Christine Osekoski is publisher of Fast Company, the business magazine that focuses on innovation. She sat down with the Holmes Report in Cannes to explain why the publication is taking the festival very seriously, as it aims to boost reader engagement with one eye on international expansion.
From a brand point of view, what’s your goal this week?
Advance reconnaisance. There is no other business media brand present, and Fast Company is covering everything under the media innovation umbrella. If one says creativity is the ultimate currency of innovation and success, this is the place we should be. It’s always been a celebration of the work, but now you have all this creative technology, all this consumer entertainment converging. We are talking about media and press communications, overall creative strategy, effectiveness. We’ve been reporting on what’s going on in every facet of those creative industries, and now we are finding all of those people coming here. The goal is, how do we talk to all of the important thought leaders at this conference. And my other purpose is that Fast Company has a great presence among these business thought leaders in the States, but because we are such a young brand, we have not pushed our brand out internationally. In the back of my head I have a three-year plan for how I want to do that. I want vindication here of which countries are the most important places for us to be present.
Do you think that your content is more innovative than some of the stuff you have seen here?
Can I say that? I know we have connections to companies and people that people will be blown away by. We just wrote a story on some of the hot companies out there that are doing all sorts of mobile programmes. And I thought, if I just took those three companies and put them on stage here, people would eat them up like candy. One of the most creative people we are working with is Scavenger, the gaming company, and everyone wants a gaming layer to their strategies. So, they would have been absolutely perfect to have on the stage at Cannes. That’s why the other point of us is being here is, every June, we launch a special issue called ‘Most Creative People’. These might be people they wouldn’t ordinarily know about - when you get technology mashed up with entertainment and social innovation, that’s what people want to hear. Not just, here’s a case study, here’s a case study…One of the most intriguing topics of the whole show is: ‘Great we need to be engaging’. What does that mean? It doesn’t mean you have a FB page with all these ads on it because nobody effing cares.
When you are looking to engage your readers, what do you aim to do, if it isn’t putting up a Facebook page?
I’ll give you an example. One of the most important topics is leadership, so we have a channel on our website. What we developed is this brand called '30-second MBA' - you can answer a question like a gameshow. The best part is it is all user-generated. So we say to Alan Mullally or Mark Zuckerberg, here are the questions, answer whatever you’d like and send us the video back. This is something that we feel is the more progressive way to disseminate leadership advice. We worked with Lincoln to be our partner throughout this entire programme.
In terms of PR and communications, which areas do you see as being particularly innovative?
I think that social media, overall, and especially Twitter has changed so much of that. On the client side, instead of having a PR team that works with a group, now they have a whole group dedicated to answering questions via Twitter and social media. That changes the game because you have consumers answering back. It’s interesting to see how far you want take that messaging. For example, for clients, is it important for them to spend all that revenue answering every single Twitter comment because it’s potentially great or damaging for their brand. Allison & Partners is Fast Company’s communications agency. They are not just here to send out press releases, we just simply are not doing that. They are coming up with new and innovative ways to bring Fast Company out there. Again to set a different standard to sending a press release attached to an issue. Nobody’s going to pick up on that. Instead they are looking for places to put our brand that makes sense. The likes of CNN is a great mouthpiece because they want to be more innovative. We have the content to be innovative. So let’s form content partnerships.
Is the ultimate goal always to sell more copies? You are putting lots of interactive content out there, but it may not always lead to higher sales.
Correct. It doesn’t, necessarily. That’s fine. The revenue model of publishing is changing, because how reliant is one on selling magazines per se? One can’t be, because the world of subscriptions and even newsstand sales - you’re not making a lot of margin off of that. The ultimate goal for us is making sure that our brand attracts other and new people. If I’m looking at Fast Company in the centre of the universe, and I go out a couple of solar systems, these are all rabid fans of the brand. My goal is not just to sell more copies but to expand that solar system, because those people in different countries and categories of business, don’t know perhaps that Fast Company is reporting on every category. This is a place where you can be inspired and find new ideas, even if you work for a communications company and you are reading about a technology company. I want you to enjoy and be inspired by the brand wherever you want to receive it. Ultimately I can’t exist as a business if I am reliant on selling that one extra copy at Heathrow.