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Forbes Online Strategy George Hill talks to Forbes SVP Digital Advertising Strategy, Mark Howard about the company’s strategy and its digital success

Content is King DJ Francis discusses the ways in which companies should be utilising content strategy to drive success

Sir Alex’s Business Strategy We look at the ways that Sir Alex Ferguson’s soccer strategies can be transferred to winning in business


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Contents

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Business Strategy Lessons from Sir Alex Ferguson

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An interview with Olivier Ysewijn, Chief Strategy Officer at Mobistar

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Stategic Innovation Through Collaboration

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How can companies utilise content strategy?

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Is Technology or Strategy leading us forward?

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George Hill discusses Forbes’ digital strategy with Mark Howard

Letter From the Editor

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Welcome to this issue of Chief Strategy Officer Magazine. This issue tackles several of the important areas currently affecting those in strategic leadership positions. We look at how Sir Alex Ferguson’s views on strategies on soccer fields could be transferred to business thinking. Jay Deragon investigates the ways in which collaboration between companies can harvest significant strategic success. DJ Francis looks through the reasons that content strategies are currently growing in popularity and how to properly utilise this growing trend. Discussing the role of technology within strategy, Kevin Rooney asks which leads change. I hope you enjoy reading this magazine and if you are interested in finding out more or having any feedback, please get in contact at ghill@theiegroup.com George Hill Chief Editor

Managing Editor George Hill President Josie King Art Director Gavin Bailey Assistant Editor Joanna Giddings Advertising Hannah Sturgess Contributors Jay Deragon DJ Francis Kevin Rooney Olivier Ysewijn All Enquiries ghill@theiegroup.com


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Sir Alex Ferguson The Strategy Lessons George Hill, Editor


4 The end of the Barclays Premier League season has seen the retirement of the most successful football manager in the history of the game, Sir Alex Ferguson. Strategically on the soccer field he has managed to confound his opponents for the last 27 years, winning 49 trophies and countless awards in the process. His deployment of players in certain positions and the ways in which he makes them think like him are not the only strategy that he has been incredibly effective at though. As businesses, there are several important lessons that we can learn from the leadership of Ferguson:

Efecreata Photography / Shutterstock.com

"I've never played for a draw in my life" One of the most important aspects of Sir Alex's reign at Manchester United was his dedication to winning. This has taken many forms, not always in ways that have been appreciated by managers and referees but the results that he has from this mentality are undeniable.

Arguably his most famous victory, that over Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League final, is testament to this. In the 90th minute of the match Teddy Sheringham equalised and then in the 2nd minute of injury time, Ole Gunnar Solksjaer scored the winner. This dedication to the win has as much to do with

mental drive than any kind of physical attribute and this demonstrates that mentality perfectly. Business Lessons to Learn: Winning breeds winning, get on a role and don't underestimate the importance of small gains to reel in those big wins


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"One of my players has been sent off several times. He will do something if he gets the chance – even in training. Can I take it out of him? No. Would I want to take it out of him? No. If you take the aggression out of him, he is not himself. So you have to accept that there is a certain flaw that is counterbalanced by all the great things he can do."

Although often seen as being in ultimate control of everything revolving around Manchester United, Ferguson understood the importance of individuality within his organisation, regardless of whether this took negative forms or not.

melis / Shutterstock.com

Despite job descriptions, the likelihood is that nobody in your organisation will fit any role perfectly. Slight imperfections however are not something that should be criticised or made to change. These could be their biggest asset if properly utilised and focussed.

Business Lessons to learn: When looking at sticking points within an individuals role, rather than thinking how they should change to fit the role, would it be more beneficial to change the role to fit them?


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"There is no room for criticism on the training field. For a player – and for any human being – there is nothing better than hearing 'well done'. Those are the two best words ever invented in sports. You don't need to use superlatives." Despite Ferguson's famous hairdryer treatment during half time team talks, generally speaking he does not criticise on the training ground. It has been proven countless times that positive reinforce-

ment has a significant impact on mentality towards a task. Avoiding criticism is as important in a work environment as it is on a football field.

Sportsphotographer.eu / Shutterstock.com

Business Lessons to learn: Take the time to say well done and try to avoid criticism, be that of individuals, teams or products.


