Does your media organisation have a shared vision for the future?


Googles mission is “to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

Has your media organisation expressed a vision and provided a similar sense of common purpose?

In past blog posts, I have discussed the need for modern media companies to be innovative, embrace evolutionary change, and develop a culture of constant learning and constructive change.

Change seems to be a theme in much of what I write. In fact, a former media employer/owner once described himself as my “ballistic vest” because, he said, “Bob is an agent of change in a change adverse industry.”

Nearly 23 years ago, after successfully leading an advertising department through a complete re-organisation, including a migration to desktop computers, I was asked by a senior account executive, “Are we done?”

He wanted to know if he could now settle into the “new” routine. I responded that “change was the new status quo.”

I had no idea in 1991 how true my words would prove to be.

But change for the sake of change is purposeless. In 1991, I was referencing the need to keep pace with the changing marketplace, technology, and the evolving needs of our advertising clients and our consumer audience.

I was embracing a mission statement that was revolutionary for a newspaper/nascent multi-media property in 1991: “To be the preeminent source of news and information to our consumer and business community regardless of their preference of media platform or format.” 

My blog posts will be a little different in the future. After 40 years working in the media world and 25 years as CMO with major media properties, I have migrated over to another change adverse institutional environment: higher education.

Some years ago, I spent a decade on the adjunct faculty of a business school in Albany, New York. I was and am fully aware that the world of research universities and collegiate education is an environment with remarkable parallels to the media world. Future blog posts will perhaps explore those parallels and how media executives might learn from them.

For now, however, I would like to ask the reader to share a view of the media world from 50,000 feet – the big picture. We spend a lot of time “in the weeds” wrestling with operational issues and crises, and I realise that is a necessary behaviour.

But does your organisation have a vision for the future? If so, are you aware of what it is? Do your employees share this vision? Or are you and your direct reports simply mechanically (or frantically) pursuing short-term operational goals and quotas?

This question is not as esoteric as it may seem. What I am questioning is your organisation’s shared sense of purpose.

It is not unrealistic to say that we are all being stretched and challenged to a degree and in ways that have no precedent in recent media business experience. Is it worth it?

If the perspective of your average employee is that you are scrambling merely for short-term survival, then most are probably looking for the lifeboats, ready to abandon ship.

Their effectiveness is probably compromised by lack of confidence in your organisation, your products, and their future employment.

But if your organisation has shared a vision for the future that is aspirational (aims high) and inspirational (evokes emotional buy-in), that makes the strife and struggle worthwhile.

The people who are trying to make the short-term operational goals reality will work with a shared sense of purpose. They have reason to be hopeful, if not downright confident, of the future of your organisation and their place in it.

INMA executive director Earl Wilkinson’s recent blog “Who are we in conflict with?” addresses this topic from a different perspective. He challenges media organisations to identify the unique value proposition they bring to the consumer and business marketplace.

He also briefly discusses leadership, an important distinction from management. Organisational leaders are out in front leading their organisations to some defined destination. The organisations follow because they are aware of the destination, find it desirable, and are willing to strive and contribute to the effort of getting there.

Googles mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” That statement expresses the shared sense of purpose that pervades its organisation and inspires innovation, productivity, and success.

What is your organisation’s mission statement? Does it inspire your organisation? This writer would be interested in hearing about it.      

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