by Michael McCord
New Hampshire Business Review, February 26, 1999
Reprinted with permission of the New Hampshire Business Review
The MEDIALink convergence began in the fall of 1997, when Lori Martone and Greg Brooks, with a combined 30 years of video production experience, started thinking seriously about working together to create an all-service video production company.
It made sense. Martone had plenty of sales experience in radio, newspapers and television, including stints at The Telegraph of Nashua and WGIR-FM. Brooks was an experienced producer and videographer who had worked with Martone as operations manager at WNDS Channel 50 in Derry, in addition to working as a news editor at Channel 7 in Boston and running his own side business, Action Productions Inc., since 1992.
Both Brooks and Martone were laid off from Channel 50 two years ago in the midst of the station's reorganization. But as befits many stories of those caught in the roller coaster ride of the new economy of the past two decades, they made an entrepreneurial shift. Martone used her almost two decades of media sales savvy to form Hampton-based MEDIALink, a "different kind of media agency, one which would do the media consulting grunt work for companies, to assist in everything from media buying time to budget planning." As for Brooks, he admits to being frustrated by the lack of imagination often found in television station operations. For example, at Channel 50, he said, "there were many times when I had ideas that would break us out of the typical production grind," but those ideas often fell on deaf ears.
Brooks and Martone had already established a connection as producers of well-known cable and local TV shows that vie for your attention in the early morning hours, an interesting mix that includes used car dealer shows, Pat Whitley's "diningout.com" and "Showcase of Homes." And at the top of the charts, there is the very popular line-dancing show, "Dancin' East of the Border," which ran on Channel 50, Channel 9 in Manchester and Channel 13 in Portland during the past couple of years (for their video dancing efforts, they won a 1995 Media award from the N.H. Country Music Association). In addition to producing half-hour shows and commercials directly for television -- including a national award for a commercial developed for Eastern Propane -- they've created industrial videos for companies such as Waste Management and Coca-Cola of Northern New England.
A unique niche
The merging of their talents under the MEDIALink title took place last year, and Brooks and Martone have wasted little time in searching out new avenues to increase business. What separates MEDIALink from the hundreds of video production companies in the state is that Brooks and Martone see themselves as proactive in creating opportunities.
"One thing I've learned over the years in selling advertising is that I am fearless when it comes to approaching customers with ideas," Martone says.
Brooks adds that it's not within their combined thought processes to stand pat. As opposed to many service companies, which often wait for potential customers to contact them, Martone and Brooks occupy a unique niche for actively connecting businesses to television marketing potential by not only making the product but also buying the television time necessary to give it maximum exposure. The goal, Martone says, is to be able to provide clients of all sizes a wide range of media services.
Two of their latest and connected ideas may help MEDIALink establish itself as a leader in production innovation. The fast is an ambitious half-hour business profiles show, a variation on the infomercial theme, that will begin running on New England Cable News next month. The second is a merging of video production and the Internet, what Brooks calls "the future of the industry that's already arrived and that we plan to take full advantage of--television on demand and at the viewer's convenience."
Martone says "New England Business Profiles" for which MEDIALink has purchased time from NECN, represents a creative combination of traditional video production thinking with the promise of worldwide Internet exposure.
"What we are selling is a fresh new approach to marketing, one that gives maximum exposure to companies for their investment," says Martone.
Brooks says, "There are hundreds of companies we drive by each day, and how often do we wonder, 'What do they do?' We want to give many of those unknown companies a voice, an image."
The business profile idea offers a one-stop-shopping video production experience, Martone explains. Companies can increase their exposure through six-minute profiles, which will run on two consecutive Sundays at 4:30 p.m. on NECN, which reaches more than 2.4 million homes in New England. But that's not the end of the story. The same profile segment can be used as a marketing and sales video for businesses to fit such needs as recruitment. And as a further benefit, the video can be formatted to run on the company's Web site, or via a direct link from MEDIALink's Web page. Companies also can purchase commercial time on the business profiles show.
On the Internet side, Brooks says he's immersed himself for the past two years in figuring out the many-faceted aspects of this explosive medium.
During a recent visit to MEDIALink's Drakeside Road office, I watched Brooks navigate through the company's Web site, which is continually evolving and will eventually contain all of its production output, whether it is homes for sale on one page or a business profile on another. And it's "accessible at all times," Brooks says.
"The Internet is so democratic and allows anyone with good ideas to become a producer. On the video side, we run into the difficulty of quality being hurt by slow transmission through traditional telephone lines. But technology like fiber optic transmission is catching up quickly and we are ready to be on the cutting edge."
MEDIALink is heavily investing in the future. Ancient video production equipment, once the staple of the business and barely a decade old, has been replaced by a totally computerized digital editing system. And business has increased significantly in the past year. Martone says the company plans to hire two full-time people, one for sales and the other for video production.
When asked about the future, Brooks says that while the technology has changed, the basic story-telling fundamentals of the business will remain the same. "Whether it's on TV or the computer screen, it's still about using the best pictures and words you can to present a story, an image. I don't think that quality will change."