7 The link between success in sports and success in business is undeniable and given Sir Alex Ferguson's track record on the pitch there are clearly business lessons to be learned from his management techniques. We can see similarities between the way he ran Manchester United and the way in which Steve Jobs ran Apple and made the behemoth that it is today. With a ruthless control of the way that the company/club runs their affairs both internally and externally with a focus on the future whilst making sure that there is success in the present. The control that Ferguson had over the club is exemplified when he said:

"You can't ever lose control – not when you are dealing with 30 top professionals who are all millionaires. If they misbehave, we fine them, but we keep it indoors. And if anyone steps out of my control, that's them dead." Given the role that footballers have, the need to perform both on and off the pitch is vital. Performances on the pitch need to have an element of self expression and the ability to think for themselves, but at the same time being controlled by the overall strategy laid out by Sir Alex. We can transfer this over to business, when we consider that micromanagement is something that neither the manager or the people being managed enjoy. Allowing people to express themselves in ways that benefit the company whilst also maintaining the overall company strategy is something that every single leader should aspire to and perhaps looking to an inspirational sporting leader should be the way forward.

melis / Shutterstock.com


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Got Something to give? Got Something to give? We are always looking for new contributors or cutting edge ideas. Contact George Hill for more details We are always looking for new contributors or cutting ghill@theiegroup.com edge ideas.


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Strategic Innovation Comes From Collaboration Jay Deragon, Digital Strategist

The dynamics of the 21st Century marketplace are creating a new economic dynamics that are based on collaboration, an element of intangible cap ital. Understanding how intangible capital can be used to add strategic value is the key to understanding how business can create strategic value in the 21st Century. The industrial era was about finite tangible assets. I win, you lose. Competitive Strategy was the only way to go.


10 tion. The Collaborative Economy is about value creation through open source, peer-to-peer, connected networks were ideas flow without boundaries and shared objectives are united by a common purpose. Mass collaboraTo take advantage of this trend, tion has been accelerated as a you have to make the shift from result of the digital revolution concepts of competitive strategy where “free” structural capital, to collaborative strategy and un- in the form of access to commuderstand the complex interaction nication networks, collaboration tools, media platforms and the between communication and collabo37% expect social media to be ration as a system of intangible capital used regularly across their entire Today, our new era is about intangible assets that aren’t so finite. I win, you can win too. The collaboration economy has arisen because value creation has shifted from machines to technology to minds.

business. 9% expect it to be fully Kevin Kelly writes in his book “New Rules integrated for The New Economy: “Communication – which in the end is what the ability to create and share knowldigital technology and media are edge, one to one and to millions, all about – is not just a sector of at the click of a mouse. the economy. Communication IS The data on the uptake of these the economy.” technologies is clear. What’s not Digital technologies have created yet clear is how to use these techthe possibility of mass collaboranologies to create strategic value. Using technology that enables collaboration doesn’t mean you can reap the strategic benefits of collaboration. Consider the markets current behavior relevant to use of technology to engage human capital inside and outside the organizations “walls”: 1. 37% expect social media to be used regularly across their entire business. 9% expect it to be fully integrated. -- AIIM


11 Report 2012. 2. 79% of companies use, or are imminently planning to use, social media. Nearly half of the companies who were rated as effective in social media said it was integral to their firms’ strategy. -- Harvard Business Review Analytics Services.

and CIOs. -- MIT Sloan Management Review 2012 Social Business Global Executive Study. 6. Social workforce projects generally engaged less than half of their workforce, and 96% of external and in-

3. 59% of companies use social media to engage with customers, 49% to advertise, and 35% to research customers. 30% use social media to research competitors and new products. Half, however, collect no data from social media. -- Stanford Business 2012 Social Media Survey. 4. 46% of companies globally planned to increase their investment in social media this year. However, only 22% of middle managers felt prepared to properly incorporate social media into their work. -- IBM 2012 Social Business Study.

ternal social efforts were not connected, despite evidence of high ROI there. -- Social Business Council 2012 Engagement Study.

5. 52% of executives say that social business is important to their companies today. 86% says it will be vital in three years. 28% of CEOs say social business is vital to their organizations, about twice the rate of CFOs

7. 27% of companies now have someone dedicated to social media in their company. Those that have dedicated departments, 83% are staffed with 3 or fewer people. Ragan Communications and NASDAQ OMX Survey.


