The six success factors of Newsroom

The six success factors of Newsroom

The six success factors of Newsroom

Author: Thomas Mickeleit

Newsrooms have been a hot topic and a reliable filler of conferences and seminars for 10 years. A survey of 161 professionals and executives conducted by AG CommTech in December 2021 found that 31[1] percent of PR executives already have a newsroom and 10 percent will soon get one, meaning they are in the process of rolling it out. A large proportion – 33 percent – is not yet ready. They would like to have a newsroom, but haven’t started the rollout yet. A not inconsiderable proportion – 25 percent – do not need it according to their own assessment.

Newsrooms therefore remain a controversial topic. This is also due to the fact that there are many credible reports of newsroom projects failing spectacularly and that the high expectations are apparently often not fulfilled. Thus, “remediation measures” occupy a not inconsiderable space in consulting practice.

This leads to the question: Can this be prevented and failure prevented or, to put it positively: What actually makes the newsroom successful? We are talking about six success factors here.

1. strategy

First of all, you need a strategy. Many companies, while implementing the newsroom, discover that they have no strategy at all! A corporate strategy as the essay point for the communication strategy is essential. The big silverware consists of vision, mission, values, the strategy and tactical goals. In contrast to what is often practiced, communication goals are not derived from short-term corporate objectives. We have to find the right flight level here from which we can really derive our communication goals. In many organizations, however, this corporate strategy does not exist and this task must be addressed. Here, communication can make a catalytic contribution to initiate and accompany the strategy process.

Having a communications strategy based on corporate strategy is not enough. It must also be implemented in practice. There are many reasons for the failure, but the lack of budget allocation stands out above all. Thus, the control is lacking. to bring a strategy to life, to stay the course.

Then, interestingly, “staying the course” is not only a matter of “doing”, but it is primarily a matter of “not doing”. What do I leave out? What do I no longer concern myself with? Here it helps to follow a principle, namely the ultimate application of the “Eisenhower Principle”. The Eisenhower Principle (also known as the Eisenhower Method or Eisenhower Matrix) organizes an organization’s tasks into four categories (A, B, C and D tasks) based on their importance and urgency. We communicators are hounded every day to implement any seemingly urgent issues. And we often prioritize wrongly in that case, getting involved in being chased from left to right. Then the strategically important topics fall by the wayside and communication gets lost in actionism to the point of exhaustion. Here, backbone, equanimity and a portion of constructive resistance in the sense of “We’re not doing that now. Let’s talk about what this actually brings.”

2. transparency

The newsroom will only work if it is characterized by absolute transparency. All team members and also other stakeholders outside the function must be actively involved. You need to know: What is actually being worked on here? This is the prerequisite for actually leveraging the synergy effects in a newsroom. That content created in one place is scaled across all relevant channels. None of this will happen if team members don’t know what is taking place. We accomplish this through high-frequency meeting formats. So meeting once a fortnight will do no good. It’s more like daily, but maybe only ten minutes. You need, in order to create that transparency, a CVD or a CVD that manages that operationally. A CVD is the anchor point in such a structure. Without one person getting behind it and saying, “I’m doing this, I’m taking care of this, I’m demanding transparency,” every day, every moment, it doesn’t work.

The larger an organization is, the more digital supporting tools are needed. Planning, production, distribution tools in Kanban format, calendar format, etc., that come into play here. There are low-cost, no-cost entry points there to start with. But the larger an organization is, and the higher the demands are, and the more stakeholders have to be involved, the less these low-cost solutions are sufficient.

3. sensor technology

Sensing is the aggregation of all internal and external feedback that the organization experiences from the environment, in the form of data. This starts with usage data from internal collaboration tools, the CRM system, external data such as social listening, community management and, last but not least, media analytics. Unlike the widespread practice where the clipping report lands on the table after four weeks, real-time sensing is required: where do we actually stand? What are our data points that we can use to strategically communicate, to create connectivity of communication? To do this, you basically need an outside-in view that is fueled by a wide variety of data points and that helps you to know exactly what you’re communicating rather than just throwing it out there blindly: What interests are we encountering? What is the correct temporal context? With which terminologies can we act? All these questions answer themselves from it. And if I don’t have sensors, if I don’t do these real-time analytics, then the press office is flying blind.

