3 lessons to inspire digital marketing success from Arianna Huffington

The founder of the Huffington Post shares the ingredients to how the digital media publisher has been successful through customer engagement, as well as her insights on professional inspiration

Arianna Huffington with Marketo CEO, Phil Fernandez
Arianna Huffington with Marketo CEO, Phil Fernandez

During her presentation at this year’s Marketo Marketing Nation Summit, Huffington Post founder, Arianna Huffington, spoke at length on the rise and ongoing evolution of the hit digital media website, as well as her personal views on professional success, which have culminated with the best-selling book, Thrive.

While the content was somewhat self-serving, there were several insights shared that could help CMOs seeking to build a better and more personalised relationship with their prospects and customers improve their chances of success. Here are a few of those gems.

1. Stop presenting, start engaging

According to Arianna, Huffington Post’s successful disruption of the media landscape was based on the recognition that it’s no longer enough to just ‘present’ information to its audience. As consumers increasingly gain control of the types of information they can tune into digitally, it’s vital to build a two-way engagement through content.

Huffington Post will be 10 years old on May 9 2015 and today maintains 850 journalists and editors, along with thousands of bloggers, writing up to 2000 stories a day. Under a new joint venture with Fairfax, the site will also launch in Australia later this year, bringing its total country tally up to 14.

“We moved the industry by creating a site entirely focused on our audience, and from top-down presentation to engaged participation,” Arianna said. “This is where the marketing is now – you need to move increasingly into engaged marketing. We recognise that it’s not enough to do just top-down presentations; we need to engage customers.

“The key was that self-expression is the new entertainment. [Musician] Will.i.Am said it best: ‘As consumers, we went from sitting on the couch consuming news, to galloping on the horse, sharing that news experience’.”

2. Keep disrupting your business model

According to Arianna, another ingredient in Huffington Post’s success is its ability to constantly disrupt its business model. Two years after launching as a news and politics site for example, the publisher had grown to include sections on business, entertainment, media and increasingly, lifestyle.

“We never said ‘this is the Huffington Post, we can now just do maintenance on the site’,” Arianna commented.

Hand-in-hand with disruption has been working to earn consumers’ trust, she said. “Trust is the new black – there is nothing more important in our business as well as for marketers,” Arianna claimed.

“People become your most loyal readers when you add value to their lives. It’s about moving from being nice to have, to must have, and being useful to becoming indispensable.”

Covering a larger swathe of topics people are preoccupied with has been instrumental to this, she said. This has seen it launch a divorce section, with a large focus on co-parenting advice, as well as teen, college and over 50 sections.

“The third phase for us was to recognise the world was changing and people were communicating by sharing the news. Social is the new front page,” Arianna said. “Now we’re on many platforms and new media – our focus is to inform, inspire, entertain and empower.”

3.Stop multi-tasking

In Arianna’s new book, Thrive, the focus is on helping working professionals embrace the “third leg of the stool” of success – thriving - using four principles: Wellbeing, wisdom, wonder and giving. The book stemmed from Arianna’s collapse several years ago from burnout, sleep deprivation and exhaustion.

“We are paying a heavy price through this collective delusion that burnout is the only way to succeed,” she commented. “We have shrunk success down to power and money… but we need a third metric.”

All of us should focus on our well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving, she said.

“In our business, we value creativity more than anything else, and nothing kills creativity more than stress,” Arianna said.

One of the key contributors to stress is multi-tasking. According to Arianna and a wealth of modern scientists, multitasking doesn’t exist; it is in fact simply task switching and one of the most stressful things you can do.

To help employees focus on the task at hand, Huffington Post now stops staff from bringing devices into meetings. Arianna noted the decision has cut leadership meetings down from over one hour to 30 minutes, while making them more productive.

The media company has also opened two nap rooms to allow staff to rest during the day, and provides breathing classes and healthy snacks. But the most profound change has been from allowing people to turn off their devices after work.

“If something is urgent, we will call or text,” she said. “People need predictable time off, and to be able to be with children, friends and loved ones without feeling they have to be on smartphones in case boss or clients get in touch with them.

“We are in a 24/7 media business, so we have created teams so someone is available all the time, but it’s not the same person available all the time. That doesn’t work.”

Nadia Cameron travelled to Marketo Marketing Nation Summit as a guest of Marketo.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO Australia conversation on LinkedIn: CMO Australia, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+: google.com/+CmoAu

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

Using artificial intelligence to surprise your customers

​We have expected artificial intelligence (AI) will become part of our everyday lives for quite some time.

Katja Forbes

Founder and chief, sfyte

Is customer segmentation dead?

Ginni Rometty, the CEO of IBM, announced the death of customer segmentation five years ago saying, "The shift is to go from the segment to the individual. She might have been a bit premature for most marketers, but if customer segmentation isn't dead yet, it's definitely on life support.

Richard Taylor

Senior digital strategist, Spinach

How people buy brands

Andrew Ehrenberg was a giant in the field of marketing science. He believed scientific methods could reveal law-like patterns of how people buy. In this post, I summarise one of Ehrenberg’s most important discoveries and its implications on how people buy brands.

Kyle Ross

Strategist, TRP

What a great article. Thanks for sharing. Today Digital Marketing is the basic need for a business to survive. As online presence is very...

Ecomsolver Private Limited

Want to master digital transformation? Stop thinking about your own problems

Read more

Feeling grateful that customer led digital transformation could improve business and generate more business growth. Many companies are no...

Lilly Lawrence

How a customer-led digital transformation has helped this CMO generate $6m in incremental business

Read more

If a business games me happy than there is a higher chance I will go to them.

Martinez

The Iconic: becoming customer-focussed transformed our business

Read more

That’s a great example of surprising AR ad that went viral because it was first of its kind. Probably a similar effect to some scale can ...

Natasha Kvitka

Using artificial intelligence to surprise your customers

Read more

Hey there! it is a really meaningful post. I too have written a few similar articles about SEM, SEO, Social Media, Digital Marketing Tren...

Rohit

Digital advertising continues to dominate marketing budgets

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in