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The above findings seem to scream the obvious. Digital technologies are being used to extend old business practices to reach the many in an attempt to create new results without a change in thinking or a change in the value creation process. This doesn’t reflect the mindset of a Collaborative Economy. These are old worn out strategies based on the mental models of the past. A New [Intangible] Mindset The 20th Century mindset views the Collaborative Economy as being driven by technology. The 21st Century mindset views the Collaborative Economy as being driven by the intangible nature of the human network enabled, unleashed and free to create, connect and collaborate on a global scale. Technology is merely the tool. The intangible assets of the human network represent the untapped immeasurable wealth of the 21st century. A Collaborative Economy represents a new understanding of how companies create value. You can’t make strategic advances by lever-

mitzy / Shutterstock.com aging technology to do the same things you’ve always done, the same way you always done it, with the same assets that have created


13 The first thing that needs to change is These new dynamics are changing our our thinking about strategies. We are mental models of business, redefining no longer fighting competitive wars for work, replacing the meaningless with market share rather we are leveragmeaningful and using collaboration ing collaboration to expand markets. to create abundance rather than a That requires a different mindset and scarcity of probable solutions. Collab- one that understands that value creoration is an intangible strategic as- ation comes from the intangibles. set that keeps on creating and giving more strategic value to not only your stockholders but all your stakeholders Jay Deragon is a Digital Strategist as well. with 25 years experience as a ManConclusion: The Bottom Line agement Consultant. He is currently Establishing an organizational struc- helping Smarter Companies discover ture and culture of collaboration can the wealth of their Intangible Capital. empower businesses to access and utilize the intelligence and ingenuity of the collective—the entire networked organization—not just a few identified talented leaders and employees. This means everything has to change in order for everyone to be enabled to create the most value. the same old value of the past.


CONNECT TO YOUR CUSTOMERS

IN A WHOLE

NEW WAY.

www.salesforce.com/ap/customers

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Technology or Strategy: Who’s In The Driving Seat? Kevin Rooney, Chief Strategy Officer

Before taking on my current role as Chief Strategy Officer at American Access Casualty Company, I had been our CIO for four years. In many ways, it was great preparation for my current role.


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As CIO, I had a broad view of our overall operations and strong relationships with the other senior executives who were my customers. I also had a passion for technology as a business enabler, especially in industries such as insurance, where data and business intelligence are so critical. At many CIO events, a common question is how to align the business and IT. It drove me crazy then and it drives me even crazier today because the question itself is part of the problem. IT is no more separate from the business than finance, sales, engineering, operations or human resources. All parts of the whole must be aligned, which in essence describes what I attempt to do as CSO. What I had thought separated IT in this alignment question was its function as an enabler and change agent. CIO’s often struggle with the balance of whether the strategy drives technology or the technology

should drive strategy. And, while the pace of change in IT is surely breath-taking, my perspective now is that every form of capital an organization has or wishes to acquire (human, technology, financial, cultural, political and on) must be enablers and must be aligned under a common mission and vision. So this strategy question is much bigger than just technology driven strategy. It is about capability driven strategy, or, even more empowering a thought, about possibility driven strategy. What things are suddenly possible today, or might be possible tomorrow, that can broaden our product and service offering, drive our strategy, and grow our organization? And how do we balance what’s possible with an overall strategy to drive maximum value? To achieve this balance, we must be able to answer four critical things. First, what does the customer value? Second,


17 what are your organization’s capabilities and possibilities? Third, where can your organization achieve its required returns? Finally, where do those circles overlap? This diagram illustrates the concept: Once these circles were arranged like this, some interesting concepts came to light for me. For example, what happens if your offerings are outside that core intersection? Second, what can you do to expand those circles and therefore increase the value of your organization? If you’re delivering a product that’s

Finding that intersection between what’s valued, what’s possible, and what’s profitable is the role of all of us as business leaders.

not profitable but it’s valued, it’s a loss leader. You better be either focusing on expanding your profitability circle through operational efficiency or cut that offering quickly. If you’re delivering a product that’s not valued, you risk customer loyalty and brand reputation. You better quickly expand your value circle by convincing the market that your offering is valuable. If you’re delivering a product that isn’t really possible, you are overpromising and underdelivering. You better quickly expand your possibility circle

through innovation. Finding that intersection between what’s valued, what’s possible, and what’s profitable is the role of all of us as business leaders. That’s the true balance. Expanding those circles, though, is the exciting part of what we do, and what will sustain our organizations well into the future, whatever possibilities are on the horizon.


