What our organisation thinks of… our organisation.

The results of the European Journalism Centre team survey are ready. And I was wrong about quite a few things.

Adam Thomas
Apr 25, 2017 · 5 min read
Mattia (centre), who leads our News Impact Summits, talking with IDR grantee Marc Ellison.

Over the past month, I’ve been working closely with LauraOliver (former head of social and community at the Guardian) on a comprehensive project to understand and redefine this amazing organisation I’ve inherited. Here’s how I described the process in my last post.

It’s about finding out how we help people and what they value us for. And what we aren’t valued for, but maybe should be. Just as with my first 100 days experiment, we going to be transparent about this whole thing. Most rebranding processes that fail, fail because they take place in a boardroom, not out in the open. Rebranding needs to be a conversation, not a broadcast.

Part of that involved a team and board survey to mine our team for insights. Here are the results, clustered, with my spontaneous reaction to each.

Our survey says…

  • Makes connections, acts as a hub, fosters collaboration
  • Cutting edge, innovative
  • Of journalists and for journalists
  • Offers a European perspective
  • Non-profit

My reaction: No surprises here. Great to see collaboration high on the list. Both cutting-edge and innovative will be important to convey, but we need to really define what they mean.

  • Journalists (especially the disadvantaged)
  • Media organisations in Europe
  • Students, bloggers and aspiring journalists
  • EU governments
  • Media professionals — communication pros
  • Tech companies and foundations (less mentioned)

My reaction: We have a real challenge here — this is seriously diverse group. even just within “journalists” there are hundreds of potential segments depending on experience, expertise and geography. How do we prioritise these groups in order to focus our work?

  • Trustworthy
  • Open and open-minded
  • Friendly and nice
  • Well-connected
  • Innovative
  • Versatile

My reaction: Great. These are clear values we can convey in both our visual design and our communications tone.

  • Shy, needs to be more outspoken/doesn’t express their opinion
  • Doesn’t communicate clearly, opacity
  • Cautious
  • Slow (both organisationally and in getting to the point in its communications)
  • Chaotic

My reaction: Ouch. These are tough to read, but imminently solvable, I hope. without one voice, organisational communication does tend to suffer both internally and externally. Slowness and caution are a surprise — anecdotally, I hear the opposite from partners.

  • Opportunities for individuals: training, events, grants/funding, networking, jobs
  • To learn what the EJC is and does, what its mission is — important for potential partners
  • Find out what is happening with journalism and media in Europe, especially trends, tools and innovations

My reaction: This really made me think. I think we (and I) need to focus far more on the opportunities available to our communities, the benefits we bring to them in all aspects of the work. I’ve probably been underestimating the importance of this when thinking about the brand and the new website.

  • It’s not clear
  • To spread information and awareness of what the EJC does
  • Promotion and visibility (reach above engagement)
  • To attract new funding partners and journalist participants for grants and training
  • Potentially as a way to engage new audiences e.g. younger journalists?

My reaction: Whoever responded “it’s not clear” is definitely right. Despite the best efforts of those helping out on our social communications, we’re all over the map here. It is not helped by the fact that our various sub-brands (e.g. data driven journalism, journalism grants) also have their own accounts and brand identities.

  • Clear branding and design that communicates what EJC does
  • Clear mission statement
  • Clarity and simplification of design, sitemap and explanation of EJC
  • Offer more video
  • “Rather than a wand, I’d take a rubbish bag and directly bring ejc.net to the dump.”

My reaction: Your wish is my command! Watch this space. Comments around our use of social media were along similar lines.

  • Journalism students (“young data freaks”)
  • Pioneers in journalism
  • Funders and philanthropic organisations
  • Wider public (especially those concern with future of news)
  • Decision-makers in tech, foundations, government

My reaction: Build it and they will come? We’re in a crowded and talented space for thought-leadership. I’d love to take an angle that also engages other industries, but that might not be conducive to a focused message.

  • Innovation — looking globally and beyond the usual suspects
  • Press freedom and the international landscape for the media
  • Journalism funding and finance, sustainability
  • Opportunities for collaboration, networking and training
  • What the EJC does/is and how it can help journalists

My reaction: Nothing sensational here, which probably isn’t a good thing. I don’t think the world needs another future of journalism blog. We’ve work to do when it comes to defining our content strategy, for sure. Bringing our press freedom and media development work to the fore is important, and doable.

  • Anything that threatens EJC’s reputation as independent
  • Politics, religion
  • Areas of policy that EJC does not have expertise in

My reaction: This clearly connects with our “personality trait” of trustworthiness. Takes decades to build up, and moments to lose. Implementing this is multi-faceted, and difficult, if we want to decentralise our communication and open it up to the whole team.

  • Video
  • Instagram — possibly for live events but only if it can be sustained between events too
  • Medium
  • Bring more personal updates from staff into comms
  • Revamp newsletters
  • LinkedIn for professional networks

My reaction. I’ve been impressed with how Medium’s low-friction, high-influence reach has been playing out for us. We have talented video producers in-house, and I love the idea of getting active on LinkedIn and via newsletters with an authentic voice from the team.

This has been illuminating for me. Plenty of confirmation bias of course, but plenty to challenge my pre-conceptions and bring some of the actions needed into focus.

But what do you think? What did the team miss?

Thanks for reading. If you liked this, please hit the recommend button!

Read more about our public rebranding process here, and check in with my first 100 days as Director of the European Journalism Centre here.

100 days of questions

As I take over the EJC, I’ll be blogging my attempts to ask…