Vector of a businessman with a hammer resetting economy after COVID-19 lockdown

Triple Down on Data, Expand Your Digital, Change Your Culture; Use This Time to Reset and Grow, Kueng Says

“It did take time to get the approval to get a new website. We had focus groups and a wide variety of perspectives. But I’m so glad MOAA did it.” said Yumi Belanga (pictured), senior director, digital programs, office of the CIO, Military Officers Association, in an excellent session with Mark DeVito, president, Beyond Definition, titled The 2020 Association Brand Experience at AMP 2020 last fall.

We started to understand our members more and how important data is in making these decisions. ‘Do we have data to probe that will be beneficial?’… We also learned a lot more about what everyone’s individual goal was. Sometimes we don’t listen. Listening and not just hearing gets to true collaboration. Step outside yourself to put yourself in their shoes.”

Belanga’s comments evoke one of the priorities—to triple down on data—of a terrific ebook published last year by Lucy Kueng, an internationally renowned expert on digital disruption, titled Transformation Manifesto: 9 Priorities for Now. It delves into how publications professionals can change for the better in the aftermath of the pandemic. She wants us to “seize the opportunities presented by the undeniable crisis we face, because those opportunities are truly huge.”

About data, she writes: “You can’t move from want to need on guesswork. You can only shift… by diving deeply into understanding customers and how you can become more important to them… Triple down on data, not just on the volume flowing into the organization but on the caliber of discussions around that data, on the insights derived from it, the hypotheses you develop and test.”

Let’s look at five more of these priorities, with some AMPlification.

1. Growth will be all about digital. “Organizations that have procrastinated on digital are in a tough place,” writes Kueng. “Their transformation runway is suddenly much shorter. They need to pull off a fast pivot—to traverse what disruption specialists call the ‘valley of death’ where [organizations] that fail to reinvent themselves for a digital world get consigned to a slow death—without the substantial legacy revenues that early movers have used to finance this transition. These ‘digital laggards’ are the ones in survival mode, facing difficult decisions.”

I was speaking this week with Lilia LaGesse, an association publishing strategist and frequent speaker for AM&P. Her exceptional presentation at a Lunch & Learn last year highlighted the three main ways that a magazine can be digital: a page-turner, web-based and immersive. She said that while the page-turner can look pretty cool and maintain existing print production process, its user experience, single level of engagement and sharability are much less than the immersive model. As Keung writes, now is a great time to play digital catch-up. Expand your presence. “Find out where your audiences are in the social media eco-system and get your content out to them there.”

2. Seize the moment to do clean-up work that’s overdue. In the same way we have been cleaning out our homes, Kueng wants us to do that with our business—and stop doing things that aren’t successful. “We have been very good at starting things but terrible at stopping them,” she writes. Look at your legacy products. Are they “hangovers from a previous era but still resourced at glory day levels”? She also wants us to pivot in the way we do age-old processes. “Remote working clearly offers opportunities to rebalance fixed costs.”

“I think what happens a lot is that you say these things are important, but you aren’t really following it in leadership with your actions,” said Anita Zielina, director of news innovation and leadership at CUNY’s Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. “Then you have to really be willing to invest or shift money into building a product team. So it’s really kind of a transformation process than anything else, unless you’re building as a start-up. Of this means you ask yourself, ‘What can I stop doing to shift those resources into something else?’”

3. Your culture is unfrozen. There will never be a better time to change it. “Culture is incredibly efficient—it works as an internal protocol that silently influences actions and decisions,” Kueng writes. “Ensure digital voices (often younger and more diverse) have equivalent ‘voice time’ and that they are heard first… The pandemic has broken cultural inertia. Habits have been unbroken. People are expecting things to be different. This is really rare. Now is the time to make your culture into what you want it to be. The trick is to layer culture change objectives into everything else you are doing,”

This will take direct involvement from all staff, especially leaders. At AM&P 2020, keynote speaker Leslie Mac told a great story about a university where she helped conduct some diversity workshops. The heads of the department told her, “We want to spend time with you.” And she said, “That’s great, we’re all going to the workshop.” That was not in the department heads’ plans. “I stopped them,” she said. “’You have to come to the workshop, too.’ They looked at me with [deer-in-the-headlights] eyes. ‘There’s no way unless you come. You need to be there, you need to participate.’ They were really afraid of saying the wrong thing, of being uncomfortable. They came up to me after: ‘I never had this kind of conversation with staff and graduate students. The walls came down. Thank you.’ We can’t silo this kind of work.”