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ie.

Digital Strategy Innovation Summit

Confirmed Speakers:

September

19-20

To request an invite please contact Rose at: rpalmer@theiegroup.com or +1 (310) 598 7733

San Francisco, 2013

theinnovationenterprise.com/summits/digital-strategy-sanfrancisco


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Interview: Olivier Ysewijn Chief Strategy Officer Mobistar Olivier Ysewijn, Chief Strategy Officer


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Olivier Ysewijn, Chief Strategy Officer of Mobistar is not afraid to admit that the company has had an eventful year. It’s been all hands on deck to prepare for the landslides awaiting the telecom world. ‘Consumers have no idea what is going to happen in the next few years,’ he says. This led to a conversation about the near and the (not so) distant future. “Last year we had to take our foot off the accelerator a little, internally speaking,’ Olivier Ysewijn saysas he looks back on 2012. ‘Along with the coming into force of the new telecom law introduced on October 1, it was quite a turbulent year. The market for mobile telephony had been stable for years. This was much less the case this year, if only because of the fall in prices due to fierce competition. At Mobistar, we need to focus particularly on our DNA—the Super Mobile— for the sake of Mobistar’s

future position. We can only do this with an excellent network, which means that we will invest more in it this year. This year we’re dealing with 1,000 sites— new ones, as well as existing ones which are to be upgraded. Our old mobile radio sites will be replaced with hybrid sites that can handle 2G, 3G and 4G. 2G will certainly still be used for voice communication until after 2020. A combination of 2G for voice calls and 3G and 4G for data communication constitutes an efficient strategy.” Obtaining permits remains an issue for new sites. “Indeed. The fact that we are renewing or building 1,000 sites this year is primarily due to the fact that this is the maximum our suppliers can physically handle, but also has to do with building permits. The government wants perfect coverage everywhere,


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but the authorisation needed from local authorities is hard to come by. You only have to take Brussels as an example, with its new, stringent emission standards. To bring the quality back to the same level that it was prior to the stringent radiation regulations, approximately 120 sites would need to be added. When you consider the fact that it can take up to 24 months to obtain a licence, you realise that it may not be solved overnight. We started rolling out the 4G network last year. Despite the issue with permits, our objective is to have 4G coverage of 80% of the population by 2015— a very ambitious goal. Either way, we want to be the Belgian mobile telephone reference network by 2015.”

internet. Video will remain the main driver with consumers in the next few years. On the other hand, we need to be realistic. The use of smartphones and tablets will mix 4G and wifi usage. There are also professional applications. Under tests carried out with ATV, a television channel in Antwerp, where we now have 45 4G sites, we demonstrated that journal-

People do not buy technology—they buy services and experiences

With 4G as the cream of the crop, is this the new revolution? “4G is a technology that allows very fast broadband internet to be used everywhere. In terms of download speed and latency, 4G almost approaches the quality of wired

ists can now broadcast their reports live.” How long will it take for 4G to make a breakthrough? “People do not buy technology—they buy services and experiences. So it’s all about the applications and the iPhone has taught us that this can happen quickly. There is a tendency in the sector to overestimate the short term and underestimate the long term. I expect 4G to experience a double acceleration,


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such as that of the iPhone, with more phones and contracts being sold, and a growing intensity in usage. We need to be ready with our network to take advantage of this double trend.” Are great times ahead for telecommunications companies? “The transition to 4G creates a discontinuity in the market that provides an opportunity for mobile operators to reposition their brand, renew their price structure and generally revive their competitiveness in the market. It is an opportunity that generally only arises once every decade. There are certainly great times ahead for consumers. They really have no idea how radically mobile technologies will impact on their daily lives. For example, there’s the importance of mobile telephony in road charging. Mobility in traffic is an ever-increasing problem. The issue of an ageing population and a shortage of affordable infrastructure to provide welfare for everyone, will lead to new technologies being developed in which mobile technologies will play an important role.”

