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Innovate Fast or Die Slowly - The Same Choice for Media & Marketers

Blog post   •   Apr 07, 2016 15:00 BST

Depending on your outlook, experience and current situation, it is either the best or the worst of times to be in the media and marketing industries. If your career has been built in a pre-digital world where control of distribution, news and marketing messages have been a key to success - then it's pretty scary out there. On the flip-side, if you and your company are riding the wave of digital transformation then its a golden age to be in. 

Whatever camp you fall into, one thing is for sure: you need to find a way to either innovate fast or accept the fact that your career and organisation will die slowly.

Media executives, in particular, have a hard task right now. Managing an ongoing digital transition whilst also maximising their "cash cows" and facing increased competition from media startups and technology companies. Mathias Döpfner, the CEO of one of Europe's largest media houses Axel Springer put it quite well in 2014 when he said, 

"The question is whether traditional content companies will win the game because they have learned how to use technology or whether the technology companies win because they learn how to create content. That is the great game today."

Well it's two years on and I think we can safely say that the technology companies are winning.


We're all facing the challenge of digital transition. Jonathan Bean, our very own Chief Marketing & Growth Officer, shares his three quick ingredients for success on the digital challenges. 

1. Build a talented team

Building the right team is your first step. It is pointless to try digital transformation with the wrong leaders in place and I see this all the time.

A good indicator of digital success is when you have more developers than journalists. This is a painful transition for most media companies who have been run by, and often for, journalists for years. But as the CEO of Wolters Kluwer, Nancy McKinstry told me a few years ago, this was key in the digital transition one of the world's leading legal and healthcare publisher. So put simply - hire more Mark Zuckenbergs and less Joseph Pultizers!

This inital team with digital at its core and an empathy and focus on the user (not just the reader) will create the right organisation, culture and strategy but without them you are lost.

2. Run an innovative engine

The second ingredient in your box of PR tools should be creating an innovation engine. Recognising that innovation takes many forms and is not just centred on product development is key. Taking a lean approach to innovation and focusing on rapid ideation, co-creation, validation and prototyping is a starting point. Often a couple of days, some decent and focused minds and a credit card are all that is needed to build something great.

But your main focus as a leader of digital transition is to create a culture of experimentation. Whether it's about creating a 90 day innovation engine in a larger organisation or a weekly growth framework in a marketing organisation where experiments can rapidly be developed, tested and hypothesis either proved or disproved is a key to success. 

3. Welcome change with open arms

Managing change effectively is the main skill set of any leader at the helm of a digital transition project. My last ingredient, however, is perhaps the hardest, certainly is larger organisations. If you are heading-up an organisation that has a long history of success with existing products and business models upon which careers have been built - be prepared for a fight.

To succeed, one needs to understand and execute the most well known change management model of them all - Kotter's 8 Steps of Change. Here it is for you, but remember, start by creating that sense of urgency... that is the key error I observe in most organisations that are struggling with digital transformation. 

And finally...Good luck!

Read the full version of Jonathan's blog here.