4. Take extravagant care of your teams. “Remote working is often a boon for productivity when tasks are known. [But] it is bad for innovation and setting up new things (and finding a workaround for this is the challenge right now)… Ramp up communication as much as possible. Gather everyone together more often. Remind them that they are part of a cohesive organization.”

Early on in the pandemic, Dan Fink, managing director of Money-Media, told me something that turned out to be prescient. “Since the pandemic isn’t expected to end anytime soon, we have ordered kits for a number of staff who were having difficulty being efficient in their home work space; things like a mouse, keyboard, monitor, office chair, etc. Most of these items are pretty inexpensive on amazon.com but go a long way to helping staff be productive and letting people know how much we appreciate their hard work during this crisis.”

5. Timing is the rarest of strategic skills. Now is the time. “Agility, innovation, optimism—these were the most critical traits for now, according to 22 CEOs surveyed in September 2020. This is a rare reset moment. COVID-19 has been a crisis on so many levels but it is also a huge opportunity: to rethink, to innovate, to shed things that need to be let go of, and to build for the future.”

transformation

Culture as an ‘Internal Protocol’; Now’s a Time for Change, Digital Expert Advises

Do away with products that are not working. Triple down on data. Make cultural changes. “The trick is to layer culture change objectives into everything else you are doing.” Reuters’ Lucy Kueng wants us to use this new normal as a reset to build. “In terms of growth, find out where your audiences are in the social media eco-system and get your content out to them there.”

Kueng, senior research associate at Reuters and internationally renowned expert on digital disruption, published a new ebook late last year titled Transformation Manifesto: 9 Priorities for Now. It delves into how publishers can change for the better in the aftermath of the pandemic. She wants them to “seize the opportunities presented by the undeniable crisis we face, because those opportunities are truly huge.”

Let’s go over five of these priorities, with some of our AMPlification.

Move from nice-to-have to ‘must-have’; triple down on data. “You can’t move from want to need on guesswork,” Kueng writes. “You can only shift… by diving deeply into understanding customers and how you can become more important to them… Triple down on data, not just on the volume flowing into the organization but on the caliber of discussions around that data, on the insights derived from it, the hypotheses you develop and test.”

“To move your audience from individuals who visit the site to read a specific piece of content to loyal subscribers, you must know a lot about them,” writes Sean Griffey, CEO of Industry Dive. “This means that media companies must have access to data in a breadth and volume that wasn’t needed, or available, in the past. Without the ability to fully understand their subscribers, a media company will quickly lag behind—and lose subscribers to competitors.”

Seize the moment to do clean-up work that’s overdue. In the same way we have been cleaning out our homes, Kueng wants us to do that with our business—and stop doing things that aren’t successful. “We have been very good at starting things but terrible at stopping them,” she writes. Look at your legacy products. Are they “hangovers from a previous era but still resourced at glory day levels”? She also wants us to pivot in the way we do age-old processes. “Remote working clearly offers opportunities to rebalance fixed costs.”

“I think what happens a lot is that you say these things are important, but you aren’t really following it in leadership with your actions,” said Anita Zielina, director of news innovation and leadership at CUNY’s Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. “Then you have to really be willing to invest or shift money into building a product team. So it’s really kind of a transformation process than anything else, unless you’re building as a start-up. Of this means you ask yourself, ‘What can I stop doing to shift those resources into something else?’”

Your culture is unfrozen. There will never be a better time to change it. “Culture is incredibly efficient—it works as an internal protocol that silently influences actions and decisions,” Kueng writes. “Ensure digital voices (often younger and more diverse) have equivalent ‘voice time’ and that they are heard first.”

There’s no excuse anymore for a speaker lineup or committee that lacks women or young people or people of color. It just takes a little more outreach and digging—a look at your LinkedIn connections and their connections, or going through the week’s headlines in your niche. It will be well worth it because a diverse speaker lineup should also diversify, and increase, your attendees.

