to stay in touch, chances are you will be left behind.

Obviously, you need to stay up to date on the latest advances in the industry that are relevant to your role. You can't afford to let that go. But do you have to be across every new trend and fad or can you pick and choose where and how you stay connected?

As the grey hairs take over, how can you stay in touch? Here are my top five tips.

Keep giving a fuck

This business makes many demands of us all and after a while, there’s a danger you might just stop giving a fuck. Once that happens, it’s a downhill slope to early retirement.

If you want to stay in touch, you need to keep giving a fuck. Staying curious (see below) fuels your ability to give a fuck. It fills up your fuck tank so you have more fucks left to give.

Of course, you don’t have to give a fuck about everything. Use your discretion to determine what is worth giving a fuck about. Find a balance so you don’t deplete the fuck tank prematurely. 

Whether it’s the wisdom that’s been around since the early Alcoholics Anonymous serenity prayer (grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference) or the more recent therapyTok musings of The Mindset Mentor (your level of stress will be in direct proportion to how much you’re resisting the way the world is), the lesson is the same.

Stay curious

Curiosity fuels a desire to learn and understand new things. By staying curious you can stay in touch with the industry as it continues to evolve.

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day. To stay curious, ask questions, even dumb ones.

Practice active listening.

Adopt a mindset of curiosity. For some, it comes naturally, but you might need to work at it. 

If you find it helpful, put physical prompts around your workspace – post-its or cards on or around your laptop or monitor, for example.

Listen to your kids

It goes without saying that we all listen to our kids, right? Okay, sometimes we might just look like we’re listening, but it pays to stay tuned in to what they have to say. Not only does it win you parental brownie points, but it also helps you get clued into the latest fads and trends.

For starters, if I didn’t listen to my kids, I wouldn’t know about Mr Beast, Prime, or what YEET means.

I’m not saying you need to know everything about emerging pop culture, but it doesn’t hurt to dip a toe in. And if you have kids, you’ve got a direct line to staying informed. So put them to work for you.

Maintain your relationships with the media

As you work your way up the ranks in media agencies, you inevitably move away from the coal face. Your role becomes more high-level or focused on people management.

Relationships with your team are crucial but I would argue relationships with the media are also key. By talking to media reps, you will get a handle on what’s happening out there faster than trawling through hours of trade press articles. Which leads to my next point.

Synthesise your sources

Who among us these days has time to read every website or newspaper, watch every TV show or listen to every podcast? You need to work smarter not harder to stay informed. And the best way to do that is by synthesising your sources.

Identify the topics and themes you simply can’t afford not to know about then find a source that gives you all the info you need in a format that works for you. That could be podcasts, books or newsletters. You choose.  

For example, for a wide-ranging business news snapshot daily in about 15 mins, it’s the Fear and Greed podcast. For my go-to snapshot of tech news, it’s the aggregator site Techmeme. For local culture and video, a show like The Cheap Seats gives you news and reality TV all in one.

In short, lean in and keep learning because if you get too comfortable and purely rest on your experience instead of genuinely, critically thinking about where the new stuff fits in or how it can be more valuable than what you have always done, you will get left behind.

The onus is on us as individuals to stay relevant and up to date.

But the onus is also on the industry to continue to offer opportunities for growth, connection and understanding.

A lot of what we do from a learning and development stage happens at the beginning of our careers. As we get older, those opportunities peter off. But they shouldn’t. Employers need to create the kind of workplace that fosters learning at any age.

Until then, keep giving a fuck. Your career, and the industry, will be better for it.

Andrew Pascoe is the Head of Product at Hatched.


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