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Turn your consumers into “prosumers”

11 February 2013 · By Anette Novak

By embracing a strategy of co-creation – or open innovation – you transform your former audience into respected collaborators, building a bond and a brand.

Reporter on the phone with a reader: “Are you familiar with the Internet?”

I found the quote above from crowd-sourced, “Overheard in the Newsroom,” a feed of cynical, sexist, and occasionally funny remarks, made around news desks near and far.

After more than 100 years of information monopoly, one of the most difficult aspects of the restructuring that traditional media now have to navigate is the necessary attitude shift.

Not having “us” and our operations in focus, but “them” and their needs and aspirations.

This tendency of in-house put-downs of the people paying our wages needs to be addressed urgently if we are to succeed in what media managers in conferences all over the world refer to as “relationship building.”

There is a sense behind the buzz phrase, but to really get there we have to start building the base:

  • Building block No 1: to respect.

  • Building block No 2: to listen.

Only when the foundation is stable can we let the “prosumers”* in on all the fun. Only then can we start filling “relationship building” with true meaning.

The newsroom reflex has always been to control content. But in the world of free-flowing information, where every Facebook posting and every tweet has mass media potential, it is often in vain.

And the most common result of trying is that you lag behind, you lose the news-leading position and, as a result, part of your relevance.

Editors and reporters are slowly realising this, opening up their earlier in camera decisions concerning news lists, angles, etc. While in my former position as editor-in-chief of media house Norran back in 2009, I initiated work with open news lists and collaborative journalism

These efforts were subsequently picked up by The Guardian in 2011, and more recently, by Göteborgs-Posten. The second largest daily in Sweden, GP not only copied the successful concept of on ongoing dialogue with the audience, the company has also introduced, in cooperation with Swedish start-up Kundo, a digital open door to the customer relations department.

With more than three years of experience with this transparent and collaborative approach (where the former audience has now turned into respected collaborators), I can assure you that the advantages on the content-production side are numerous.

In an earlier blog post,“5 reasons why every news room should open up,” I pointed out, well, just that.

But here I would like to bring up the advantages from another angle: brand building.

Making it easy, accessible, and fun to be part of the process of creating editorial content builds a very strong bond with the prosumers.

Co-creation – or open innovation – as part of your long-term strategies is one step closer to success. Just look at how Starbucks succeeded merely be asking the guests to participate in the business development process.

Many claim the harsh and quarterly profit margin demands for their incapacity to change. This might be an explanation, but the truth still is: We have been selling millimeters and banners (short-term transaction focus) instead of caring about customer needs (long-term relationship building focus). 

In the 2000s, I was in a management programme where the participants were asked to be part of a team-building exercise at Meyers Madhus in Copenhagen.

Asking 40+ media managers to cook a three-course meal with culinary ambitions proved more difficult than it might sound – since everyone was trying to delegate the hands-on tasks to someone else.

When we finally sat down to eat, however, and the colleague next to me tried his own soup, he smiled broadly and exclaimed it was the most succulent he had ever tasted.

Co-creation is a powerful tool, since it invites the customer to be part of the service or the product. You invest something of you in it. And when you are part of the experience – you always love it. And when you love something – you want to share it with your friends and family.

This is why you cannot afford to keep working behind closed doors. 

Let the market in, even on your business development. 

Turn your consumers into prosumers.

And they will reward you by being your brand ambassadors, an entire marketing armada pushing your operation toward success.

* New word for the co-producing reader-consumer, co-created together with brilliant digital strategists @powerlapp and @LexMarkus.

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About this blog

I am Anette Novak, CEO of Interactive Institute Swedish ICT, which conducts world-class applied research and innovation, creating groundbreaking user experiences. Also, I am an international media consultant, World Editors Forum board member, gourmet, long distance runner and Francophile – mainly because the Parisians walk and talk as fast as I do. I am former editor-in-chief of the Swedish regional media house Norran. I believe in digital opportunities for publishers, open innovation. The future belongs to media companies that are able to maintain the trust of the audience, who define themselves as active community players, and who are able to create amazing experiences.


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