Q&A: Sarah Jones – News Corp Australia

We interviewed Director of Ad Sales Transformation, Sarah Jones, on how she navigated the transformation journey at News Corp Australia.

Hi Sarah, what’s your current role?

I'm the Director of Ad Sales Transformation at News Corp Australia.

Why did you embark on a transformation journey?

Like many organisations we've been challenged by the changes brought about by the new customer environment. We are a traditional print media company, where there's been major disruption, and this will continue, with digital and the internet. We had to transform our business to ensure that we had sustainability into the future.

How did you approach this project?

At News Corp, we didn't wake up one day and say, “we need to transform”. Like most organisations, we stopped and started, but what we really needed to focus on was building the momentum that would allow us to continue the transformation. Over the last couple of years, we've really been on a customer-centric journey – grouping our teams around our customers rather than products. We’ve recently been successful with building the momentum, to progress our transformation further and faster.

How did you go about the roll-out, and balance achieving alignment between states whilst ensuring that the approach met local needs?

For any organisation that isn't only based in Sydney, you do have to consider your other offices and teams in different states. News Corp has a very large geographical spread across Australia, so when we were looking to embark on our transformation, we chose to begin with our HQ team in Sydney. It was then important for us to keep in mind that the framework we developed would need to allow for the local nuances when being rolled out in other states. One of the things we did, was run an initial pilot in New South Wales, which enables us to take in the learnings, but also have our eyes wide open to what the differences would be across other states.

What are some of the key outcomes that you’re already seeing from your project?

How we measure transformation success is around revenue as well as customer feedback. When we went into the transformation, our results were not looking great. You’d be aware of our results now, as we’re a publicly listed company and we are seeing increases in our profit, but it's not only about that – it’s about the customer and employee feedback as well. I remember presenting to our Melbourne team, and I was doing the big sell on why we need to regroup around customers and not around products. It was a 40-minute sell complete with the Blackdot PowerPoint, and they just looked and me and said “about time”. The feedback from our people has been terrific, most of our customers have been very positive as well, but you can also see it in our results.

Where are you at now?

Transformation never ceases as the market is constantly evolving. What we think our competitors are doing today, they will be doing differently tomorrow, and more importantly, our customers will want different things as well. So, where are we at now in our transformation journey? We've looked at grouping our salespeople around our customers, we've looked at how we support our salespeople to enable more customer-centric conversations and solutions. Now we are focusing on how to optimise sales teams and maintain momentum for success.

The continual nature of transformation means that to stay thriving as an organisation and to attract customers and employees, you've got to keep changing. We’ve aligned the frontline with the customer, now we're looking at the fulfillment part of our business and then we will move on to the next initiative. But also, while you're doing that, you've got to keep thinking about how you're going to optimise what you've already done.

As a transformation leader, what are your best tips for getting buy-in from tricky stakeholders?

The first thing that you need to do, is create urgency – if there is no urgency, you will struggle with any stakeholder. You have to have a compelling reason for change and you also need to have an executive and business sponsor – without that you won’t be able to move forward.

If you had a crystal ball, what do you wish you knew about transformation before you started?

Transformation is not a straightforward journey. You don't get up and go to work on Monday knowing what you’ll be working on by the end of the week. I wish I had an understanding that successful transformation is certainly not linear – that you will take two steps forward, take one step back and a few steps to the side as well. I also learnt that a large part of my role is to disrupt, blow things up, and then to go “right, well then how are we going to fix that?” – that was the only way to really solve problems and move forward.

Thanks Sarah, and lastly – I’d love to hear a bit more about your experience working with the Blackdot team.

Blackdot’s role has been very much around challenging us, but also being able to work very quickly. I think one of the things that has worked really well at News Corp, is that we were able to pivot our focus in an agile way and work through problems as they popped up. From my experience of dealing with quite a few consultants throughout my very long and varied career at News Corp, Blackdot actually sits within the business. They’re as passionate and invested around the change as we are – we certainly see Blackdot as an extension of our team.

– Interviewed by Blackdot

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