Is Mobistar more than just an intermediary for providing those kinds of services? “It’s true that we primarily ensure connectivity between the hardware vendor and service provider. But we have an important core competitive advantage that you should not forget: throughout the years, we have had tremendous experience in managing customer data for a very large group of clients. Consumers consider us to be a very reliable provider when it comes to personal data. This is a very important asset for future services.” At a price? So there will be new business opportunities? “If you downloaded a ringtone five years ago, everyone thought it was quite normal to pay for that and that part of the charge went to the content provider and another part to the telecom company. Now you can download a video that requires a thousand times more capacity, without the content provider being charged. Obviously, telecom operators can’t constantly invest in making that possible without being paid for the use of their network. This model is no longer viable in the


23 long term, if only for the issue of capacity.” Why? “Everyone can drive 120 km per hour on the Brussels ring road, but if there’s a traffic jam, nobody can. If we want to continue to guarantee “quality of service” to our customers, we need to segment them. This means some customers will take precedence over others at peak times. Segmentations can also be made in the case of wired internet. So why can’t we do that for mobile internet? Technically speaking, that is already possible. Should the data traffic needed by paramedics accessing the medical records of a road accident victim be given the same priority as those for someone who is killing time watching YouTube video clips or downloading an entire video?”

and more individual and personalised. We watch television when and wherever we want and on the device of our choice. This

Identity management is one of our most important assets. Watching television will become an experience more and more individual and personalised.

If you can identify network usage, you know who is watching what on digital television. “Identity management is one of our most important assets. Watching television will become an experience more

means there will be a total shift in the industry. Whenever I say this, some people feel threatened. We own the data required for targeted advertising and this means we could sell it. But on the other hand, we can help channels offer to each user the programmes that suit them best. In this area too, a new model is coming.”


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Utilizing Content Strategy to Remain User-Focused (Or Avoiding the Nurse Ratched Trap) DJ Francis, Content Strategist

Few viewers sympathize with antagonist Nurse Ratched in the 1975 film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. And much has already been written about the character’s villainy and the well-deserved scorn elicited from many viewers. I contend that it is high time we consider a more empathetic (and fresh) view of Nurse Ratched. After all, this is a woman stuck between hospital administrators wanting one thing and a den full of patients wanting the complete opposite. Given the recent rise of content marketing and other inbound methods, many strat-


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egists and brand/product managers find themselves in similar positions – tasked with producing content ostensibly for business purposes, but aimed at an audience with varying needs and concerns, some much removed from said business purposes. “Wait a second,” you’re thinking, “doesn’t that make ME Nurse Ratched in this scenario?” Maybe more than you think.

aren’t mutually exclusive. Look at consumer-focused organizations like Apple, Amazon and Zappos. They have figured out how to do right by the consumer while making a profit. The only difference is the order. They start with the consumer desire and then figure out how to make money. After all, as Peter Drucker said 60 years ago, a company’s primary responsibility is to serve its customers. Profit is not the primary goal. Profit is generally a result of serving customers well.

Employing the tenets of content strategy, however, can ease this tension and provide much-needed focus to your efforts. But only But your company probably isn’t Apple. You probaif done correctly. The Fallacy of Zero-Sum bly feel pressure to hit your numbers each quarter Marketing whether that means solvMany of us frame our jobs ing a consumer’s problem like Nurse Ratched, as a or not. (More often, not.) zero-sum game. We must pick a side because the To solve this conundrum, strategists and desires of hospital admin- many istrators and patients – or brand/product managers executives and consumers turn to content strategy to help. After all, content – are mutually exclusive. strategy is inherently conThis is simply not true. sumer-focused as the goal And we all know that exec- is useful, usable and desirutive and consumer desires able content.


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However, many strategists and brand/product managers fall into a common trap that perverts their ability to stay user-focused and inevitably poisons their content marketing programs. The Biggest Roadblock to a User-Centric Experience

gotten a central tenet of business: Strategy is the WHAT and the WHY; Planning is the HOW. They had planned for the content, but had omitted the strategy. My client was using an inbound channel, but treating the content like an outbound asset. They weren’t focused on generating credibility and trust; instead, they wanted to use content to interrupt and talk about their products.

I once had a client breathlessly tell me that their internal team had already completed a content strategy. They’d just finished a content audit, so they just wanted a once-over from Your biggest roadblock to a me to ensure everything user-focused experience is often content planning sans was perfect. They presented me with strategy because it provides a content plan that would a false line of sight into your have doubtlessly gener- content efforts while perated content. There was a mitting you to ignore the big spreadsheet with their top- picture entirely. ics, all of the products and services they would mention, who would write each piece, which department was assigned to edit, etc. The client could certainly have produced this content.

