How an e-learning platform is transforming Swedish media advertising departments

By Thomas Sundgren

United Robots

Sweden

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Media companies often discuss cooperation and shared solutions but seldom see actual results. While many common denominators can be found in theory, cooperation between companies often fail to solidify when they bump up against the reality of everyday operations.

In Sweden, local publicists have found a common solution and cooperation in change management. For the past three years, all of the local media companies have at some point or are currently sharing methods, knowledge, content, and technology platforms, working with competence and change management in local advertising sales.

Discussions in the media industry lean less toward advertising business-centered operations in favour of reader revenue. However, Swedish local media companies see potential in local advertising for the sake of tangible local revenue in print and digital. This is also because they find meaning in serving local businesses with marketing and advertising, holding up to an important component of local democracy. And while local advertising is an increasingly difficult part of the business, Swedish local media companies are persistent.

A new model for knowledge acquisition has been a process in collaboration among Swedish media companies.
A new model for knowledge acquisition has been a process in collaboration among Swedish media companies.

Advertising cooperation

About two years ago, all of the local media companies were involved in developing a cross-section task force to uncover opportunities for cooperation — and a major advertising initiative emerged.

Among the most pressing issues was figuring out how to update knowledge and competence within local advertising and sales. And, how to move our sales forces into a digital mindset supported with knowledge and modern ways of working in a customer-centric manner through marketing.

The publicists all acknowledged they were working with marketing and advertising in outdated ways. This needed to change, fast and for real.

Mittmedia’s work scaled to other media companies

About a year before the co-op efforts began, local media company Mittmedia began updating knowledge, mindset, and competence within its sales force. CCO Staffan Lönner identified the need to work with competence to renew business so it became part of Mittmedia’s overall advertising strategy.

Led by Mittmedia’s head of competence, Peter Backström, the entire sales force started working with a state-of-the-art e-learning concept, taking solid steps toward gaining new knowledge. The method and platform shifted focus from outdated work methods toward competence and modern ways of looking at knowledge and change management.

Another media company, Stampen Local Media, also boarded the platform. When the other local media companies started looking at the solution and its results, they became interested. One by one, the companies have followed suit, and while a few are currently pausing their presence on the platform, new ones are still joining.

As a result, most Swedish local sales reps have been, are currently, or will be children of the same school in advertising and sales. What are that school’s characteristics? It takes a lot more than a single blog post to describe it, but some features stand out.

Companies have made time and space for e-learning and follow-up reinforcement.
Companies have made time and space for e-learning and follow-up reinforcement.

E-learning as a carrier of knowledge

Early on, the benefits of choosing e-learning as a means of implementing knowledge were obvious. Learning needed to be integrated into daily work, interactive, and cost effective. E-learning proved to be the best solution for ongoing, consistent, and sticky competence.

Users receive the content through a state-of-the-art learning management system (LMS), which is accessible from desktop and mobile as well as a tablet. The sales staff is encouraged to log in and go through courses as a natural part of their everyday activities. They often do it collaboratively at the offices.

Behaviour change and business effects

The concept is based on a competence model where learning is only the first step toward the end goal, which is changed sales behaviour.

The old way of working with competence was to send staff to out-of-the-house crash courses in advertising and sales, then return them to the same environment from which they left. That environment did not encourage new ways but encouraged continuation of the same old job in the same old way.

The new model attempts to move people down a path where they convert information into action. The transfer of knowledge in the e-learning course platform is followed by continuous training in real-life situations and active coaching by colleagues and managers. The model drives changed behaviour and lasting effect.

E-learning platform content

Given e-learning as a basic method, the next step is creating actual content in a set of different courses. Some courses discuss the theoretical topics of overall digital transformation and its driving forces. Staff also need media business-specific facts and logistical information. In addition, the content must give sales reps solid guidance on the company-specific advertising strategy and operations to actually execute in new ways.

Thats why the platform contains actionable “do it differently” training courses on topics like sales meetings, company-specific advertising strategy, and marketing channels and offers.

Content consists of easy-to-digest pieces of text mixed with videos and graphics to create variation in the learning experience. Interaction is key, which is why the learning content is mixed with shorter quizzes or longer diagnostic tests.

Knowledge and engagement is modelled by management.
Knowledge and engagement is modelled by management.

Active, demanding, and permissive management

Active top and middle management buy-in of the model and working with competence is a crucial part of this method. Top management signals that working with competence is a strategic core business activity. Regional and local management provide coworkers with time and space for taking courses, discussing, and training. Management defines requirements for sales reps to go through the courses, do active training, and execute differently in real-life customer meetings.

Dashboards built into the system help staff track their progress.
Dashboards built into the system help staff track their progress.

Individual dashboards highlight progress, drive change

To help managers offer gentle but direct coaching to staff to participate in courses and training, the LMS also contains a dashboard where users, sales reps, and managers can track progress and fulfillment.

Key success factors

At this point, all local Swedish media companies have adopted these basic characteristics for using this innovative and state-of-the-art solution for knowledge, competence, and change management over the past three years. The next question is naturally why all of these companies, which share similar challenges but have different operational strategies, have been able to come together over this common solution. Most major cooperative attempts in media companies often fail to become operative when checked by reality.

This is a question I plan to explore more thoroughly in the future.

About Thomas Sundgren

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