5 Things We Learned When Relaunching Brownstoner
“Authenticity!” was the last word we decided on while closing out one of many rebranding exercises in preparation for the website’s forthcoming relaunch. It completed what we agreed to be a part of Brownstoner’s core personality. Even though it was a eureka moment, we discovered every Brownstoner employee had a poignant opinion about what Brownstoner meant to them and what it meant to their audience. Word-association sessions brought out “neighborly,” “insightful,” “thorough,” “local,” “helpful” and more.
Throughout the months, we drilled down on specifics and ambiguities, meeting almost every evening to make sure our efforts were streamlined for this relaunch. This was the first step to learning about what each department did, how it all fits together, and how we would organize it to guide our success.
Our biggest and most important lesson learned: communication is possibly the most vital ingredient for creating an environment fit for success. The once quiet office transformed into a hive of constant dialogue, exchanging of ideas and discovery of new information. Each department (tech, sales and editorial) learned how they fit into the bigger picture and how they benefited from the other. How would we apply this to practice? By creating the following mission statement, aka the driving force behind everything Brownstoner does and everything it works towards:
“Brownstoner helps people access the resources and connections to make a life in Brooklyn.”
While this statement would help hold the media brand accountable for ensuring that they delivered the work that mattered to business goals, we kept in mind their dedication to creating meaningful experiences for Brooklynites and Brooklyn enthusiasts alike, their commitment to preserving the qualities that made them unique (in true Brooklyn form) and their global outlook that is both forward-thinking and values the past (also in true Brooklyn form).
Ultimately, Brownstoner is still Brooklyn inside and out. It’s the media brand that people trust to help them find a home, make a home better, and learn about the past, present and future of Brooklyn.
On Monday March 21, the new site went live and with it a busy buzzing office. We monitored the comments, fixed any hiccups and rolled out the usual daily activities as well as the new ones. Publisher Kael Goodman led the weekly town hall meeting, congratulating us on our efforts. The editor-in-chief Cate Corcoran added, “This was an incredible success, the comments have been overwhelmingly positive.” (Even from the trolls.)
Here are the top five things we learned:
- The website was undergoing change and we needed to make sure the audience, both readers and advertisers, knew about it. Change management was our number one priority. We delivered the information to them about what was happening, before it happened. We hinted at it a few months before, published a teaser post about it two weeks in advance of the launch, sent out emails, made phone calls, and published more posts about it.
- Plan A, plan B and plan C all mattered. We planned everything, right down to our social media communication and how we would measure success. This helped us understand what we did, why it worked and how we could improve it.
- Teamwork makes the dream work. Our goals had to be streamlined. A small business cannot thrive if every moving part doesn’t understand what the other part is doing and what they need to accomplish those goals. One department can’t thrive without the help of the other. For example, if editorial and marketing were not in sync on who the target audience is, they would each work separately to attract eyeballs that didn’t matter.
- A team that can self-manage and whose members can help each other is the bomb. Like most start-ups, Brownstoner depended on their ability to work well together and for each person to work well independently. That said, we were incredibly grateful for — and benefitted hugely — from everyone’s willingness to learn how they could help their colleagues, whether it was sending friendly reminders or an eagerness to receive feedback.
- New everything meant change everything. Change is a hard thing to instill and merits repeating yourself over and over and over again. If you find yourself feeling like a broken record you’ve already succeeded in the most vital ingredient for nurturing success: Communication. Case in point, we’ve had follow up meetings to discuss our mission statement and goals.
Take the new Brownstoner for a spin today: