On Marketing, New Markets and Corona
Searching for the best working models for media, communication and marketing, I recently had a chat with Alis Simpson. I have been working very closely with Alis for a year now and enjoy every moment with her. She is just super: professional and humorous, curious, very creative and enormously efficient. Alis comes from the corporate world, has an international background and speaks six languages. It’s the mixture that makes it. She is bursting with ideas. Alis manages the marketing and communication activities of alfa Media, a B2B medium-sized company in Rödermark (Hesse). She is working with her team and my support on a new market entry and brand repositioning. The corona pandemic intervened, but that does not put a stop to her enthusiasm. I talked with her about her career, the corporate world, her pain points and her strategy for the new market entry.
Ioana: Alis, you are so open to new things, diverse, you enjoy experimenting and you are bursting with ideas. Marketing and communication seem to be in your DNA. What is your background?
Alis: Originally, it was not my intention to end up in marketing. After graduating from high school, I started studying American Studies with a minor in Political Science and Latin American Studies. At the time, I wanted to become a foreign correspondent. I always found that interesting. But I also wanted to go out into the world and get to know new things. At some point, I gave up my studies and decided to take a job with American Airlines. That started with a four-week course in Dallas. I was 22 years old at the time and my first day at work was a first-class flight to Dallas. That was great!
That’s how I ended up with the airlines and also stayed for a long time. It was fun for me. These specific stressful situations of an airline gave me a kick every day. After American Airlines came British Airways, Qantas, Lufthansa Systems, Miles and More. That’s how I got to experience the Anglo-Saxon corporate world. It’s very different from the German corporate culture. A lot is demanded of you, but you are motivated and appreciated by the company. The “we” feeling is very, very important. Maybe that’s not so strong in German companies. Or it is more evident today than it was back then. I worked in huge marketing teams, back then the corporates were more silo-like. Whereas I think the airline industry is different again. The people who work there are more communicative by nature, so there is an exchange, even if it is an unofficial one.
After a baby break, I “landed” at alfa Media. Here, I am responsible for communication, marketing, PR, external impact as well as internal impact. alfa is a classic medium-sized company. Therefore, a lot is focused on me personally.
Ioana: How has the corona pandemic affected your activities?
Alis: We are now more active in communications. I have driven the brand repositioning in recent years. alfa Media Partner – with over 40 years of experience in newspaper newsrooms and editorial offices – is known as a stable and reliable system partner for the media industry. But in the meantime we have become much more than that. We now want to bring our many years of experience to more companies and agencies, as brands are increasingly transforming into media. With our ContentLine, we have an excellent digital experience platform to bring the efficiency of newspaper newsrooms to companies and agencies. To show this, I want to create a new image and show that alfa Media is constantly reinventing itself and doing a lot of new things. I try to combine the best of both worlds. On the one hand, we have decades of experience and we are a solid partner: Good Old German Partner. That doesn’t stop us from thinking in new ways though. That’s what I try to do in our marketing and communications. This is a challenge in a company where resources are naturally limited. In short, we want to bring our experience into the corporate world.
Ioana: Can you give us some examples: What are you focusing on in 2021? How are you going about it now?
Alis: My specific goal for 2021 is to get a foothold in the corporate world and find a pilot client. It’s hard to plan because you don’t know how the year will go. Is everything open again from summer onwards? Or are we still in lockdown? I think in the corporate world, people are less restrained than in the media world. You notice a lot of uncertainty in the media houses, and furlough is still a big issue there. In the corporate world, people are already marching forward again. I have a stronger feeling that time is being used to implement new things, to go new ways. Simply because people see that they have reached their limits with the previous ways. My goal is to get into the corporate world, to start a conversation there that shows alfa Media as the communication experts they are.
Ioana: The corporate market is large and the need for good tools is there. But the market is very competitive. What are your biggest pain points in your project and how do you approach them?
Alis: The first pain point is a limited budget. The second major pain point is simply the unpredictability. That is very annoying. I had imagined that we would be digitally on the road in the first half of 2021. But I also notice that digital fatigue is slowly setting in. People in marketing and communications are naturally focused on meeting other people. That is tremendously lacking.
I don’t see our competitors as too big a pain point. Yes, they are already there and they have been active in the corporate market for longer. But since we have been dealing with the subject, I have seen how huge the market is. There is so much need to be covered. I like to be optimistic, there is enough for everyone. The competitors are a bit ahead of us, some are quite competitive, that’s fine. That’s not the way I want to go into the market. That’s not how we are at alfa Media and that’s not how I want to present ourselves. In this respect, I think that we are simply a fresh, different alternative. We may not be as young and not as hip, but we are enthusiastic. If there’s one thing we really know how to do, it’s planning topics. That is our business. We know what we are talking about. Our systems have been created in collaboration with media houses, with journalists. And we are seeing more and more journalists in corporate newsrooms moving from the media to the corporate world. It’s a lot about learning. Someone who has never had a newsroom doesn’t know how profitable working with a newsroom can be. At alfa Media we have a lot of experience in this area. Together with the client, we can develop something very beautiful. And I see that as a great opportunity.
Ioana: What does alfa have that others don’t?
Alis: For years we were shy, but we don’t have to hide. What we talk about, we have lived. Not just for two or three years, but for decades. That is our unique selling point. We may be new to the corporate world, but we know how communication works. The corporate newsroom is about how to work decently with each other, how to design communication, how to exchange ideas, how to be transparent so that everyone knows what the other is doing and everyone feels included. It’s a mixture of communication and new work, as the current buzzword goes. However, it should be natural to work this way. That colleagues are taken along, that one knows what the other is doing. And it has nothing to do with control. Some may only see cost savings and effectiveness. But it is much more important to strengthen the sense of unity. Working together in a newsroom also gives you a better feeling for your own job. You are in exchange with your colleagues, not a lonely fighter in a vast desert.
Ioana: What do your customers say about you?
Alis: Customers confirm again and again that the personal relationships we build with them are excellent. We have many long-standing customers, and that only works with trust – that’s what alfa Media does, that’s what we can do. If a company wants to work with another company, wants to feel understood and included, then we are the right company for them. We have substance. We are a reliable and stable partner that is agile, fast and has its finger on the pulse. I am convinced we are on the right track.
Ioana: We have already reached the last question: the fairy godmother comes to you and you have a wish free concerning your job. What would you wish for?
Alis: First of all, I would wish that corona would finally be over. After that, my wish would be that we could start a project with a great pilot client. There are so many companies and organisations that don’t yet know how they want to position themselves in terms of communications or how to work with a newsroom. That’s where we at alfa Media can really help.
Ioana: Thanks Alis for the insights into your work.
alfa Media Partner, with over 40 years of experience in newspaper newsrooms and editorial offices, is known as a stable and reliable system partner to the media industry. They want to bring this experience to companies and agencies, as brands are increasingly becoming media as well.
Alfa launches a project called “alfa Media ContentLine: Learning from the Content Professionals”. With ContentLine, alfa has an excellent digital experience platform to bring the efficiency of newspaper newsrooms to companies and agencies, especially their long experience in workflow analysis. They therefore offer companies and agencies the opportunity to develop their communications and content marketing potential together with alfa Media as a pilot customer by jointly creating a free workflow analysis. Furthermore, they offer attractive licensing models for ContentLine for pilot customers.