Captain Obvious comment: the print business model is challenged. But if that’s the undeniable case, why haven’t more companies undergone a “digital transformation” like the rest of the business community has been for 20 years?
It’s simple: change is hard.
One of the gravest mistakes organizations make is to assume that change will flow naturally throughout your organization. But it’s not so. There is an entire process called change management devoted to motivating teams to think differently so they can enter new phases of growth successfully. These five best practices for change will help your publication undergo its next transformation so you can thrive in the digital world.
1. Create a Process
When done well, change in your organization is highly systematized—even down to the people.
Create a process for how you expect to enact the change in your organization, how you plan to react to different scenarios (say, if someone isn’t on board with the new plan), and exactly how you intend to reach your new goals.
A good place to start is to state your goal. What change are you trying to make? Then, outline every single step it will take to get you there. Who needs to be on board? What processes and systems need to be revised? Baby steps, if/then scenarios, and plans for team training will help you make sure that change flows down through your team steadily and successfully.
For a publication business, your process outline might look something like this:
Goal: To “digitally transform” our business.
- Talk to our team.
- Let them know digital subscriptions are the new priority.
- Share our plan for how to make this happen.
- Improve our online presence.
- Audit social media profiles and improve them for “best practices.”
- Update the website to be mobile responsive.
- Create more CTAs for digital subscriptions on the site.
- Launch our first digital marketing campaign.
- Set a budget for paid promotions.
- Create ad copy for search engines and social.
- Send a newsletter to all subscribers that encourages switching to an online subscription.
This outline is a small sample, but you get the idea!
From the outline, it becomes easier to answer your questions about how to systemize change across the board. Already, you can see you’ll need to communicate the change to your entire organization. And your marketing and sales teams definitely need to be on board and serve as leaders for the new process. Plus, if those teams have been prioritizing print for decades, they might need some training on how to revise their language, budgets, and strategies for all these new digital campaigns.
Updating your process from top to bottom isn’t easy—but it is possible if you prepare.
2. Get Your Leaders on Board at Every Level
The big change should be desirable and relevant so you can get your leadership team on board at every level. It starts with the C-suite and should cascade downward. It’s not enough for your CEO and CMO to want to go digital. The head of your sales team needs to be excited; your customer service leader needs to be ready for all the new training, and so on and so forth.
At this stage, data is your best friend. For example, in 2016 The New York Times print advertising revenue in 2016 fell 16%, but digital advertising revenue rose 6% to $209 million. The company added 514,000 net digital-only subscriptions for its news products during the year.
It’s hard to argue with facts. Data like this helps share how other print businesses are successfully turning digital. It explains why the move is urgent and helps to get your leaders excited and supportive for the next phase of your business.
3. Create Ownership Among Team Members
Because change is hard, inevitably some of your team members will resist it. Transformation requires your teams to be genuine cheerleaders for your organization, and even passive acceptance will cause friction as you work to integrate completely new systems within your team. You need to get each and every last person excited about what’s to come.
You can help team members own the process by clearing communicating what’s to come, why it’s happening, and how you plan to do so. Then, you can create incentive programs that actually work so that everyone feels compelled to own a piece of the puzzle. (For more information on how to do so, we suggest reading Ownership Thinking by Brad Hams.)
Change is exciting—but it’s also pretty messy. As much as you try to prepare, create processes ahead of time, and keep your team informed and excited, you simply cannot predict some of the roadblocks (or victories!) your organization will face as you undergo this experience.
Because of this, transparency is key to success. Communicate with your team early and often about how things are going. Did you try a marketing campaign to boost digital subscriptions that totally flopped? People need to know. Marketing can revise their assets; sales can revamp their pitch, and on and on. Alternately, did you have an incredibly successful quarter thanks to a big paid promotion on social media? Share that, too! If you don’t communicate as you work through each step of your digital transformation, it can leave your team feeling unmoored.
Which brings us to our final and perhaps most important best practice.
5. Review, Reflect, and React
Don’t forget to measure your efforts against your big goal and adjust your strategy accordingly. Nothing is set in stone when you’re making a major change, and processes will have to continue to evolve as you learn. Always examine the why and the how: Why are we implementing this next step? How does it help us meet our ultimate goal?
Remember: Be patient with your team; change takes time. Your new plan for the business, whether it’s going digital or something else entirely, is asking your team to break down everything they know as the status quo and build it back up in a new way. Be clear, be open, and be prepared so you can enter your new phase of growth successfully.
How Sterling Woods Group Can Help
We all know the digital world is messy and confusing with many competing technologies, integration headaches, and the recognition that today’s solution might not work tomorrow. At Sterling Woods, we support digital transformation by growing content creators’ digital revenues to over 50% of their total business.
Want to learn more? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a free 30-minute consultation.
About the Author, Rob Ristagno
Rob Ristagno is the founder of The Sterling Woods Group and partners with companies to drive rapid digital revenue growth. Prior to creating Sterling Woods, Rob served as a senior executive for several niche media and e-commerce companies. Rob started his career as a consultant at McKinsey and holds degrees from the Harvard Business School and Dartmouth College. He has taught Product Strategy at Boston College.