This week’s guest on The Brand Publishing Show is Raju Narisetti, the global publishing director at McKinsey and Company.
Narisetti has a uniquely well-rounded view of the content and publishing landscapes, having worked in reporting and editing roles at the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, and founded Indian business publisher Mint. He was also the president and CEO at Gizmodo Media Group and prior to McKinsey, led Knight Bagehot Fellowships at Columbia Journalism school.
At McKinsey, he oversees a 70-person-plus team of editors and writers who work with McKinsey experts and executives – in addition to external sources – to turn everything from speaker notes, report outlines, and even client-focused decks into published editorial content. The result is a sprawling brand publishing operation that is increasingly becoming the primary way McKinsey showcases and demonstrates its capabilities and offerings to the world.
Narisetti joined the Toolkits Brand Publishing Show to discuss how he organizes the McKinsey global publishing team, layering “experience” onto content, and why quality can’t be the only competitive advantage.
Why brand publishers shouldn’t try to do journalism
While the “every company needs to be a media company” refrain has reached near-parody levels, Narisetti thinks brand publishers need to think less about how they can mimic “media” and more about how they can bring engaging content to audiences.
“Every company needs to engage its customers or audiences or how you define who you’re trying to reach. If I can get 10 more minutes of them thinking about me as a brand, or as a company, or as a service, or as a product, then what I do with that time they’re spending with me is up to me. And if content can help do that on a recurring basis, then it’s a pretty good weapon in your various toolkits. At McKinsey, I don’t think we do any journalism. We shouldn’t be because we are not in the news-gathering business. If anything, we are far away from that.
Companies should aim to do content that is relevant and engaging and useful. For me, yes, we give you new information. We have data that is actually news. Because it’s informing you of the thinking of a bunch of relevant people. So in that sense, there is news. And there is breaking of news through some data and interpretation, but not in the conventional sense of writing about news events. That’s the big difference.”
Audiences are becoming smarter
One of the challenges (and opportunities) for anyone in the content publishing business is that audiences are choosing the content they consume more carefully than ever – mostly because they have far more to choose from.
“I’m not a subscriber to the theory that generationally, we have been dumbing down, because it goes against basic logic. The logic that if people have more choices, then they clearly can compare and contrast. And then they’re smarter for it, rather than having only one or two choices. In that sense, I think more is generally better. So I’m not a big believer in that idea.
Quality can’t be the only moat
Narisetti says that even though quality content is critical, it’s almost table stakes now. Publishers at any company need to be thinking about what they can offer to audiences beyond simply quality content.
“I have increasingly come to believe that quality has become table stakes. Meaning that yes, if you don’t have good quality, why should anybody even bother coming to you. But at the same time, the competitive advantage of quality alone has significantly deteriorated because of the availability of choices and the scarcity of time. At McKinsey, we think our content is amazing. But it is only amazing if somebody actually consumes it. So we increasingly talk about this idea of our amazing, strong, compelling, unique content layer. But on top of it, can we create an experience layer? By that I mean, the act of consuming a McKinsey piece of content should be interesting, engaging, respect your time, interactive, and make you feel like the act of consuming itself was also good.”