Why news media companies must take measured risks

By Cathy Colliver

Courier-Journal Media, USA TODAY NETWORK

Louisville, Kentucky, USA


As defined by the Merriam-Webster online dictionary:

Measured: Deliberate, calculated.
Example: A measured response.

Risk-taking: The act or fact of doing something that involves danger or risk to achieve a goal.
Example: Starting a business always involves some risk-taking.

I’m all about dichotomies.

  • I’m a practical optimist.
  • I love the arts, but politics is my go-to spectator sport.
  • My maternal grandmother was a stay-at-home mother with a Ph.D. in chemistry from MIT.

While I’m a big believer in taking risks to innovate, I also like to take a measured approach. Measured as in deliberate, and measured as in loads of measurement for data-backed decisions.

Like I said, I’m a practical optimist. Part and parcel, I want to structure tests with smart measurement to judge success and optimise along the way to improve marketing ROI.

Using measurement indicators helps determine if strategic decisions are being made based on facts.
Using measurement indicators helps determine if strategic decisions are being made based on facts.

Measurement helps you go after the right risks.

By being deliberate about what risk you are going to take, you consider the why, and most importantly the how. You slow down the process and make decisions based on data, not your gut.

For example, in a leads-focused marketing campaign, be clear about what metric defines success. When you stop to look at the data, you might realise your biggest problem is not leads volume, but rather effective leads nurturing to increase conversion.

Measurement helps you slow down and make data-informed decisions.

With any tests or innovations that involve risks, you want to make sure you take the time to structure actions that are truly measurable. You also need to define a measurable goal to benchmark success.

While most marketing has an end goal of increasing revenue, you need to uncover those underlying Key Performance Indicators that move the levers. And you need to be clear on which levers need help.

Measurement helps you optimise for success.

Being deliberate and measuring along the way also creates the opportunity to optimise. Instead of seeing one thing go wrong and immediately pulling the plug, stop and think about whether small adjustments can move you in the right direction.

Sometimes a small adjustment in creative or audience targeting can turn a mediocre campaign into a success.

By paying attention to how your content is being consumed, you can optimise for the long-term to grow engagement and audiences.

By paying attention to what content is being consumed and when, you can optimise your publishing cycle and serve up the content your audiences want most.

Measurement helps you uncover important lessons learned.

You can uncover important learnings when you take a measured approach to analysing your tests by looking at the underlying contributing factors. The thing about risk-taking is you may end up with results that are not a smashing success, yet still show some promise. So, you step back and evaluate the good, the bad, and the ugly. Next, apply those learnings to increase future performance.

Learning that a target audience you had built customer personas around for years is not right may feel like a failure. However, knowing what is definitely not working can sometimes be even more helpful than spotting what may be working.

By paying attention to which audience not to target, you can optimise your campaign to be more efficient and more effective.

Measurement helps you manage risk.

Even if your company is traditionally risk averse, deliberate testing could help you invest in innovations while managing risk. By paying attention to when, why, and how a measured approach to risk-taking is in your best interest, you can optimise your way to success.

After all, if you don’t take risks and innovate, the world will pass you by. For more thoughts on innovation in media, take a look at this post by INMA blogger Ben Werdmuller of Matter.

About Cathy Colliver

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