Take extravagant care of your teams. “Remote working is often a boon for productivity when tasks are known. [But] it is bad for innovation and setting up new things (and finding a workaround for this is the challenge right now)… Ramp up communication as much as possible. Gather everyone together more often. Remind them that they are part of a cohesive organization.”

Early on in the pandemic, Dan Fink, managing director of Money-Media, told me something that turned out to be prescient. “Since the pandemic isn’t expected to end anytime soon, we have ordered kits for a number of staff who were having difficulty being efficient in their home work space; things like a mouse, keyboard, monitor, office chair, etc. Most of these items are pretty inexpensive on amazon.com but go a long way to helping staff be productive and letting people know how much we appreciate their hard work during this crisis.”

Timing is the rarest of strategic skills. Now is the time. “Agility, innovation, optimism—these were the most critical traits for now, according to 22 CEOs surveyed in September 2020. This is a rare reset moment. COVID-19 has been a crisis on so many levels but it is also a huge opportunity: to rethink, to innovate, to shed things that need to be let go of, and to build for the future.”

CliveWilkinson1

As Organizations Decide Coming-to-Work Policies, the New Office Takes Shape

For anyone who has ever hosted or attended a party, it will come as no shock to you that the focal point of the office of the not-so-distant future—as imagined by longtime designer of office spaces, Clive Wilkinson Architects—will be a kitchen and lunchroom type space they’re calling The Plaza (shown here). “[It] is truly a social condenser.”

“We’re hearing over and over again from our clients that that’s one of the missing pieces of working from home, and that’s one of the things that’s going to drive people back to the office,” says Caroline Morris of Clive Wilkinson in a Fast Company article today. “It’s a place you can go and fill up your cup of coffee and run into a colleague or meet someone there, and have those spontaneous encounters that you really can’t have virtually.”

The phrase that might best sum up their overall vision is planned serendipity—the idea of accommodating colleagues who want and need to run into each other. The Avenue “reconfigures the typical straightaway office hallway to have nooks, seating and bar-like spaces where passing colleagues can stop and chat without getting in the way.” Also part of what they’re calling the 12 Building Blocks of the New Workplace are a Team Room, Pitch Room, Wellness Room and a Park, which could include outdoor space.

Here are 5 insights to the future of offices and working from home:

Remote in control? According to a recent survey from BCG, 89% of people expect to be able to work from home at least some of the time after the crisis ends. Just over a third (35%) of U.S. workers would switch to a completely remote model if they could. But as an article titled 10 Ways Office Work Will Never Be the Same on Vox’s Recode site points out, while remote work gives us greater flexibility, “the flip side is an increased feeling that work never ends… It’s tough to find work-life balance when the lines between the two are blurred.”

Not another meeting? Interestingly, time spent in meetings is more than double what it was early last year, according to a new report from Microsoft’s Work Trend Index. You can say that’s a natural offshoot of us being so disconnected, but then Microsoft’s January survey found that 54% feel overworked and 39% say they feel exhausted. So something has to give.

One’s sighs does not fit all. Employees returning to the office runs the gamut. According to Business Insider (in a gated story), Bloomberg’s U.S. workers are expected back at the office once they have been vaccinated. ViacomCBS employees will have the option of returning to the office post-July 4th at the earliest. At Dow Jones, offices will begin operating at about 40% capacity on Sept. 7. At Vox Media, no employee will be required to return to the office before September. The Washington Post will begin its return to the office on July 6, but only with about 10% of its overall workforce. And tech companies like Twitter and Salesforce have said they will accommodate remote work indefinitely.

Could a CRO be next? “If you think of other C-suite positions, you have a chief technology officer, a chief financial officer, a chief diversity officer,” Timothy Golden, professor of management at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, told Associations Now. “These types of positions are in charge of overseeing a range of functions within the area of their responsibility, so the chief remote work officer (CRO) would be much the same. They would be in charge of effectively overseeing remote work within their organization and ensuring that it is implemented effectively and work that is carried out remotely is successful.”

Offices will have to conform to new realities. Golden says that research he’s seen indicates that about 25% of employees prefer to be in the office all the time, 25% prefer a completely remote environment, and that remaining half want a hybrid environment where they work 2-3 days from home and go into the office the other days. “Companies need to re-envision their real estate strategy and re-envision the purpose of the office,” Golden said.

