Are you making an attempt to construct your airplane whereas flying it?
I don’t know the place that phrase originated, however a 22-year-old promoting marketing campaign from Fallon for digital consulting agency EDS helped popularize it. The comical TV and print advert confirmed individuals assembling an airliner within the air and testifying to how a lot they love their jobs.
The advert’s tagline defined the purpose – that EDS might assist you to “construct your digital enterprise even when you’re up and working.”
Fallon created the advert as a part of an built-in marketing campaign with two different humorous movies: Cat Herders, about managing the complexity of digital enterprise, and Operating With the Squirrels, which claimed EDS might assist legacy companies compete like disruptive startups.
However the “constructing the airplane whereas flying it” metaphor endures in digital technique, and it’s normally invoked when established processes or procedures change.
Lately, it appears like firms are constructing an entire lot of airplanes.
Some model of this expression comes up in almost each enterprise I see growing a brand new content material program. Inevitably, the to-do checklist from the content material technique assembly contains redefining roles and obligations, adjusting editorial approaches, setting new workflows, and implementing new applied sciences.
That’s when frustration units in.
Groups notice they will’t shut something down whereas they work to implement all the brand new concepts. They nonetheless must publish articles and weblog posts, write program supplies, launch campaigns and feed content material to current channels utilizing the applied sciences at the moment in place.
The actual frustration doesn’t come up from the problem of constructing the airplane whereas flying it. It comes from the lack to create new planes as a result of they’re too busy flying the previous ones.
Constructing the airplane whereas flying it’s an (overused) metaphor for coping with #ContentMarketing change. Nevertheless it would not handle the true wrestle, says @Robert_Rose by way of @CMIContent. Click on To Tweet
My recommendation? Don’t attempt.
Each time I hear somebody cite the airplane cliché on the finish of a content material technique course of, I recommend a spin on the metaphor. Don’t attempt to construct one other airplane when you’re flying the prevailing one. As an alternative, let your current planes fly when you construct an airplane manufacturing unit.
I lately labored with a shopper within the B2B monetary companies area. To say content material advertising and marketing is sizzling in that business is an understatement. Stripe and JP Morgan have made acquisitions, and crypto big Coinbase introduced it can launch its personal media operation.
The corporate I labored with initially deliberate to faucet its digital and PR groups to switch current PR newsrooms on its web site to create new content material advertising and marketing platforms. However neither the newsroom nor the web site itself suited the content material advertising and marketing technique. The whole lot from the web site hierarchy to the audiences it interested in the know-how platform it ran would stand in the way in which of the brand new content material targets.
However the agency’s current governance processes and values have been constructed to focus all digital efforts (and paid and earned media) on its web site – and leaders at first resisted increasing that view.
It was as if the corporate was saying, “We anticipate you to convey us into the jet airliner age. However you’ll be able to solely do this by repairing and upgrading our propeller airplane whereas it’s within the air.”
Ultimately, the leaders realized the futility of reconstructing the airplane mid-flight. They agreed to create a brand new content material innovation staff with new assets, processes, and tech platforms. And as soon as they did, the content material venture took off.
The prevailing PR staff continued to replace and handle the prevailing content material “airplane” (the web site and newsroom). And the corporate constructed a brand new “manufacturing unit” (a content material advertising and marketing technique) to help extra content material platforms.
They didn’t attempt to change the prevailing technique. They constructed a brand new one.
Do not attempt to change an current #ContentStrategy to help a brand new #ContentMarketing program. As an alternative, construct a brand new one, says @Robert_Rose by way of @CMIContent. Click on To Tweet
Sustaining vs. disruptive innovation
The thought for my airplane manufacturing unit metaphor comes from Assembly The Problem of Disruptive Change by Clayton M. Christensen and Michael Overdorf. That article (considered one of my all-time favorites) explores the distinction between sustaining and disruptive improvements.
Sustaining improvements enhance one thing already thought-about precious (e.g., deciding to modify to unique pictures as an alternative of inventory pictures for brand new weblog posts).
Disruptive improvements create one thing totally new (e.g., deciding to launch a web based college as an alternative of continuous together with your weblog).
Implementing a brand new content material technique is at all times a disruptive innovation.
A brand new #ContentStrategy is a disruptive innovation, says @Robert_Rose by way of @CMIContent. Click on To Tweet
The article means that whenever you face this sort of disruptive innovation, you shouldn’t method it as altering one thing that already exists. As an alternative, you must method it as constructing one thing inside a brand new organizational area.
That’s what my monetary companies shopper did. And I’ve discovered it notably useful every time I’m advising an organization that wishes to develop a content material advertising and marketing platform and content material technique.
I do know content material practitioners are a scrappy, resourceful, and modern crew. Requests to construct the content material equal of recent airplanes are available in on a regular basis, and lots of content material groups can hack planes collectively and handle some sustaining repairs and modifications mid-flight.
However on the subject of rolling out a content material technique, it’s extra productive to set a brand new area for it. Within the article, Christensen and Overdorf define 3 ways to create this new organizational area:
- You possibly can create a brand new staff throughout the current organizational construction.
- You possibly can spin out a brand new and impartial group from the construction.
- You possibly can purchase a distinct group that turns into a brand new a part of your current construction.
Creating area for a brand new content material technique
Each profitable new content material technique follows a kind of three choices. Listed here are some examples of every method.
- A brand new content material staff. When a brand new content material staff will get formalized, named, and documented, the possibility of content material advertising and marketing success instantly improves. Crimson Hat provides an incredible instance. Laura Hamlyn (2019 B2B Content material Marketer of the 12 months) created a brand new strategic staff to deal with all of the group’s content material. The staff has grown to greater than 50 individuals (from the unique six).
- A brand new group. When content material turns into its personal operate in an enterprise, it may develop into a robust new enterprise mannequin. On the Cleveland Clinic, for instance, what began as an embedded staff inside advertising and marketing has now turn out to be a separate, impartial operate. It operates its Well being Necessities and Well being Library as particular person merchandise, which drive income and help the group’s advertising and marketing wants.
- A newly acquired group. I discussed a number of acquisitions within the Monetary Providers area already. One other instance is HubSpot’s acquisition of The Hustle publication, considered one of a number of content-related purchases the software program maker has made.
The important thing time period in all these concepts is “new.” You’re establishing a brand new organizational construction – an airplane manufacturing unit, if you’ll – to design, manufacture, and launch new issues. You’ll must work on coaching, socialization, and market acceptance. However that’s totally different from making an attempt to fly an current airplane as you construct it.
Attempting to construct an airplane whereas it’s flying is an efficient downside – it means you’re already flying. However in the event you anticipate to remain within the air, you sometimes have to come back again to earth and construct one thing new from the bottom up.
It’s your story. Inform it nicely.
Rose-Coloured Glasses is a brand new weekly column through which Robert Rose shares his view of content material advertising and marketing challenges. Each Friday, he provides reasoning, rationale, and rhetoric that can assist you advance the follow of content material advertising and marketing in your group.
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Cowl picture by Joseph Kalinowski/Content material Advertising Institute