Some organizations now have so-called “command centers” where all this information flows together. There, data is processed, aggregated, visualized, interpreted and made “actionable” through recommendations for action. Beyond their use in the newsroom, they serve as decision-making aids for management. Surprisingly, listening tools and other relevant data sources exist – not infrequently redundantly – in various functions, e.g., Marketing, HR, or Customer Success. So it’s always worth looking at where you can find allies with whom you can establish such a center – to your mutual advantage.

4. stack holder map

Basically, it is a truism, but by no means lived everywhere. I need to know: Who are the internal stakeholders in my organization? Who are the Subject Matter Experts, who are the Channel Owners? Why is this important? Communication stews in its own juices and has no impact in the organization if it does not interact seamlessly with all stakeholders. Doubters are advised: Once you start researching this, you realize: There are three times as many stakeholders as you originally suspected. This is especially true for channels, but the search should not be limited to digital platforms. It goes via newsletters, event formats and much more. Channel owners need to be identified in order to engage with them in the newsroom context and involve them in this process.

Externally, I need to know: Who do I actually want to communicate with? Who is important? And that works on the basis of personas. The traditional methodology of communication – “A lot helps a lot, and I fire out blithely. One size fits all” – is the worst of all methods. The more targeted, the more precisely I address the interests of the target group, the more effective it is. You just have to do it!

Stakeholder orientation becomes even more ambitious with the CommTech philosophy: I not only have to identify the target group as such, but I also have to include their location, i.e. on an individual level, in the stakeholder journey. It makes a difference whether I approach someone who has never heard of the brand/product/solution or is already very familiar with it. If I take this into account, which requires much more use of data in communication, it becomes much more precise and effective.

5. channels

A newsroom needs a clear understanding of which channels exist and how successful they are. Which channels are not working and where is access to important stakeholders missing? Do my channels actually match the audience I have defined? The goal is a match between audience and stakeholder map and channels.

From all of this, a channel playbook must emerge that describes owners, audiences, frequencies, and clearly helps topic owners to play out their content with precision.

6. agility

A corporate newsroom will only work if it is supported by team structures and processes. First of all, the fundamental goal is to increase the speed of response in the newsroom and to react to short-term opportunities. If you manage a trade fair or a large event as a communication project on a long-term basis, the cooperation often works out today. That gives you time to think things through. These are the experiences that are often referred to when communications managers say: “Newsroom, we’ve been doing that for a long time. The ability to react at short notice, on the other hand, requires an organization that is characterized by a high degree of personal responsibility, flexibility, self-direction and cooperation. Today, such organizations are called “agile”.

There are six dimensions of agility, as researched by the Academic Society for Communication and Corporate Management in Leipzig. Structures, processes, people, culture, technologies and tools. It is these dimensions that add up to the agility of a team. And that’s why it’s not enough to sit down in a circle and hold hands and say, “Yeah, but we’re agile now.” Rather, it’s a stone’s throw to change the micro-culture of a team and move all the levers that support that change: Do I have the right tools in place to work with? Have I created the right organizational structures to support my processes? As the leader of the function, am I fulfilling the role as a coaching leader and have I said goodbye to outdated leadership methods? And that, continued across all these six dimensions, and each considered in detail, populated with workstreams that address these questions, then ultimately leads to an agile team in a long process.

The truth is that most communications functions don’t fail to implement an editorial planning system (although that’s not so rare either), but are unable to manage the necessary cultural changes. The crux is that organizations that struggle to justify their own raison d’être with the help of a vision, mission, and supporting values often don’t spearhead corporate culture either. Communications executives in this environment can either look for another job or take on the challenge of acting as a driver of the necessary changes. If communication for this purpose also has the ability to programmatically drive change processes (change), a success factor has already been set.

About the author: Thomas Mickeleit, has held management positions in communications for 35 years, including as head of corporate communications at Grundig, IBM, Volkswagen and most recently at Microsoft. Since 2021, he has been helping communications functions on their way in the digital transformation with his consulting boutique “KommunikationNeuDenken”. Mickeleit is also head of the CommTech working group, in which around 250 communications managers are working on digitizing the profession.

[1] As for the 31 percent of newsroom operators, it is not certain whether this self-assessment is really true. Older research by René Seidenglanz of Quadrigafrom 2019 found that of the 19 percent who claimed at the time, “We have a newsroom,” only 4 percent actually met all the criteria of a newsroom.

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