One thing is clear: Many more of us now believe in the value of remote work. “The past year has shown how successful we can be while working in new ways, and we know that you are interested in a future that includes flexibility to split time between working remotely and in the office,” Dow Jones CEO Almar Latour and Chief People Officer Kamilah Mitchell-Thomas wrote to employees.

 

cafezoetroeppe

Fresh Prints, Virtual Shuttle Rides and Event Mugs Can Inject Needed Smiles

Innovation is hard. It involves taking chances, which during a pandemic is not easy. But a 2020 survey from Marketing General found that “a culture of innovation is the critical driver” for creating member/subscriber value. ”Try something new or you’ll plateau and decline,” one respondent said. Those who have seen member/subscriber gains “are significantly more likely to have a process in place for innovation and new ideas.”

I might not call it a French revolution, but the touchless Short Story Dispensers that Short Édition, a French publishing house, came up with a few years ago may be another sign that print does have its place.

After a brief stint in Philadelphia, the dispensers have come to the Bay Area. According to a story from BART, riders can access machines that print—yes, print—one-, three- and five-minute reads at Richmond, Fruitvale and Pleasant Hill Stations, with another one coming soon to Montgomery Street Station. Local writers get the chance to have their work published and distributed as part of the project after the one-year pilot, sponsored by the BART Communications Department and Art Program, is up and running.” It’s all touchless, and the paper is, of course, recyclable.

Short Édition created the dispensers a few years ago, printing and distributing their stories in “public spaces around the world with the aim of uplifting literature in a digital age.” Filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, an investor in the company, had one installed in his Café Zoetrope (pictured here) in San Francisco’s North Beach. “[Our customers] are fascinated, trying to figure out how, and why, something can exist to give them a gift, a literary gift, without depositing a coin,” Coppola told BART.

For now, the program specializes in poetry, short stories and flash fiction. But why not B2B? Surely, sponsorships would follow, and it’s healthier than soda. Personally, I hope it comes to Washington, DC., so I would not be the only person reading a physical paper on the Metro.

Here are three more innovative ideas I’ve seen from organizations:

Videos about innovation. On the National Association of Broadcasters website, under a section titled Innovation Stories Videos, a two-minute video shows how Beasley Media Group is reaching young audiences with a novel strategy for a radio broadcasting organization—investing in competitive video gaming. The clip features Lori Burgess, COO for Beasley’s esports division. “Younger consumers around the world…are heavily invested in video gaming,” she said. “And we really saw an opportunity to get very, very immersed in this space and start to attract and develop these relationships with younger consumers when they’re forming their decisions about what matters most to them.”

Virtual shuttle rides. When the Institute of Food Technologists transitioned its Annual Meeting and Food Expo to SHIFT20 Virtual Event and Expo, organizers didn’t want to lose all of the networking opportunities that participants had become used to. Since shuttle rides often lead to spontaneous conversations and connections (I’ve actually had a dew of those myself on the way to hotels or an evening reception), IFT hosted a 15-minute virtual shuttle ride before every evening event. Each night, two IFT members moderated a live shuttle-bus-themed discussion with a guest to chat about the ideas emerging at SHIFT20.

Mugging for the camera. To foster a spirit of connectedness at their annual conference, BIO (Biotechnology Innovation Organization) Digital changed the meeting’s tagline from ‘Beyond’ to ‘Nothing Stops Innovation.’ Then, in advance of the conference, the group mailed all speakers a custom mug with the new tagline.” It was an added expense, but worth it because it gave speakers brand recognition onscreen that reflected togetherness, said Erin Lee, VP of marketing operations and customer experience at BIO. She added that engagement has become “more about building loyalty, the power of the brand, and giving members access to resources and connectivity in a time of need.” BIO surveyed members—always like to hear that—to find out what would be most helpful for them. “We focused on being a service to the industry.”

ASHALive

With Right Offerings, ASHA Shows That a Career Portal Can Deliver Value and $$$

“Thank you everyone for joining us for tonight’s Career Portal Live. My name is Alexis Redmond. I’m ASHA’s director of career management resources. Tonight we’re joined by Ashley Lopez, an ASHA-certified, speech-language pathologist from Texas. And just like every Live, we’re going to kick it off with, ‘Ashley, share your career journey.’”

