Publishing companies can keep pace by hiring digital specialists, not generalists

Staying up-to-date with your favourite brands and news sources is becoming ever easier. As technology evolves, the separation between platforms blurs and the communication stream steadily drones out messages regardless of whether you’re on a mobile device, tablet, connected television, or smartwatch, and whether you’re in your car … or on your lawnmower?

The downside to this seamless connection for readers is that, for publishers, connecting with our audience has become far more complicated.

In the past couple months alone, we’ve had several noteworthy launches from the big guys:

  • Facebook launched Instant Articles amid a flurry of questions around whether the company’s intentions are good or bad, but leaving us with the conclusion that Facebook is every publisher’s best frenemy.

  • The first car is now available with Google’s Android Auto.

  • The wearable war is hitting a crescendo with Apples release of Apple Watch and a major update for Android Wear. (Try them all on for free.)

  • Google Chrome now joins Safari with push notification capability enabled from Web sites even if the Web site is not open on desktop and mobile.

These new methods of reaching our audience are stacked on top of an already overwhelmingly long list – text messages, push notifications, e-mail, programmatic display advertisements, native advertising, video, SEM, tweets, posts, pins, and even out-of-home billboards – each with unique needs and more manpower required to execute.

How do publishers keep up with the rapid change?

Start with the right team.

Hire specialists to specialise

In digital, I tend to roll my eyes at the word “expert” or “guru” appended to titles on social profiles and resumes. Not possible. Technology changes too fast.

However, the right mix of these “experts” is exactly what you need to run a thriving digital team. There’s real value in hiring people who are deeply passionate about and committed to specialising in their space. With generalists, you only get to go so deep – there’s just not enough time and too much rapid change to keep up.

Not only should you hire specialists, but you should keep them specialised.

I lead a team responsible for audience acquisition and have found that hiring specialists and structuring them in the organisation according to their communication channel – such as social and community, search engine marketing, database marketing, mobile marketing, and display media – works to drive the fastest results.

Not only does this structure give every member of the team ownership, it ensures they have time to focus and empowers them to accelerate the company’s growth in their area.

My plea to all the self-professed gurus out there: Call yourself a specialist or … geek ... OK?

Buy, don’t build

Like the time I plunged my kitchen sink only to cause a leak in a pipe under the house that wasn’t caught for weeks until the smell wafted up, it can be more efficient and cost effective to hire a specialised company instead of going the do-it-yourself route. Less time is wasted in learning how to do it right (or fix mistakes), and you’ll better avoid set-backs in the future.

In addition to cost savings and learning curve challenges, utilising a company with specialised knowledge means you spend less time keeping up with each new release from distribution platforms like mobile operating systems or social networks.

Take social for instance: The networks provide easy-to-follow developer tools and communicate release updates to publishers. But even a minor update will slow down progress on better content development or initiatives that should be built – those that will differentiate you from your competitors, add proprietary value, and are not available as a SaaS (software-as-a-service) product.

Soliciting help with technology services and platforms that are not unique to you as a publisher is worth what may appear to be greater up-front costs and will speed up response times to rapid change.

There are many factors that impact a company’s ability to move fast. If you’ve started with the right team and made sure that team is able to focus on specific priorities and goals, either by hiring directly or by utilising outside services, you’ll be much better equipped to proactively engage your audience through that new connected coffee machine, smartring, or …

Race on.

About Claire Hawley

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