5 Tips to Retain a Relentless Consumer Focus

In-house strategists and brand/product managers should continue to call upon content strategy to guide their content programs and The only trouble was that keep them user-focused. At the content they had Imagination, we are often planned to write was use- brought in to provide perless to any of their target spective and expertise, but consumers. They had for- remain on projects because


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of our ability to advocate for ask “Why?” so much that the consumer. it annoys your co-workers. Here are a few ways other cli- Throw out more “Why?” quesents have retained a focus on tions than an average twothe consumer and enjoyed the year-old. Consider it a red influx of consumer trust (and flag if answers include names purchases) that comes with it. of internal stakeholders (“Bill wants it that way.”) or the 1. Prioritize: For each newest shiny object (“Because content program, we learn we want a SnapChat/Meebo/ everything we can about the FaceSpace presence.”). following five elements. But when making decisions, we remember that this is a prioritized list, with the consumer right at the top. a. Consumer b. Business c. Brand

In-house strategists and brand/ product managers should continue to call upon content strategy to guide their content programs and keep them user-focused

d. Competition e.

Existing content

2. Be Objective: Start with a list of questions you need to answer to please the end consumer. These aren’t the traditional project brief questions; instead, determine what you need to know to make decisions, then find answers to those questions and only afterwards make your decisions. Forget the corporate B.S. What do your consumers want? Where do they want it and how do they want it delivered? Answer basic questions about your consumer to guide your efforts down the line. 3.

Ask “Why?”: You should

4. Build it in: If the first column of your audit spreadsheet is a list of products, you are doing it wrong. A content audit should start with the piece of content followed by the defined target audience. An insight brief should start with the consumer’s demographic and psychographic info. Build in your consumer focus by starting with the consumer. 5. Teach: Instead of thinking about promoting a product, consider yourself a teacher here to educate about a consumer solution. Provide information at each step in your purchase cycle and measure your success on consumer-fo-


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cused metrics (bounce rate, calls into the customer care line). You Can’t Fake Focus The tragedy of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is really the meaninglessness of the central power struggle. If Nurse Ratched had simply focused on patient care, she would have inevitably pleased the hospital administrators. Instead, by focusing only on the administrator’s needs, neither administrators nor patients (nor Nurse Ratched) were pleased. The same is true for strategists and brand/ product managers. Content planning without content strategy is doomed to fail. In the movie, the protagonist is only moved to physical violence against her when Nurse Ratched insists upon the status quo after an upsetting event. Your consumers will not appreciate self-serving content when they are desperate for innovation. After all, the best way to ensure that your content efforts will succeed is to actually empathize. Don’t fall into the Nurse Ratched trap.

DJ Francis is the VP, Content Strategy for Imagination, the 2012 content agency of the year. His main goal in life is to help businesses act more like good people. DJ lives in Chicago with his wife and two dogs.


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Forbe’s Digital Strategy Success, Interview With Mark Howard George Hill

Today strategy is going through a shift in power from those in the boardroom to those who are online. One of the companies that has truly managed to leverage its existing strategic position into a true digital dominance is forbes. With a website that is the envy


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of many within the industry, as well as digital offerings that have almost no rival, the business media company has truly embraced the new ideas within the digital realm.

”We act like a 96 year old start up” In 2011, the traffic coming to the forbes site was at a plateau, and wsj was at an almost unassailable point above them, working in the same space and vying for the same audiences. Jump to 2013 and forbes. Com finds itself ahead of wsj. Com with a suite of online services that are propelling the company forwards and seeing them increasingly at the cutting edge of digital offerings. In may 2013, unique vistors to forbes.Com were approximately 25 million (according to comscore worldwide) compared to wsj.Com at 22 million. Traffic on forbes.Com is up 35%

since may 2012. Forbes’ digital strategies have not only seen the company catch up with its competitors, but from an internal point of view, its online audience is up more than 100% since june 2010 when forbes.Com was reinvented. This increase in audience has seen the organisation take advantage of a situation that many traditional publishing companies have struggled with. I was lucky enough to speak with Mark howard, senior vice president, digital advertising strategy at forbes media about the company’s rise to digital prominence. Mark moved across to a strategic role within forbes in january 2012 from his previous digital sales role. This was midway through the digital transformation that has seen forbes come out as a leading digitally led company today. Talking to Mark, I gathered that there were several unique as-


