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Change management tactics in the newsroom: a key advantage during transformation

28 Nov 2023

What's the key to success in transforming a newsroom? (image by Midjourney)

Written by Stijn Vercamer, data and product director at Mediahuis Belgium and Sarah Faict, organization developer and owner at Buildr.

Working with product managers across different Mediahuis entities for several years, we experience the many challenges they face first-hand. Maintaining highly engaged teams throughout the fast-changing product cycles is one of the most challenging.

At Mediahuis Belgium, we discovered one of the answers lies in the force of internal communication, which can be the driving factor in keeping the organisation motivated regarding product and technical development. Internal communication plays a vital role in the success of change management and employee engagement, and is supported by Mediahuis case studies.

Read also: 6 barriers to collaborative and innovative newsroom culture

Change management tactics as an engagement raiser

A flexible mindset is crucial in the world of product management. Shifting priorities and evolving customer needs require rapid adaptation. The success of change initiatives depends heavily on effective internal communication.

One key to success is communicating a change story, which helps employees understand where the organisation is headed, why it is changing, and why the changes are essential. A McKinsey & Company study on digital transformation success shows that a successful transformation is more than three times more likely for organizations that follow this practice.

When Mediahuis found itself amid a trust crisis between the technology and business departments, we introduced a new quarterly product cycle at Mediahuis Belgium. This included regular internal product newsletters and quarterly information sessions, leading to solid team alignment and cross-department collaboration.

The information sessions and newsletters to various stakeholders keep our colleagues well-informed and give them a sense of ownership and pride in their work. This open communication approach significantly reduced resistance to change and quicker adaptation to new product strategies.

Read also: How do you run a digital transformation in a newsroom?

We also discovered internal communication's positive effect on employee engagement and productivity. When Gallup researchers analyzed the differences in performance among business work units, the benefits of employee engagement in productivity (+18%) and profitability (+23%) among others, were prominent.

Companies evolve, and they need new ideas all the time,” says Jim Harter, Ph.D., Gallup’s chief scientist of employee engagement and wellbeing, in the article. “Engaged employees are a lot closer to the best ideas. They think about the whole company and how they fit into it, and their ideas lead to better decisions".

Mediahuis case studies

Information sessions

In its quarterly information session, the product director presents a review of the previous quarter to our tech colleagues with concrete business results and explains the scope for the next quarter with the business requirements and objectives.

Here’s a look at some examples:

  • The previous quarter, the business and technology sectors worked together on a better video environment for our digital products. This wasn’t the most challenging work for our developers. Yet, the results were stunning: We doubled our video inventory in a couple of months. Showing a graph with that result in the presentation boosted the engagement of the tech teams.

  • We will devote much time to onboarding the new Mediahuis publishing platform in this and the next quarter. Onboarding should never be a goal, so we also explain the business benefits and the “why” behind it. For example, we will migrate to a new customer journey platform and authentication system. These enable us to have a more flexible paywall, amongst other benefits. The business need for this is very high as our company is mainly subscription-driven.

The product director then repeats this session, with some adaptations, to the business stakeholders. Here, the focus is on what has been delivered, why, and what the next quarter looks like. He also gives a sneak preview of what we see on the mid-term agenda (next year outlook). Everybody is, of course, free to ask any questions.

Newsletters

We work with three-week sprint cycles. After every cycle, the product management team sends a newsletter to internal stakeholders. In this newsletter, the team mainly explains what will be in the upcoming app and Web releases. But it is also a moment to communicate about our business, tech people’s work, and how the long-term platform initiatives are doing.

As we were migrating to a new platform, we also launched a bi-weekly newsletter about that project. The frequency will probably increase as we approach the launch date. This fits in our ADKAR (awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcement) change management approach.

This newsletter is particularly important in the first three phases. We constantly inform our stakeholders of the new platform’s progress and benefits.

Read also: How to build a knowledge system around a new tool?

The road to success

We learned first-hand that effective internal communication is an important vehicle that propels your team through the challenges of a rapidly changing product cycle. By embracing best practices in change management, such as product newsletters, and information and “town hall” sessions, longer-term benefits will undoubtedly arise.

The Mediahuis case studies show that the force of internal communication is undeniable. Remember, it’s not just about what you communicate but how you tell the story makes all the difference in product management.

This article was first featured in the International News Media Association (INMA) blog here and was written by Stijn Vercamer, data and product director at Mediahuis Belgium and Sarah Faict, organization developer and owner at Buildr.

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