- Jim VandeHei
- Aug 21
The Axios Way: How you do it
Lots of great feedback to our post on The Axios Way — some lessons learned starting two media companies. There were requests for us to expand it to cover tricks/techniques that apply to all organizations, not just media startups.
Why it matters: Thanks to the explosion of technology and social media in particular, every industry — and most jobs — are changing faster than ever. This requires a new set of strategies to thrive in this era of transparency, distraction and disruption.
Market manically. For all the whining about technology, you can reach more people, more frequently, with more precision than at any point in humanity.
- How you do it: If your marketing plan has conventional media only or catch-all "social media" section, destroy it. You need a specific plan for every media ecosystem — Facebook, video, Twitter, TV, email, etc — and to understand it's a different, often radically different, one for each. Make no mistake, it's harder than ever to punch through the noise, so you need a level of brand marketing sophistication most lack.
Think of your brand as a political candidate. You need to be hyper-aware of how you're seen by your core constituencies (employees and customers) and by the broader public.
- How you do it: Be vigilant for signs of erosion in your base; or failing to respond forcefully to negative attacks; or underutilizing technology to connect with your people in authentic, compelling ways. And don't forget that people love a good narrative. So write and sell one, internally and externally.
Over communicate. In our short-attention-span world, full of cluttered and distracted minds, every leader and manager needs to explain what they're doing and why they're doing it every week, if not every day.
- How you do it: It's not enough to save it for the staff retreat. Find a simple, clear way to explain what each person is doing, how they'll be measured, and how it fits into your company's larger purpose. And do it often. If not, you will end up with a bunch of distracted, underperforming malcontents.
Speak like a human. What the hell is the difference between "mission" and "values"? Who the hell really cares? What all employees — millennials in particular — want to know is what you're doing and why you're doing it. So just say it that way. (We're in the process of doing just this, and it's been very clarifying).
- How you do it: Social media thankfully forces authenticity and writing like you would speak in normal settings. Your "what" and "why" should be in this casual language. If you sound like a corporate robot, reboot.
Force-multiply. It's not just that hiring someone better than you makes you better. It encourages that person to do the same. Soon, you have a talent factory. But many leaders/managers are too insecure to hire others who might outshine them. So they hire middling talent, trained to do the same. Soon you have the hot mess of mediocrity with no easy fix.
- How you do it: You get this right at the very top by obsessing about finding killer executive talent secure enough to hire/empower stars. This is contagious. As for the flip side, get rid of leaders who don't get it.
The tech wolf is at your door. Your job, your company and your industry face imminent threat from new technologies or robots. This threat will worsen.
- How you do it: Knowing this alone should instantly sharpen your mind and shorten your planning cycles. You don't have the luxury of five-year plans or one-year budgets. Yes, set a North Star. But constantly adapt to keep pace with technologies and swift changes in your marketplace. Tame the tech wolves eyeballing your lunch — before they eat it.
Heed red flags. Bad values are cancer, and it spreads. We look for killer talent with humility, and never compromise on either half.
- How you do it: Resist the urge to overlook signs that someone won't fit with your culture, even if they're awesome at what they do. In the past, we occasionally averted our gaze from people with bad values but great gifts — and regretted it every single time. The same will likely happen to you, too.