Ask a senior team to manage your mini-publisher audience and platform teamsDouglas K. Smith, Quentin Hope, Tim Griggs, Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative,
Legacy metros, locals and regionals have too few general managers overseeing too few businesses, products and services. Mini-publisher teams help close that gap. Still, mini-publisher teams are front line groups focused on the performance of audiences and platforms. Their success demands the support and guidance from – and ‘feet to the fire’ accountability to – senior leaders who themselves need to embrace and practice the general management perspective.
Executive Editors and Managing Editors are not general managers. Nor are heads of marketing, ad sales, or technology. Building general manager experience, skills and perspective among senior leaders, then, is just as important as it is in the mini-publisher teams.
Consequently, you should form a cross-functional senior team whose objectives and responsibilities include:
- Mini-publisher team chartering and formation: The senior team should charter and staff the mini-publisher team as well as select the team leader(s). The senior team must also guide audience and platform groups across the spectrum toward readiness for the mini-publisher approach (see above).
- Reporting relationships: Mini-publisher teams should report to the senior team. Senior leaders might consider divvying up more particular oversight responsibilities in order to balance workload and/or respond to variations in strategic importance of some teams versus others.
- Performance management: The senior team should define success and expectations for the mini-publisher teams. In addition, they should review progress by holding monthly review sessions to assess performance, raise and resolve issues, and identify needed support and next steps. (See below for more on progress reviews)
- Capability development: The senior team should advise and coach the team leaders on their leadership; work with the team leaders to assess team skills gaps and develop skill development plans; and, assess the case for investment in new team hires with needed capabilities and/or technology or other initiatives.
- Technology and data support: The senior team should work with team leaders to assess technology, tool and data needs; make the case for enterprise-level investments; and, ensure needed ongoing technology and data analytics support from across the enterprise.
- Coordination and integration across mini-publisher teams: The senior team must ensure strategic alignment across the portfolio of audience and platform teams; help develop partnership agreements that span more than one team and/or parts of the organization; and, resolve inter-team issues that involve enterprise-wide concerns and priorities.
- Coordination and integration with the rest of the newsroom: The senior team and particularly the senior newsroom leaders must ensure mutual support among the teams and other parts of the newsroom (e.g. a central news desk), prioritizing use of shared specialist resources where necessary.
- Brand development and integrity: The senior team should work with team leaders to make sure that any brands that emerge (e.g. among audience teams) comport with the overall enterprise brand strategy. If new branding approaches emerge to extend reach to new or different audiences – especially ones that spawn radically different or ‘off brand’ approaches, the senior team must help make sense of it all in ways that avoid brand damage, dilution, or confusion.