Cinco claves para innovar en tu proyecto de comunicación

Five keys to innovate in your communication project

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A few years ago I had the good fortune to spend some time in New York while researching American network news for my doctoral thesis; The day I met one of the monsters of television, Peter Jennings, the ABC News anchor, is etched in my mind. Jennings had been a correspondent halfway around the world, had won countless awards and his news programme was then the highest-rated, with over 14 million viewers; I was fascinated by his courageous and innovative journalism; That day I watched live from the control room while his news was being broadcast and then chatted with him for a few minutes; I asked him how he managed to innovate in television, a medium that is so little inclined to change; Jennings told me: “To innovate you have to change the mindset of the people you work with”. His words still resonate; I will never forget that lesson;

Innovation is about changing the mindset of those around us, changing their ideas and attitudes; It is not just about using a technology or launching a new product, but essentially, it is about influencing ways of thinking or doing things; Sometimes we believe that what is innovative is found in the beauty of a design, the efficiency of an algorithm or the speed of a software tool; But nothing could be further from the truth; The engine of all innovation comes from powerful ideas, capable of transforming people;

In the Master in Innovation in Journalism at Miguel Hernández University, where I am a professor, we have been helping dozens of journalists to develop their own projects for over a decade. All kinds of initiatives have emerged: newsletters, niche publications, podcasts, intrapreneurial projects, hyperlocal, data journalism, even audiovisual communication projects or corporate communication. There is no ‘formula for success’; each project is unique and requires a great deal of dedication; Reflecting on how some of these initiatives have been successful, I would like to share five lessons that may help those who wish to embark on this path:

  1. Research in depth what the people you are targeting with your project are like. User researchis the process prior to the definition of the idea, which should also accompany its development and launch. Initial questions such as: what are the users’ needs, what do they consider relevant, what are their problems, how do they currently solve them, what do they lack, etc. should be asked. It is about studying users in their own context, listening to them, understanding their concerns and finding out what they need. All this information will also be useful to identify your potential allies when designing the project, who could collaborate in some tasks or become prescribers of your initiative;

 

This exercise of observing the user should be continuous; It is not enough to do research at the beginning of the project, design it and continue with its development, forgetting about the user; You have to continually go back to the conversations and the analysis of users’ behaviour, not losing sight of their needs and how they are responding to what you are offering them; What really works as an innovation strategy is to consider the user as a person, to look at them as a person, and not just as a piece of data or a statistic; There are many cases of companies that focused on results and KPIs, losing sight of the user in the process; the result is often counterproductive;

  1. Take risks and step out of your comfort zone.. We are facing times of rapid and disruptive change, where the ability to adapt is paramount; Remember that your competitors can imitate products and even technology, but they can never replicate a person who is motivated and aligned with your organisation’s purpose; To achieve this we have to overcome resistance to change; This is what Albert Einstein meant when he said: “We cannot solve problems by applying the same kind of thinking we used when they were created.”. For a leader, changing attitudes means giving oneself the space to think differently and look for alternatives;

 

I remember a journalist who, during her Master’s degree, considered starting a podcast, but she was terrified of getting in front of a microphone; “I’d much rather write pieces or do a newsletterthan launch a podcast,” he told me. But after a while, it realised that its users preferred that format and it had to take that step; He bought a good microphone, spent hours rehearsing and modulating his voice; Now enjoy a very successful podcast; We need to weigh the challenges we face and overcome our fears; Innovation is also a question of openness to a change of mentality, as we said at the beginning; But before we dare to take the leap, we need to understand the reasons why we are going to change and how it will affect us, so that we can overcome our fear of the new situation;

  1. Learn how to work as a team. Without a team, innovation is virtually impossible; The myth of the lone wolf, of the successful long-distance runner, is false; We often take it for granted that we know how to work with other colleagues, but this is not true; High-performance teams are those that meet objectives with the highest professional quality and create a working environment where everyone feels understood and valued; Each member of the team may make mistakes or not be fully effective, but he or she can count on the understanding of others and their help if needed; Therefore, surround yourself with people with very diverse skills, capable of enriching the collective outcome of the project; Genius arises from a brushstroke, a spark sparked by a conversation, an experience or a comment; Spend time explaining your plan and how you will carry it out; Tell the people around you (colleagues, family, friends…) about your project, ask them to give you honest feedback and accept criticism;

 

  1. Follow the money. Journalists are very good at reporting and telling stories, but excel and numbers are not so good. I am reminded of a young journalist who used to have a newsletter with more than 2,000 subscribers and set out to find sponsorships; He made a list of potential clients and started calling each of them; Out of 20 calls, only two were answered; But that was the start that enabled it to achieve stable funding; Others have earned income through a thousand ways: crowdfundingads, events, subscriptions, courses, micropayments…In addition, your project soon becomes your ‘letter of introduction’ to make yourself known, and so additional income streams can arise: collaborations, classes, training, consultancy… Those who have their own business know how complicated it is to balance the books at the end of the month; So, from the start, be very clear about how you are going to make it sustainable and even if you often have to ‘pivot’, don’t forget that your work is very valuable and you can’t give it away;

 

  1. Work with passion and be consistent. Human beings feel emotions which, in turn, have an impact on our experiences and attitudes; If you perceive that your work is very hard, you often feel frustrated and every day becomes an ordeal, when you spend time on the project, you will have negative emotions that will increase your frustration; On the other hand, if you are passionate about what you do and you are motivated by every small step, you will overcome difficult moments, face problems with tenacity and enjoy yourself throughout the development, launching and updating of the project; The important thing is not only to reach the goal, but to enjoy the journey; Those who carry out their initiatives in the Master’s in Innovation in Journalism are distinguished by their passion and perseverance; They are not content to just get by, to stay in their ‘comfort zone’; They firmly believe in the value of their idea and go the extra mile to make it happen; You can see it in the way their eyes sparkle when they talk about ‘their creature’; They radiate an unwavering passion, which nothing and no one will be able to truncate;

The engine of all innovation arises from powerful ideas, capable of transforming people.

*Jose Alberto García-Avilés, professor in the Master’s Degree in Innovation in Journalism, Miguel Hernández University of Elche.

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