Q&A with Emma Fawcett, News Corp

Emma Fawcett – Managing Director, Commercial Product and Platforms at News Corp shares her perspectives and experience with moving from a legacy product-centric go-to-market approach, towards true customer-centricity. Here’s what she had to say…

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your current role at News Corp?

I’m the Managing Director, Commercial Product and Platforms at News Corp and I’ve spent majority of my career here. To provide some context, News Corp is one of the largest media players in Australia – we have two main revenue streams being B2C; the selling of our journalism and our content to consumers, and B2B; providing advertising and marketing services to other businesses.

My role within News Corp is to create, maintain and take to market new digital and data products for our commercial B2B customers. It’s no secret that the media industry has been greatly impacted by digital-first tech giants. Some parts of our organisation have existed for over 150 years’, so we've had to rapidly transform and invest in new areas of our business to compete with them.

What have been the most significant decisions made around change over the last year?

The phrase that comes to mind is “never waste a crisis”. 2020 really tested what executive teams could make of COVID-19. For us, we had many customers cease advertising, whilst they took stock of what they needed to do to keep their business a-float. On the flip side, demand for our content grew stronger than ever before, with people having this voracious appetite for news. It’s a philosophical challenge – although we’d prefer people to subscribe to our news, we also want the public to have access to factual information. In the end, we decided to make it available to all, in the interest of the public good.

We also experienced some immense advertising challenges, as we had a very short amount of time to make some significant changes to our regional and community publishing assets. We decided to pause the printing of all these assets, which left us with approximately 5,000 customers whom we needed to contact within a 48-hour period. However, the omni-channel marketing capabilities we have built over the years allowed us to get on top of that very quickly. Later, when the decision was made that we wouldn’t bring back the print editions for most of these titles, it then became all about doubling down on digital.

What are some of the challenges you’ve experienced when extracting full value out of tech and data?

News Corp have been investing in digital channels and capabilities for well over a decade. In hindsight, I would’ve liked to do things differently as a lot of these areas now fall under my remit – but when you’re an existing business trying to put products and services out every day, and adapt to a completely new way of working, it’s quite the challenge! Something we’ve struggled with is integrating these platforms back into the existing tech stack – you don’t have the luxury of building from scratch. So, we learnt not to double down too much in any one area but moderate our investment and development, so that the business can evolve at a rate that people can tolerate.

Getting your basics right around data is also absolutely critical. It’s been a multi-year project for us to get our data clean enough, to the point where it becomes usable and actionable. At first, it’s hard to tangibly show the benefits to the broader team, but you’ve got to persevere with it and get them doing it – by stick or by carrot – until it’s right.

Can you talk us through how you’ve moved from a traditional product and print-driven approach towards true customer-centricity?

In 2013 and 2014, we were still masthead-led and it was very fragmented. Our important, large-spending customers had to talk to up to seven people for one campaign. But as mentioned, some parts of our business have existed for over 150 years’ so trying to shift a very ingrained way of working was challenging.

Our first step was bringing in external capability into the business in terms of CX and UX resources, and then elevating the customer conversation and feedback. We implemented days where executives would get on the phone, listen to customer feedback and bring the Voice of Customer to the table. Then we set out on digitising our commercial operations – this involved breaking down silos and bringing together our sales people to focus on specific customer groups.

There's an infrastructure that you need to wrap around when you want to have a single point of contact. Our goal is to be the Marketing partner of choice for our customers. This requires us to deeply know our business, but because we were freeing our sales team to become customer experts, it took us a while to realise that we had to wrap this infrastructure around our sales team. Rather than relying on the knowledge being in their head, we created wiki’s and searchable tools so that everyone could access information they needed quicker, and we’ve seen amazing sales outcomes and results because of this! It's been really hard to make the transition to customer-centricity, but it’s well worth it from a business perspective, and I don't think all our investments in tech and data would have been worth anything without that cultural and mental shift we made.

What have been some of the key learnings when embracing agile business execution and empowering the frontline?

Bringing the Voice of Customer in requires data-crunching and synthesizing insights. We call this “nerd work” – a term we use when someone has to turn the insights into an actionable format and ensure it’s ready on time. There’s no point having a VOC feedback loop, if it takes over a month to get back to you.

Another key learning has been around decision making. Our ways of working have shifted so dramatically, from a command-and-control approach whereby all decisions go up a tree and come back down, usually taking months depending on the urgency – to now, pushing the decision making as close to the customer as possible. As a leader who grew up with those legacy processes, it was a journey to go on personally, because it means no longer being across every decision. It’s all about empowering your next level of leaders, so that sometimes quite big decisions are being made further away – but with the right framework, it will be ok.

My final tip would be that if you want to try a new way of working, but work within a large team, pick out some early adopters that you think will embrace the change. Change is not something you go out on Monday and say “right, from Monday, we will have democratised decision making”. You need to evoke change at a rate that people can handle. Having those people you can instinctively trust to operate within the framework and pave the road for others, has proven to be the best way forward in a large organisation like ours.

Watch the full webinar recording to explore the shifts required to realise full value from your investments in tech, data and digital capabilities.