Trinity Mirror’s Head Marketer Has ‘Threefold Role’—Naturally

Used in combination with human insight, data presents “the biggest opportunity” for marketing, says Zoe Harris, global marketing director of U.K. publisher Trinity Mirror.

Trinity Mirror’s Head Marketer Has ‘Threefold Role’--Naturally

Trinity Mirror is Britain’s largest newspaper, magazine, and digital publisher, with a portfolio including five national newspapers as well as more than 150 regional titles. Zoe Harris, Trinity’s group marketing director, who has formerly held roles at ITV, The National Magazine Company, and MTV, is tasked with building the company’s portfolio across both print and digital, including using data to build a deeper relationship with readers. When we caught up with her, we asked about her role at Trinity Mirror.

**Harris:**I work across all platforms. My job is to understand the needs of both consumers and advertising clients, to get under the skin of what they are looking for both now and in the future, and to make sure our products continue evolving to deliver against these needs. I also have to ensure that we communicate our offering effectively to those audiences, so my role is threefold.

We have over 200 titles including print, online, and apps, so the emphasis of my job has changed over time because the products I am promoting are as likely to be digital as print. What are your biggest marketing challenges?

**Harris:**The biggest challenge, but also the biggest opportunity, is data and how we use it to tailor our marketing. We have lots of data, but it’s about ensuring that we are using it effectively. It is also about not getting so lost in data that we lose sight of the broader similarities we have across the different audiences we are talking to, so it’s about striking a balance.

Data offers a big opportunity for our marketing, particularly around how we start to build a one-to-one relationship with our readers and users. In the past, brands have been very much about pushing messages, and in print it is about broadcasting the same story to everybody, but with digital we have the opportunity to nuance that messaging to different people. Navigating our way through that is probably both the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity we have. Can you share some examples of how you’re currently using data?

**Harris:**The interesting thing for us is to start to look at our online audience and what specific content they’re reading. We can look at that on an article level and start to build up a picture of the type of relationship we want to have with that user. Some people might be all about popular culture and want to be kept abreast of hot topics, while others might only be interested in Manchester United transfer gossip, for example, so you can start to put people into different buckets of consumer usage. There are millions of different combinations of how you bucket people up to become meaningful data, and we’re working with and using that data on a daily basis. What lessons have you learnt from using data ?

**Harris:**One of the things, which is always important to remember, is the application of human interpretation on top of data. To give an example, if someone reads 10 Kim Kardashian stories on, it doesn’t mean that they just want a newsletter from us telling them about Kim Kardashian, although that is what the data would tell you. Readers can read about her anywhere, whether on a Facebook stream or an online magazine, but the reason they come to us is that it’s a more trusted, credible news brand and that content is housed in an environment which also has in-depth world news and analysis. It is that kind of context that we add to the data to help us dig deeper.

Ultimately, we are trying to understand the difference between what people do versus what they say they do versus what they think they do versus what they want to do. For example, someone might say they read content on the Manchester Evening News website because they want to know what is going on in Manchester, such as how their council tax is spent and the latest bars to open. But the truth may be that they actually go on and read about drug raids and gory murders, although they might not want to admit that to themselves, let alone to us. We have to understand the human drivers behind the data because it’s not just what people do, but what they want to think they do and what they want brands to think they do. Trinity Mirror’s new national daily print newspaper, The New Day, launched in February 2016 but sadly folded just three months later. What did the experience teach you?

**Harris:**The New Day closed because, unfortunately, we didn’t meet the circulation targets we had set for it. The reader feedback was phenomenal—our audience was incredibly engaged—but there was an element of experiment to it, and the figures were not where we needed them to be to make it sustainable in the longer term.

However, one thing this project reaffirmed is the incredible loyalty and strong habitual purchase consumers have with their newspapers. In just eight weeks we sold 2,000,000 units, and yet you would struggle to see any impact on the numbers of the established market. There can’t be that many categories where that would be true. To what extent is there a digital mindset now at Trinity Mirror?

**Harris:**I think it is definitely a business mindset because our products live on those channels; it has fast-tracked that ethos, and results in digital are being totally integrated. We put our emphasis on where the users are, so all of our content is made for mobile first, and a lot of our editorial staff increasingly work off mobile rather than desktop for both writing and reviewing content.

From a marketing perspective, because the business has gone that way, it has not been difficult for us to go the same way. We look at the trends and work quickly to make sure we are ahead of the market rather than catching up. How much of your marketing is digital? And does traditional marketing still play an important role?

**Harris:**It depends on what we’re doing and also on how you define marketing for us: because we are a media brand that is content led, the lines blur. For example, there is an incredible amount of traffic that comes from social media, including through Facebook, but we would see that as content as opposed to marketing. Marketing and content do work very closely together though, and so we have a big team and a very aggressive social media strategy delivering 24/7 coverage. You say you take a mobile-first approach—what does your mobile marketing activity entail?

**Harris:**Again it blurs into editorial, but an example of something we use is a push notification tool called Pinpoint, which enables us and advertisers to target our app users based on behavioural, demographic, and location data, so we can really tailor a message to a time and a mindset. Pinpoint is particularly important on The Mirror because we have a network of journalists up and down the country, and Pinpoint enables us to remind our users in different areas that we have experts in their area covering all the top stories. How is your marketing team structured?

**Harris:**We have been totally integrated for three years now, so everyone works across everything. Integrating the team was about ensuring everything is joined up in a cohesive way and that we don’t view the world through different channels, but instead focus on what we need to say and the best way to say it. This means we work on a campaign basis, so we will look at each brief and decide what channels we use and how we put that specific campaign together. How closely does the marketing team work with editorial?

Harris: Although we don’t sit together, we work very closely, particularly around things like events. For example, with the EU referendum coming up, we have put together a cross-department product team which will ensure that we know the key messages and the role of marketing and editorial to ensure that, from a customer perspective, we are joined up across different platforms, always putting the customer at the heart of what we are doing. How have you seen the marketing role change?

**Harris:**It has certainly evolved. For example, we now have an analytics team, which sits in the marketing department and also works closely with editorial to make sure they are responding to the things that are and aren’t working for us online.

There has been a lot of change at Trinity Mirror over the years, and the legacy is that people are very open-minded and flexible, and up for learning new things and developing. For us it has been about giving people opportunities and making sure the outlook and philosophy we have in the department is one of fearlessness and one of really encouraging people to go outside of their comfort zone. We believe in helping to inspire people and encouraging them to achieve. How do you see Trinity Mirror evolving and staying relevant?

**Harris:**The really exciting thing is seeing the emergence of new technology and digital platforms that are enabling us to reach new people. Across the Trinity Mirror titles, we have always catered for the many, not the few, and we are here to represent the views of modern Britain. Being available on so many different platforms enables us to reach more people than we have ever been able to in the past, so we are probably more relevant than we ever have been. Again it comes down to putting the customer first.

Going forward is about remaining true to our values, while at the same time understanding that those values can be interpreted in different ways. Chiefly, it is about not making any assumptions about our readers or the future. Instead, it is about looking at the trends and what drives consumers, and ensuring we are always putting human insight alongside the data to understand human motivations, remembering that we are talking about people and not just statistics and data records.