In fall 2020, Redmond (pictured top) developed an Instagram social media series, Career Portal Live, where she interviewed members about their career journeys for 20 minutes with prepared questions and then allowed the audience to ask questions. “The development process for each episode is about four or five hours per speaker and no real costs,” she said. “Now we’re in a situation that we’re going to be able to do it with vendors. Our sponsorship team valued the offering at $2,500 per episode, and for this year, they have sold seven already.”

For a long time, the job board of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) was supported by a sales director who would do some programming and an occasional article, “but the focus really wasn’t on enriching the member experience,” says Redmond. She took over the task in 2017 and has worked hard to make it a full career portal, and the engagement and revenue have followed.

Redmond has a natural joy and attentiveness that serves her well in these personable interviews—and in our recent Zoom call. (Here’s a link to the talk shown above.) It comes from someone who is helping members at all levels achieve their career goals and giving her organization a tremendous resource—the ASHA career portal—that drives engagement and brings in revenue, especially important in these virtual times.

‘Pulling All This Together’

In this story of career portal creation, Redmond conveys that it’s not easy and takes time to get right, but the rewards can be huge.

She started at ASHA in 2015 as a manager of mailing list sales on the sales team. “We had a separate recruitment advertising team. They had the initial assessment, and they brought us all in to pore over the findings. I’m one of those people that has a weird Jackie-of-all-trades background. I’m an attorney by training, but my bachelor’s is in sociology and anthropology, so I just have a fascination with people in society and how things work and what makes people tick.

“I’m always that person who gets pulled in on projects because I see the stuff that people don’t see. ‘What about this? How does this play with this?’ When they got the feedback, [the supervisor said,] ‘you need to make the job board a career step [place].’ A lot of people in our office weren’t really looking at LinkedIn or other platforms or even at Instagram where people are sharing professional information and resume tips and interview tips.”

Assigned with “pulling all this together,” Redmond began the process to make it a better member experience.

Start with a full content audit. “They had had various articles [posted] throughout the years, and so the challenge was that it wasn’t always a time when people were job searching or transitioning careers,” she says. “Maybe somebody wrote something cool and posted it, but there was not that kind of centralized place to find the information.” Maybe staff could find the relevant job articles, but members couldn’t. Slowly, they started figuring out the content gaps.

Conduct persona development. “One of the cool things we did was go through a persona development process and brought in our practices teams, our research team, and looked at all of our surveys from the last decade or so. We mapped everything we knew about members—if they were students transitioning to professional, or mid-career looking to advance [or] an audiologist working in an ENT clinic…” Redmond recalls.

“We mapped out what resources we have for them, what’s keeping them up at night. What questions do they have when they experience going through career transition and then what content we could create. So that drove our marketing strategy because we knew the cadence of when they’re searching, when we had peak volumes of those job postings. Then we either curated content we already had or [developed] new content, so within the first year of the site made 30 pieces of content.”

Build in self-advocacy. Redmond says that they faced particular challenges in creating a comprehensive portal because their members can work in such a variety of settings and situations. In the past, she said, there had been too much of a “Pollyanna” approach—just go do your work and good things will come—rather than any real self-advocacy or personal brand-building lessons.

“We tried to always add a layer of that self-advocacy, making sure you’re being transparent, so that people understand what you do,” she says. “It makes them feel more empowered. So we were just trying to layer these things so that it wasn’t just like, ‘Here’s a job board, go there when you have a need,’ instead of, ‘Here, we’re always typing out information that is going to help you in your day-to-day.  Then, when you need to find a job, you will actually come to us.”

Be more aligned, more mobile-first. “We knew that we needed to be more innovative with how we present information,” Redmond says. That turned into building their own improved brand voice, “more like, ‘we’re in this with you, we’re together, we’re aligned.’” That allowed them to soften their language a bit and become more approachable.

Not only did the career portal reflect that new brand voice, but the strategy became more deliberate and mobile-focused. “Instead of having like 2000- or 3000-word resources, it was like, ‘Let’s do what’s scalable from a phone,’” Redmond says. “What’s going to be something that someone can do for just a few minutes and feel that they left with a nugget that was valuable?

