How to Build a Winning Team in Digital Publishing

In a galaxy, far, far away,” a small band of courageous characters united to overcome overwhelming odds and defeat an evil empire. Under the leadership and guidance of an experienced, robed leader named Obi-Wan Kenobi, this group of individuals with unique capabilities and personalities came together to be a team that complemented and supported each other, had a compelling message that inspired others, and ultimately delivered dramatic results.

Your company needs a full-blown “Star Wars” team if it’s going to succeed in online publishing. You need Obi-Wan and Yoda, the ones who have the experience, been through the wars, seen what’s worked and what doesn’t. They’ll be leading, mentoring, and inspiring all the Luke Skywalkers, the up-and-comers who understand interactive platforms and solutions but need their enthusiasm and ideas cultivated and focused. With C-3PO and R2-D2 on your side, you’ll have a great team of technical and programming experts who know the ins and outs of AJAX (define) and Flash. To complement your team, consultants/vendors like Han Solo and Chewbacca will join your journey and hopefully really be part of your team and contribute to the mission, not just send you more bills. With this team, you’re working on building a better world for your Ewoks, your audience. But as you go through this exercise, you’ll encounter many challenges, like Darth Vaders, those who prefer to keep everything status quo.

Building your own digital “Star Wars” team is a key step to overcoming obstacles outlined in my “Identifying Corporate Barriers to Digital Success.” (“Corporate” is one of my 12Cs for digital success.)

Let’s drill down and explore a galaxy that’s not so far, far away.

A digital team is a change agent. The team brings new ideas, approaches, and solutions. While the team requires new people, new skills, new roles, and new processes, it must integrate, collaborate, and work in unison with already existing teams and departments. Some companies and corporate cultures embrace change while others shy away from it. The companies that do digital well are the ones who build a great digital team, effectively integrating it with existing teams while quickly adapting and making necessary business process and organizational adjustments.

Here are key steps to follow.

Hire the Right People with the Right Skills

  • Editors must be content producers. They must understand the Web (content reuse/repackaging, content aggregation, distribution, social sharing, etc.), be able to write for the Web, understand things like taxonomies, and embrace the community (and understand that everyone has a voice, not just the editor).

  • Establish new positions, like online product strategists, interactive marketers, information architects, and interactive/Web designers. The folks you bring aboard should have expertise in their specialties, but those who understand business, technology, and processes and how they intersect are really valuable.
  • Salespeople must be able to create and sell cross-platform packages. Compensation plans should be updated so there are properly aligned incentives for print, online, and face-to-face events.

Get Rid of Unnecessary Cooks

Some Web sites are generic sites, meaning there’s nothing really compelling or unique about them for the intended audience. You may have “redesigned” a site so it visually looks different and you added a few buzzword modules, but at the end of the day, you and a handful of your teammates know that the site could have been so much more. You know that you could have really done something innovative for your audience, but instead you ended up merely crossing something off your to-do list.

One reason for this is there were too many cooks in the kitchen. Too many cooks means too many compromises, which means watering down everything to the lowest common denominator. As a result there’s nothing unique and nothing special.

Install the Right Decision Maker

In addition to having too many cooks in the kitchen, the wrong person may be making the final decision. I’ve seen this a lot with respect to the finalizing edit (e.g., article headlines, ad text), the module positioning on a site, and the visual/user experience design. Should a print editor have final say on the visual interface and user experience? No. Should people who write text for print campaigns automatically be the final decision makers for text in a Web campaign? No. Do we want to have some consistency with branding and messaging? Absolutely, but we’ve got to execute for the medium, not be driven by legacy roles and responsibilities.

Get Executive Support

To deliver on the promises of digital, you’ve got to have executive support. Frankly, you need to get funded. New hires, new systems, consultants, training classes, and office space aren’t cheap. Times are tough and budgets are being cut everywhere, so executive support will get you the dollars to keep the Web servers running. Getting different departments throughout the company to align and work collaboratively is easier and can be expedited when executives support the digital mission. Certainly a lot of team-building and cross-departmental collaboration must be done on the frontlines, but having executive support will facilitate the entire process. To get executive support, you must have a clearly defined business plan and a road map to successful delivery and execution.

May the force be with you.

Regards,

Lee

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