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Agincourt reflections – management under pressure

October 25, 2010

Today, of course, is the anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt and, as Shakespeare tells us, “and Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by, from this day to the ending of the world, but we in it shall be remembered“. And Agincourt teaches us much in how to make the best from limited resources.

Depending on which source you read, at the battle the disease-ridden English army was outnumbered by between 2 to 1 and 10 to 1; most observers today put the ratio towards the lower end of the scale. But never mind the size of the challenge, in situations such as this, it pays to know your strengths and weaknesses before entering the fray.

For publishers today, the French army is represented by the burgeoning of e-book technology; e-store hegemony; retailer discount power and the leverage of the international publishing groups. Publishers themselves, of course, are the English army in this scenario: limited resources; staff exhaustion; and subject to constant whittling attacks on their profits from suppliers at one end and retailers at the other.

So it is that the commander of your publishing army needs to understand and manage the smallest things, be they “ne’er so vile” in order to achieve success. It’s just not good enough to send out PR releases without understanding effect, reach and recall. It’s pointless sending out marketing materials if response and profitability are not tracked and lessons learned. It is futile having a web presence if it is not armed for a specific purpose.

For publishers on limited resources, the effectiveness of all elements of their marketing mix needs to be measured, understood and developed. In the past, publishers got by with doing things by rote – the book of press clippings, for example, being seen as the “result” of PR or the annual catalogue being seen as a marketing “output”. These approaches – viewing visible outputs as the result rather than the knowing their impact – are obsolete.

Today, publishing has changed. Everything you do needs to be measured and analysed so that management can make the best with limited resources. But with the growth of online capability, the potential for measurement is increased. You can track take up of PR; you can conduct online surveys; you can measure sales uplift; you can monitor online advertising and click through with astonishing accuracy.

So it is that new capabilities enable you to act like Henry V. Simple measures can be employed to provoke responses. Tactical decisions can be taken based on local – rather than global – conditions. Difficult ground can be used to your advantage.

As the old saying goes “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten“.  Which is why publishing management now needs to move beyond old models by maximising organic efficiencies to leverage astonishing results.

With metrics and tools now available to deliver, monitor, change and adapt your marketing approach, staff engagement becomes more focused and less abstract. Failures are understood, successes are celebrated. The company moves forward together with greater pride in itself. As Shakespeare says:

“And gentlemen in England now a-bed shall think themselves accurs’t they were not here; and hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks that fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.”

Dead right too  – hold your ground, yield to no-one and keep your bow strings dry. That way your victories will be all the sweeter in a marketing place so stacked against you – and your staff will be like those very bowmen of old. Glowing in the successes they achieved on even their darkest days.

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