It won't be long before the Boston Globe's recent debacle becomes shorthand for massive corporate snafus.
Over the past week, almost everyone in and around Boston has been watching with fascination the mess the storied Boston Globe has created by switching to a new home delivery service.
Globe circulation management changed vendors on Monday, December 28, and the new one doesn't have the drivers to deliver the daily paper to the more than 115,000 weekday home subscribers and 205,000 on Sundays. It got so bad that reporters were stuffing Sunday papers into plastic bags Saturday night and delivering them around the metro region through the next day. Subscribers in downtown Boston, like me, haven't gotten home delivery since the swap.
This is the same newspaper that won a Pulitzer Prize for uncovering the sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and is featured in the movie "Spotlight," which is based on the stories and the reporters behind the investigation.
Advertisers and subscribers are furious. Globe phone lines are jammed and reporters can't call out of the building. The website crashed several times. When I think of this colossal fiasco, it's obvious that the executives forgot one of the Four Ps of Marketing -- Place, which covers channels, locations, and transport. A little more planning and preparation for Place could have eliminated most of the problem.
Certainly, a bit of planning and preparation would go a long way in our industry when it comes to Marketing. These days, everything has been compressed and spontaneity seems to rule. Planning and preparing for a product or corporate launch seems quaint. Perhaps so, but they still are important elements to success. Sure, a product rollout or another type of launch without planning and preparing for contingencies can be pulled together in a matter of days, if necessary, but why risk making a mistake as the Globe just did?
Instead, gather together the Marketing team and other stakeholders who will be involved in the launch several months ahead. Start from the high-level view and hit all the details, working through the Four Ps of Marketing -- product, pricing, promotion, and the aforementioned place. Wipe clean the whiteboard in the conference room, get a handful of colored markers, pull out an analog calendar, grab some sheets of paper and start planning.
Along with planning, settling on goals and objectives is a great way to stay on track. The planning meeting will help nail down messaging and positioning, which are the all-important ways the company wants to communicate the story. Scoping out a reasonable timetable with milestones is important, too.
Assuming the marketing team is working on a product launch, a list of deliverables is valuable as is making assignments to correspond with each item. First up should be a whitepaper, because these are technical, lengthy, and take time. Make sure there are usable graphics for the corresponding PowerPoint presentation and handouts. These graphics can be a good starting point for infographics.
A news release should come next, along with a list of influencers, such as the appropriate editor at EE Times and any analysts covering this market segment. The company's spokespersons should be identified and prepped to talk with influencers. Of course, sales and support materials need to be developed, including product demos and possibly a webinar or seminar and a video, and the sales organization has to be prepared.
As I type this, I think I'm overlooking an item or two. If I had to work on a product launch in under a few weeks, I may not have time to develop a full checklist and would miss something. In this case, I can set aside the blog post, look at it tomorrow and update it. Or, send it to a few marketing experts for feedback.
Once the product has been launched and results have been tallied, I'd be surprised if everyone who helped didn't have a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. It's hard to feel that way when the schedule is overly compressed and everyone's stressed out from pulling everything together.
And talking of stressed out, that has to be how the Boston Globe management team must feel right now. Twitter has been alight with complaints about the paper and it won't be long before this debacle becomes shorthand for massive corporate snafus. It doesn't need to be this way and no company wants to be in this position. Planning can almost always prevent things like this from happening and should be the Fifth P of Marketing.
Update: The Boston Globe has announced that it will split the delivery service between two vendors. It turned to its former distribution partner to handle half of its home deliveries across the region.
Full disclosure: Nanette's dad worked for the Boston Globe for 20 years as head of the Promotions Department, which would now be known as Marketing.