Digital Publishing
3 mins read

AOP Awards 2021: Why culture and values are becoming a strategic priority for digital publishers

As part of the Association of Online Publishers (AOP) Awards 2021, the AOP conducted an in-depth series of interviews with the finalists to tease out the strategies and innovations that have proved so successful. In Part One, the AOP looked at the essential ingredients for successful publisher growth, and in Part Two, the AOP looked into successful publisher innovation.

Now, in the third installment, the AOP has looked into why culture and values are such a strategic priority for digital publishers. You can read the full, in-depth blog post here, but below are some highlights from our focus on culture and values.

Lessons from adapting your work culture to a virtual setting

With remote working so firmly entrenched in the global psyche, it’s hard to imagine that there was a time when it was deemed by some as a risky strategy; surely if you let people work from home, they’ll sneak off to the beach? Instead, work cultures have thrived off the trust that has been placed in their employees.

We trust our employees to deliver. They performed amazingly through COVID; our productivity has gone through the roof.

Tom Dunkerley, CEO, Sift

Despite the potential for isolation, in many ways the pandemic challenged teams to re-think the way they communicated and interacted, with many of our finalists highlighting how much better they have become at checking in with one another.

We’ve been really good at celebrating the successes. It’s been a difficult time, but we’ve also had lots of good things happen in that time… So, we’ve been strong at making sure that people know that, and that we’re thanking people.

Briony Hughes, HR Director, News UK

Creating spaces for everyone to thrive

Improvements in the way that teams communicate – and the awareness of the emotional stresses of the pandemic – have also led to a renewed energy around supporting mental wellbeing within the workplace.

What’s accelerated when we’ve been working from home is the ‘always on’ concern.

Simon Entwistle, Partner, Lewis Silkin

This concern was reflected by many of the finalists that we reached out to, with several suggesting mechanisms they had taken to support their teams. News UK’s Briony Hughes explained how the publisher reached out to their employees on a weekly basis to understand how people were feeling and to help tailor the support that each individual was receiving.

What we found was the team was working longer hours and at their computers more, so our strategy was based on getting them away from technology.

Simon Corbett, Founder, Global Dating Insights

Diverse talent, diverse thinking

However, digital publishers have a wider responsibility outside the walls of their own organisation. As media brands, publishers are at the forefront of societal conversations, about sustainability, misinformation, and hate speech. And one of the ideas that recurred most regularly through our conversations was around the focus on hiring diverse talent.

We are hiring people with less experience and fewer qualifications, but training them in-house in a way more akin to apprenticeship (in order to help remove some of the barriers for people with lower incomes to get into journalism)

William Hayward, Welsh Affairs Editor, WalesOnline

You’ve got to look at the site, and the make-up of that site and how it’s put together. We looked at all of the imagery to try and get better representation… then we looked at our speakers, our writers, and our freelancers, and did an audit of how diverse that group of people writing is. We’ve put some fairly fundamental changes in place.

Tom Dunkerley, CEO, Sift

Leadership is key

Corporate values have never been more important to the success of a digital publisher. A study from Cone/Porter Novelli showed that 66% of consumers would switch products to buy from a purpose-driven company – a statistic that leaps to 91% when focussing in on Millennial consumers. And Edelman Earned Brand Study from 2018 found that “nearly two-thirds (64%) of consumers around the world will buy or boycott a brand solely because of its position on a social or political issue.”

The business case for corporate values – and for ensuring that they live and breathe in your work culture – is clear. But ultimately, if you want to ensure that your values are truly brought to life in your organisation, they have to be embraced by the full leadership team.

It has to come back to the leadership team. These things need to be on management and team agendas… It has to be authentic.

Tom Dunkerley, CEO, Sift

For further learnings on culture and values as a key part of a digital publisher’s success, you can read more on the AOP’s blog.