REVIEW 

Why are you doing what you’re doing?

‘Why’ is a very powerful question, and when deployed properly, can unlock potential and provide direction for a publishing business.

By James Evelegh

Why are you doing what you’re doing?

At this week’s Making Publishing Pay conference in London, one thread that ran through many of the stories we heard was the word ‘why’ and how it can be used to drive transformational change.

The fact is that much of what we do, we do because we’ve always done it. Our day-to-day outputs have become an end in themselves and we rarely lift our eyes above the next deadline to question whether what we’re actually doing is what our readers really want.

Sure, it provides a roof over our head, for now, but are we missing out on the opportunity for real, exhilarating, game-changing growth?

Rory Brown, CEO of AgriBriefing, described how, when they acquired Farmers Guardian in 2012, they sat the team down and told them they would be closing the 175-year-old print weekly in two months’ time. Everyone would keep their job but they would have to work out how they added value to their readers, with no magazine to produce.

Because, as Rory told them, their job was not to produce a weekly magazine, it was to help farmers do their jobs better. They all put their thinking caps on and quickly realised that farmers needed a whole host of things that Farmers Guardian was not providing.

Fast forward eight years, and the result has been a total business transformation, with rates of growth unimaginable a few years earlier.

The business today is unrecognisable from what it was in 2012, although I hasten to add that the magazine is still being produced! The threat was a clever ruse to get the team to think creatively about how they could better serve their readers – to effectively answer the question ‘why’.

If you and your team haven’t stopped to think why you do what you do, then now is a good time to do so.