Dollars and sense: How do we measure the value of our work?

Last month, I attended the AmericaEast Media Business & Technology Conference. This year’s two-and-a-half-day event at the Hershey Lodge & Convention Center featured panelists, speakers and vendors driven by a common mission: producing meaningful AND profitable journalism in a fast-paced world increasingly dominated by digital content.

After all, media organizations like the Business Journal have to both make money and stay technologically relevant to keep bringing you the news on which you rely.

As web editor here at the Business Journal, it’s part of my job to work with our various departments – sales and marketing, circulation and our event coordinators – to develop innovative ways to promote the work we do here on a digital scale. AmericaEast helped me open my mind to the endless ways to do this and to optimize tools like social media to generate income. (Hot take: Social media is not your business’s friend. Use it like it uses you! Yes, I’m looking at you, Facebook!)

I have a hard time thinking in these business-driven terms. As a millennial and creative thinker, I consider myself pretty digitally literate and keyed in to the latest digital storytelling trends, but analyzing those tools in terms of “return on investment” does not come naturally to me.

I get the sense I’m not alone in feeling this way, that many young professionals in Central Pennsylvania are more likely to rally around community-based, conceptual models of measuring growth, like the popularity of a city’s bike-sharing systems or a new dream-turned-reality small-business venture, than the ones that will make the most cash.  

To me and, I believe, to other local young professionals, sharing our region’s stories is driven more by a sense of pride and investment in seeing our home grow and progress than it is by dollars and cents.

I certainly don’t mean to downplay the necessity of YPs who do think in numbers. All you local bankers, real estate agents, small-business owners, tech innovators and beyond, thank you for offering up your technical thinking skills and melding them with other young professionals like me, who think more conceptually!

In this month’s Young Professionals newsletter, as in the past two editions, you’ll see that forward-thinking mindset on display is full-force: Reporter Shelby White writes about how millennials are shaping digital banking trends. You’ll read about Gareth Pahowka, a 32-year-old York education lawyer whose work with schools and youth extends well beyond the workday. And you’ll read about the personal reason behind one Transitional Living staff member’s work at the Milton Hershey School.

So while the media industry is feeling the heat of monetizing its products now more than ever, we can temper that pressure with the strength of our community and not being shy about the true value of our work. If I want to continue telling the stories of young professionals in Central Pennsylvania, I know I can’t push away the analytical, the technical, the money talk. I’ll continue opening my mind and challenging myself on new ways of thinking about the value of the work we do here at the Central Penn Business Journal and in our greater region.

Becca Oken-Tatum
Becca Oken-Tatum is the web editor for the Central Penn Business Journal. She also coordinates and writes for CPBJ's monthly Young Professionals e-newsletter. Email her questions, comments and tips at btatum@cpbj.com.

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