“Our members have heavy workloads; they don’t have time to always read a treatise, so it was really about thinking what does somebody need to know in this moment, based on the certain experience that they’re having. How can they feel more comfortable and confident in their newness?”

Listen, survey. At that point, staff listened. Surveys were conducted and focus groups brought in to talk about the skills members needed. ASHA also discovered the value of sponsored content marketing packages, where “inside information” and “behind-the-scenes insights” could be conveyed to “help candidates stand out in their jobs and offices… from the people actually doing the hiring.”

And that meant revenue. It was a win-win situation. “We can give tips and resources, but [it’s better to] go to the horse’s mouth and ask, ‘What are you really looking for?’” Redmond said. “We know what the job posting says, but when you’re in that interview, what are those things that are going to really make a candidate stand out?”

Connect on Instagram and add sponsors. That’s where Career Portal Live came in with Redmond interviewing members to talk about career advancement or mentoring. Now they’ve invited sponsors to talk about issues like salary negotiation. “For us it was a matter of going to the sponsors and saying, ‘Our members have this need. How can we partner with you to fill that need and get you some exposure in the process?’” Redmond says. “Because right now, with not being able to do a lot of in-person stuff, people are looking for thought leadership opportunities. So if you can make it really impactful [and something that] members can enjoy, [sponsors will] get their return investment.”

Think of sponsors as partners. Redmond has worked with the sales team to develop a sponsor strategy that’s more of a partnership. “For recruitment advertising sales, that’s meant a lot of time nurturing those relationships,” she says. “We know that they have different needs and want more exposure and engagement. Our student organization has done networking events where the sponsor could come and present about what’s happening in the industry”—again, giving that inside view.

Later on, Redmond tells a story about a student she met two years ago at one of those events. “He came in and said, ‘I really don’t need this, I’m pretty well connected.’ And I said, ‘Well, let’s talk about LinkedIn,’ and he was like, ‘Okay.’ Turns out the advice—posting articles he wrote—turned some heads. He’s now on faculty, running a clinic and doing early childhood hearing screenings for one of the major hospitals in Utah. “I didn’t think that was going to be possible,” he told her.

“An organization may have a hard time hiring because, for us, it’s a lot of rural clinics, and if they’re able to get a voice and share the benefits of working there, they can get really good candidates,” Redmond says proudly. “So it’s really helpful once everyone gets to the table and shares those insights and those dialogues and they turn into opportunity.

“And if you can get [students] engaged and feeling really tied to a community that supports them, they’re going to be around forever.”

A B2B Aspect

Redmond’s role has remained in the marketing and sales team. “So everything organically has that duality of understanding that there has to be a B2B aspect or a vendor aspect, whatever we’re doing on the B2C side,” she says. “So it’s really about finding those opportunities to add value. Once you know what the pain points are or where there are gaps or need on either side, that’s when you can get anything.

“I think about little ways to bridge that gap and start with dialogue between the job seekers and employers so that’s where we either issue new content or have an event or we’ve done some things like social media stories or reached out to the podcasts,” Redmond adds.

After trial and error, Instagram, not the more expected Facebook, has become the go-to for the career portal. “When you’re going the route of career development content you have to know where the places are that they’re really making their decisions about their career stuff vs. just consuming content. So you can’t treat every channel the same.”

Again, she says, a key is to listen and not always join the conversation. “Just being in the space and observing what’s happening can be really helpful to keep your content grounded. Sometimes we can get very internalized and work with our head down.”

It’s really about thinking through all the touch points and all the areas that people may be engaging that could be an opportunity to get in front of them. Sponsors now come to them on a “pretty regular basis. The other thing is that we’re always being innovative,” Redmond says. “What new ways of presenting content are out there? Let’s see if this is of interest to the members.”

And that’s what it comes down to—member value. “How do they just navigate the space as an individual—that was where we had to make our pivot because we were getting beat all over the place by big-box job boards,” Redmond says. “We knew we had to do this better because they can be nimble and focused and we’re doing so much stuff. We [knew] that if we didn’t really focus on it and figure it out, it would take us years to catch up.”