While it still creates new episodes of “Sesame Street,” “PBS NewsHour,” “Frontline” and many of the shows its been running for decades, the past few years have brought major changes that made PBS.org the most popular network website in the first three months of this year, Jason Seiken, told the crowd at What’s Next DC Monday in Washington, D.C.
Seiken is the head of PBS Digital Studios, which lives on YouTube, and is a digital expansion beyond PBS’s website and those of its member stations that has created amazing remix videos of classic PBS favorites Mr. Rogers, Bob Ross, Julia Child and — my personal favorite — LeVar Burton. But PBS Digital Studios isn’t the network’s only real estate on YouTube. It also has the PBS Idea Channel, which is home to a collection of videos starring a cute, bearded hipster guy who explores a variety of quirky ideas.
All of these changes came out of a vague digital team mission to “reinvent PBS,” Seiken explained, and it wasn’t easy. The network is large, has a lot of stakeholders, and tends to move slowly and conservatively — a lot like the organizations many marketers find themselves working in today.
But, said Seiken “if PBS can do it, so can you.”
How Revolutionary Ideas Took Hold at PBS
Seiken says implementing four principles enabled him and his team bring revolutionary ideas to fruition and reinvent PBS. They are principles that can help professionals in businesses of all sorts and even individuals in their personal lives, he explained. “Because change is hard.”
- Make sure you’re being both left brained and right brained in your thinking. You need to be creative and come up with new, innovative ideas, but at the same time you need to look at data and practical matters. The key is to find the balance between the two.
- Kill the fear. You need to free yourself and your team to take risks by removing the fear of failure. At PBS, they added a “failure metric” to the annual performance review and people had to fail enough each year to show they were taking chances in their quest for innovation.
- Start not with a revolution, but with an insurrection. “It’s a rare organization that can swallow radical change within one gulp,” said Seiken. You need to be revolutionary, but also incremental. While the goal to “reinvent PBS” was revolutionary, they proceeded toward it with baby steps.
- Make sure your revolution serves a key stakeholder. At PBS the individual member stations are key stakeholders and the changes that came with adding more digital presence served them well in their quest to better share content.
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