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chart beat, forbes can now track the kind of people who are engaging and sharing this content, meaning that journalists have a better opportunity to create What has set this apart from stories that these people want other companies, is that the to read. digital division of forbes was One of the ways in which they originally created in 1996 as a are making sure that they can completely separate entity from act dynamically and quickly is forbes magazine, meaning that through the use of their worka more lean approach could force too. be taken. The profits made by “About 18 months ago we inthe online side of the company vested heavily in the developcould also be used for further ment of our own design team.” development of digital products, meaning that for the past Cloud-based ad creation tools decade the forbes online offer- from flite have allowed forbes ings have had the opportunities to create ads or make changto invest in new and exciting es in one or two days that may have taken an agency or freetechnologies. lance staff one or two weeks to Mark has described the com- do. Moat, a ny-based analytics pany as ”we act like a 96 year old start up”, in its mentality towards trying new approaches and new technologies.

pects of the forbes online strategy. One of the most interesting aspects was the use of the startup mindset within the digital team.

"The rules have changed".

This has seen an increasing value for advertisers on the site who, using new technologies, can now get a far better roi and can target individuals rather than a relatively generic audience. Using a technology called

company, provides deep dive analytical tools for tracking the exposure and engagement users have with ads, ensuring that the online offerings can be flexible and changed depending on their current usages.


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Mark mentions though that it has been important to not only have the skills in house, but to leverage the mindset of smaller startups. Through partnerships they have managed to create a stack of technology that creates opportunities for them to monetize their online offerings, but also use the mindset that small startups tend to have and the excitement and forward thrust that this brings. Forbes has understood that a modern company cannot look at strategy in the same way as it did even five years ago. In Mark’s words “the rules have changed.” Many of its competitors have seen that their traditional methods of aggregating audiences and selling them as a stack to advertisers, is no longer fit for purpose. Using the new technologies has allowed forbes to target individuals. Forbes now uses a data management platform company, krux, to look at how the individual is engaging with the content and how this can be changed to truly place adverts in front of the right people at the right time.

now see themselves as publishers, Mark makes the point that publishing is one thing, but to make it truly effective, companies need to create a foundation and jumping off point.

Communication is key and having a strategically minded person working between the analysts, content creators and all other aspects of the business is vital to business success.

Companies today need to be made up of storytellers. Consumers want to hear what companies are actually saying, not what they are selling and what they are advertising. This creation of a genuine brand personality rather than the personality that is put forward in press releases or adverts, has reaped rewards for thousands of companies globally and forbes is one of the most successful. With that in mind, forbes created brandvoice, a platIn Mark’s eyes, the social web has form that enables brands to pubdemocratised the publishing tools lish thought leadership on forbes. that were traditionally open only Com, and build a dialogue with the to publishers a few years ago. Al- individuals that matter to them. though effective businesses should


33 One of the ways in which a strategist can utilise this is through placement. Mark makes the point that strategists in today’s company need to be more than just the navigator, they need to be at the intersection between departments of the company. Communication is key and having a strategically minded person working between the analysts, content creators and all other aspects of the business is vital to business success.

is hard to predict where digital strategies will be. It has only been in the past few years that we have seen companies really looking at the way in which their content is received on mobile and tablet devices. This is something that five years ago would not have been considered at all.

So where are we likely to see this kind of strategy in five years’ time?

Mark and others within the forbes management team, forbes will be well equipped to make the most of it.

One of the keys to taking advantage of these changes is that companies need to create a firm but flexible foundation from which new The analysts need to tell the sto- developments can grow. The use rytellers what is working, the sto- of internal design teams means rytellers need to create and the that change can be achieved technologists need to make sure quickly and easily, whilst working that the technology for this con- with small agile minded startups tinues to not only be fit for task, has meant that the company is but improving the company per- keeping on the cutting edge of new formance. The strategist needs ideas with lean and flexible comto sit between all of these groups panies. and make sure that the process One thing that is for certain is that is working effectively and is being when the next big revolution does steered in the right direction. come along, thanks to the work of

With the rapid rate of change, it


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Chief Strategy Officer, Issue 2  

We discuss strategy with some of the keenest strategic minds currently working in business

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