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How to shift an organisation to engagement thinking



By Laura Graham

5 minute read

The importance of organising around engagement

With the birth of Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon (GAFA) and the likes, media organisations have been somewhat pushed into a corner. GAFA are both content providers and advertisers; they’ve made an almost endless amount of content available for free online, have effectively commoditised breaking news and now occupy 80% of digital advertising spend.

As a result, traditional media can no longer monetise the masses, and to survive they need to drive more value from ‘quality’ audiences.

Engagement is the leading indicator of performance for the leading brands because it’s a sign that audiences are enjoying your proposition, are forming consumption habits and are in a position to be monetised further. Sales measures are of course important but they’re lagging indicators because they signal a financial implication of something that has already happened.

So what are the options for measuring it? And how could you set up your teams to deliver their contributing role?

What do you measure?

How engagement is tracked will be different by organisation and audience type. No matter how you measure it however, simplicity is the best policy so that it can be understood by everyone in your organisation; from the execs to the analysts.

Recency, Frequency, Volume (RFV) is a widely used KP to measure engagement. We favour focusing on the Frequency component as it tracks reading habits; the volume of articles read can be misleading, and recency just tells you there’s short term interest.

Your KPIs also need to be clearly aligned with business value, across all of your revenue streams and all of your audience touchpoints. This will provide you with a view of your existing Total Customer Value, your potential Customer Lifetime Value and the engagement levers you can pull to realise it.

Everything you do then needs to be linked back to the measures you use. Work to identify your baseline of what ‘good’ looks like and use it as a reference point for testing tweaks to your proposition, and learning from the results.

How do you set up your teams to deliver?

Engagement is a team sport — everyone in your business needs to understand how it’s measured, and the role they play to move audiences up the value curve. It’s no longer just

the job of Marketing to worry about how you interact with the readers, just as it’s no longer the job of Editorial to make sure your articles are resonating with audiences.

Traditionally, teams have been organised around particular revenue streams (subscriptions or client sales), customer life stages (marketing to drive awareness or customer relationship management to drive retention) and/or proposition components (editorial or digital product).

Although the rationale behind this was sound previously, in a world where engagement should be the ‘common currency’ in a business, it leads to siloled ways of working and sometimes counterproductive activities;

  • Teams are unclear about the KPIs they should be paying attention to, hindering the ability to really understand audience behaviour
  • Independent P&Ls create confusion around roles and responsibilities, making it more difficult to identify gaps and/or opportunities in audience experience and value
  • There’s a variety of priorities, making developing and testing new propositions in market a lengthy process with limited learnings

Organising teams around engagement requires pivoting focus so that audience engagement and audience revenue growth is at the heart of your business as the common goal. Strategy sets the direction of travel with audience focused executing teams acting as the custodians of engagement metrics, which are surfaced and shared with wider supporting teams.



Setting up to focus on engagement is one thing, but actually doing it is another matter entirely. The tools that you use to track engagement, and activate next best actions based on what you see, is vital to get people bought into the shift you’re wanting to drive. Make it easy for them to understand, to interpret, to surface the insights from the noise and to decipher what’s next.

That way you’ll have a single army moving in step.

To wrap things up, our top tips

  • Marketing needs to define engagement, ensure it is understood and that it becomes a common currency for the organisation
  • Engagement must be linked to commercial outcomes
  • The core teams that will improve engagement are; Editorial, Marketing, Product and Tech & Data
  • Editorial integrity does not have to be compromised, it’s about giving the customer what they want and need as a way to increase the value in the relationship for both parties