I recently spent the night sleep­ing out under the stars with my kids. I use the term sleep­ing loosely but more on that in a minute. Through­out the day, other, more appeal­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties sud­denly appeared: A night out with friends, din­ner and a movie. One friend even asked if I wanted to play video games online into the wee hours of the morn­ing. I would have slept more with that option. But I decided to stick it out and focus on what I felt was most impor­tant. And as expected, the night was chal­leng­ing. I tossed and turned on the hard ground, and went from hot to cold and then colder. My kids made sure I woke up at such reg­u­lar inter­vals that the night turned into a series of cat­naps. I was bleary eyed and exhausted by morn­ing. But I woke up to sat­is­fied smiles and hugs of gratitude.

What on earth does camp­ing have to do with media, online mar­ket­ing, ana­lyt­ics? As I thought about that night it reminded me of the media space. It’s no big secret our indus­try has had some chal­lenges recently. And often our cus­tomers are pre­sented with a vari­ety of attrac­tive ini­tia­tives and alter­na­tives as they work to improve their busi­nesses: Sil­ver bul­lets, lat­est and great­est fads, and dis­trac­tions. They seem so much more inter­est­ing or attrac­tive, and we may even con­vince our­selves that they are most impor­tant. Some­times they may match up with a crit­i­cal issue. But often they are just that-distractions.

It’s the Econ­omy, Stupid

Remem­ber the 1992 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign? James Carville coined the phrase that helped carry Bill Clin­ton to vic­tory over incum­bent George H.W. Bush, “It’s the econ­omy, stu­pid.” A country’s key busi­ness issue laid out in all its sim­plic­ity. But at times focus­ing on your company’s most impor­tant busi­ness ques­tions can feel like sleep­ing out on the hard ground on a cold night. Often, these “Key Busi­ness Require­ments,” as they are known around here, are the unspo­ken ele­phants in the room. Maybe you aren’t even sure what they are but are afraid to ask because it should be so obvi­ous, right? Maybe…but my expe­ri­ence is that too many peo­ple in media orga­ni­za­tions don’t know what their busi­ness is really try­ing to accom­plish, and how they fit into the big­ger pic­ture. And know­ing the crit­i­cal busi­ness issues is only half the bat­tle. You might won­der if there’s pre­cious lit­tle to be gained from the work involved. Isn’t it just bet­ter to keep your head down and do what you’ve been doing? Right now, your com­pany needs every extra push it can get to move for­ward, espe­cially in this econ­omy. And the effort can be like the sat­is­fac­tion kids get from a fun night camp­ing out, or a par­ent will­ing to stick it out with them.

Con­sider these ques­tions as you go about your job:

1. Do you truly under­stand what your busi­ness is about? If not, I would sug­gest a meet­ing with your supe­ri­ors ask­ing for clar­i­fi­ca­tion and express a desire to have your work align more clearly with the com­pany goals. You should be hear­ing Key Busi­ness Require­ment descrip­tions like, “max­i­mize our image as a cut­ting edge infor­ma­tion provider using new tech­nolo­gies such as video and mobile,” or “decrease aban­don­ment and improve engage­ment for our enter­tain­ment media des­ti­na­tion.”
Don’t expect your exist­ing work to be elim­i­nated or to receive a pro­mo­tion to “crit­i­cal projects czar.” It just won’t hap­pen. But you will see your work through a new lens when you under­stand the big pic­ture, allow­ing you the con­trol to feed the impor­tant oppor­tu­ni­ties and starve the less impor­tant. Plus your boss will hope­fully appre­ci­ate your com­mit­ment to mov­ing the com­pany in the right direction.

2. Do you spend any of your work­week on these busi­ness crit­i­cal issues? You might think ALL of your time is spent this way. But take closer stock of your typ­i­cal tasks now that you under­stand what’s really crit­i­cal. In my time work­ing with all types of cus­tomers, the most suc­cess­ful have learned as a team to keep their eye on the ball and tar­get those issues that will really move the busi­ness for­ward– not just main­tain the sta­tus quo. In other words, now that you know what the big pic­ture is, what are you per­son­ally doing to help increase cus­tomer engage­ment, drive traf­fic, and strengthen your brand? Are you involved in tasks that can be auto­mated or taught to oth­ers so they can fish for them­selves? If you find your­self strug­gling to find time for these crit­i­cal issues, start small. Just an hour a week can be spent think­ing about your pri­or­i­ties and work­ing on a KBR spe­cific project. As you see results, build momen­tum and share your experiences.

3. Do you have appro­pri­ate buy in from your boss, an exec­u­tive spon­sor, and your peers as you tackle these Key Busi­ness Require­ments? No? Then reach out and speak up! The indi­vid­u­als in one com­pany I worked with were extremely siloed across depart­ments. As we encour­aged them to evan­ge­lize and con­nect, I per­son­ally par­tic­i­pated in cross team intro­duc­tions between indi­vid­u­als that, sadly, should have known each other much ear­lier. Once the mar­ket­ing depart­ment under­stood how sales was using data to drive the pub­lish­ing rev­enue, and sales under­stood mar­ket­ing strat­egy for attract­ing vis­i­tors, com­mu­ni­ca­tion increased, syn­er­gies devel­oped, and bet­ter ideas were born. But you must be will­ing to give as well as get. Per­haps you can do some­thing for some­one in edi­to­r­ial, mar­ket­ing, sales or IT that will make a dif­fer­ence in their big pic­ture. The beauty of dri­ving towards KBR’s is that you should all ulti­mately be work­ing towards the same goals!
All orga­ni­za­tions move up a matu­rity curve. The key is to start where you are today and make mea­sured steps for­ward, accept­ing that you don’t work in a per­fect envi­ron­ment and that you or your com­pany will stum­ble now and then. I look for­ward on com­mu­ni­cat­ing with you more on all things media. My goal is to pro­vide sug­ges­tions and infor­ma­tion on our prod­ucts, solu­tions and strate­gies as they relate to us in the Media indus­try. I hope we can point our con­ver­sa­tions back to these crit­i­cal busi­ness dri­vers and hear, “we’re dis­cussing things that make a dif­fer­ence in my business.”

3 comments
Sara Kenton
Sara Kenton

Question: You mentioned that there are several methods to tie the SiteCatalyst cookie ID to the ad server coookie ID. What are those methods? How does it work?

Jonny Longden
Jonny Longden

Well said. One thing to add though: in many organisation, trying to align one's self to corporate goals can often lead to a dead end because there really aren't any. Even huge organisations are guilty of this, and it's usually because these goals exist only in the minds of the most senior people and, whilst the organisation is driven by these goals, nobody is ever really able to articulate them. In this situation, it is the job of the analyst to tease these goals out of the powers that be and lay them out in such a way that it is possible to align anything to them. A relevant recent blog post that I wrote: http://actionable-analytics.com/2009/07/how-to-build-a-digital-measurement-framework/ Jonny Longden

Chad Greenleaf
Chad Greenleaf

Thanks for the insightful comment Jonny. It's true that many organizations need to do a better job of sharing this information from the top down and VP's, directors, and analysts may have to "manage" their superiors to get these insights.