Time to Reinvent Job Structures to Survive an Always-On World

Marketing Is About Making Your Brand as Relevant as Possible, and Now You Need to Do It in Real Time

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How do you keep your brand relevant in today's "always on" environment?

For one thing, you've got to be very, very nimble. Tony Pace, Subway Restaurants CMO, said marketing is like Peyton Manning calling an audible at the line of scrimmage. In the past, over 80% of the marketing plan "would be executed the way you originally planned," he told the ANA's fall conference. "Now, it's like 20%, so you better be agile."

Companies have set up command centers to monitor what the social media are saying about them around the clock. As Jim Farley, exec VP-global marketing at Ford Motor Co., explained it to Automotive News: Social media "has got us thinking differently about advertising not just as a digital media mix transformation, but more fundamentally about getting away from campaigns and moving toward being 'always on.' Digital really begs for an 'always on' content factory that's producing content all the time that's relevant to the news cycle."

P&I now creates custom digital products.
P&I now creates custom digital products.

Marketing, after all is said and done, is about making your brand as relevant as possible, and now you need to do it in real time. At your company that not only means busting down silos, but also reinventing your job.
And to do both of those things, you've got to act like a startup, where people are urged to range far and wide in an effort to understand how consumers "will think, interact and operate in the future," as the head of the British retail chain Tesco told the Financial Times.

Understanding the consumer, of course, is the essence of marketing, and companies are willing to rejigger traditional relationships and job structures to gain a better understanding of what motivates their customers.

Diverse roles
A story well told is what it's all about these days. And at our place our people are playing very diverse roles to tell that story.

Brian Reilly, newly appointed corporate director of digital strategy for Crain Communications, remembers when he worked at Crain's Chicago Business in the late '90s: "Our early efforts [in digital] didn't involve too much chasing of the customer. Rather, our toolset at the time dictated that we take more of a 'if you build it they will come' approach. ...

"Fast forward about 15 years… and everything we do today at Crain is focused on chasing the customer -- and what to do when we catch him or her! We have come to understand that our job is to help our customers succeed, and providing the best news, analysis and information in their industry is how we do that."

David M. Klein, the digital general manager of our Pensions & Investments, has helped expedite the transition from a brand focused on a single platform -- print -- to a brand that produces content across multiple channels, including web, tablet, mobile, data and events. David points out that P&I's success is predicated on understanding how our customers consume content on each of those platforms, and he's built a team of in-house developers who can act quickly to create custom digital products as new platforms and technologies emerge.

Mary Kramer, publisher of Crain's Detroit Business, said she went back to school at age 53 to get a master's degree in integrated-marketing communications. "Why?" she asked. "Because as a journalist with P&L responsibility, I knew I needed to learn more about technology and how it was changing marketing, journalism and other forms of communication. It changed how I looked at our publication and what we do every day. I have to keep up with technology -- if I don't use it myself I won't know what it is and how it works and how it impacts our business."

Another Crain's Detroit staffer is Nancy Hanus, digital-content strategy manager. Nancy thinks of what we do as evolution rather than reinvention. "If you stand still in this industry you become irrelevant. Adapting to a changing media world is important no matter what you do. It goes for me as a digital strategist as much as it applied to me as a business editor. Don't stand still. Ever.

"It's important," Nancy continued, "that you not be afraid. That you are bold. Create your own path, your own career -- don't depend on an employer or a degree to tell you what you should be doing."

David Denor, director of Crain's Chicago Business custom media, believes continual market shifts "not only provide us the opportunity to re-examine our business and its method of delivery, but to create opportunities for shaping the roles within the organization to meet those needs of change. As a growing and evolving company, we should embrace and recognize the assets that employees can bring to the table."

It's also very evident that the new work environment is a pretty exciting place. Nathan Skid, multimedia editor of our Detroit paper, says "every day offers something new. Last Tuesday, I broke major Detroit restaurant news in the morning, shot photos of an NHL press conference in the afternoon and helped our video intern wrap up his first video shoot."

As you can see, our people have that entrepreneurial zeal to reinvent themselves and their jobs so we can stay attuned to the changing needs of our customers. The publication you're reading is no exception to this evolution, and you'll see more on that front early next year.

Fortune, in an article on Tesla Motors, said that "conviction comes about when the possible future that you see aligns with a deeply held view of how the world should be." As part of the reinvention process people need to thrive on the disruptive forces that are realigning the future with the shape of the world that will be.

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