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.”