We’ve got news here at ITWC. Recently, President of IT World Canada Fawn Annan has taken on a new role at the company as its chief marketing officer.
You’ve seen Annan in our CMO Digital video series and more recently writing blogs about marketing topics on ITBusiness.ca. With our president venturing into new leadership territory and taking on a title that many in our audience hold, ITBusiness.ca editor Brian Jackson asks a few questions about Annan’s new role and her approach as CMO.
Brian Jackson: Fawn, your role is expanding from President to President and chief marketing officer at ITWC. What does that mean to you?
Fawn Annan: As President I lead the company. I make tough business decisions and try and steer the company through sometimes turbulent waters, focused ultimately on providing the content our audience wants, making sure it is available to them in the way they want to receive it. We interact with our audience across several unique platforms and will probably need to add more channels in the future as things evolve.
When I am acting as CMO, I am fixated on brand. Are we delivering on our brand promise? We have built a community of people that work with us, trust us, and depend on us. As CMO it’s my job to make sure we are not wasting their time. Time is money. Information is the new currency. I’m not interested in wasting either.
BJ: When I joined ITWC in 2008 as a staff writer, much of the publishing business was focused on our print magazines. Today, we’re a pure digital publisher. When was the critical turning point when you realized that a digital transformation made sense for us as a company?
FA: I looked at the sales sheet over a six-month period and saw we weren’t making any money. I looked at the reaction to our print publications and saw people yawning. It’s not because they weren’t good – we’ve always had excellent content – but readers were more excited by the immediacy of the Internet and the fact they could watch video and download podcasts to listen to at the time of their choosing. We couldn’t do that with print. If we were to stay relevant, we decided we needed to go totally digital – and work at the crest of the next wave. To transition and look for a calm sea would surely find us sucked down into a whirlpool.
BJ: What was the hardest part about reshaping the business?
FA: There were huge financial challenges, but the toughest part was saying goodbye to the people that couldn’t cross into a digital landscape. It changed a lot of lives. These were friends and colleagues who had spent years supporting the company, but didn’t have the skills or couldn’t find a way to embrace the change. In these uncharted waters, I knew I needed some help. That’s when we recruited Jim Love as our CIO. Technology strategy is core to success in this new environment and Jim has it. Together we’ve reshaped the company and have gathered together a team that can drive it forward.
BJ: While we’ve transformed to a digital publisher, events have always been a core part of our business, and that remains true. Tell me why you think events have remained relevant to us and how you integrate them into our brand’s presence as a whole.
FA: Events are one touchpoint in a series of touchpoints that help nourish our community. Some are educational, some are celebrations of achievements, some are business driven. They all provide an opportunity for networking among peers and usually they provide interesting editorial content. For as much as we work and live our lives digitally, there is still something deeply satisfying about meeting a colleague or a competitor face-to-face.
BJ: As I cover the marketing industry these days, I am always hearing about the need to grasp the “customer journey.” What do you understand our customer journey to look like?
FA: With our multi-channel offerings, the number of customer touchpoints has exploded. Touchpoints provide an invaluable source of insights, but even with the best customer service with each of those interactions, failing to understand the customer journey can leave the experience feeling a little flat. Companies like ours that are committed to clear and consistent communication and excel in mapping the journey win customers that repeat purchases, spend more and are more likely to recommend us to their friends. For those seeking information, our touchpoints include news articles, research, webinars and white papers. For those further along the road towards purchase, our touchpoints are deeper and include interactive opportunities like peer-to-peer reviews, analyst reports, and executive roundtables. Then, as the client’s needs mature with growth, our sophisticated range of digital service can confirm a shared understanding of goals and aspirations, and viable partnerships emerge.
BJ: What are you working to learn right now and apply to your work as a business leader?
FA: We face the same challenges as our audience and clients. How do you sort through the huge number of emerging technologies that are shifting the way a business operates? In my case, I spend a lot of time studying the way people want to connect – and then how to measure it. Right now I’m trying to learn everything I can about podcasts, and new apps that we can leverage to make our stories and insights more impactful for our audience and our sponsor and advertising propositions more valuable to our sponsors. I’m always doing market intelligence working with industry groups to understand where their pain points are and how we can help.
BJ: What will ITWC look like five years from now?
FA: It will be very different. It will be shaped by emerging technologies and the demands of clients and our audience, but we are in a good spot. We are big enough to be relevant and impactful as we serve the IT community, but we’re small enough to be flexible and adapt if there is a sea change in the kind of information people want – or more likely the way they want it delivered. It would be foolish to think there’s not a next generation Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or AI product out there that’s going to disrupt the industry. We always have to be looking for it… or creating it.