Cirrus Newspapers (a fictitious name to protect client confidentiality) is a privately held newspaper and media publishing company. They publish nearly 50 regular newspapers and publications throughout local markets in four states. Most of their papers have online equivalents. The company is known for its integrity and quality of news reporting and its connections in local communities.
In late 2005, Cirrus was ripe for an in-depth strategic planning program. It had been seven years since the last significant planning project. But perhaps more importantly, they found themselves at a crossroads that could threaten their future. Like most newspaper companies, they were seeing their circulation and revenues gradually declining as more people moved to online sources for their news. Even more problematic was that online providers of free classifieds, real estate, and employment listings (such as Craigslist.org) were eroding their primary source of income.
Cirrus’s executive team realized they needed to take a hard look at how the industry was transforming and find a business model and an internet strategy to take the company into its next era. They also had a variety of other decisions and issues to clarify and decide on, such as growth priorities, target markets, promotion, advertiser services, technology, infrastructure, and culture development.
Cirrus looked to Konrad Knell and The Grove for a strategic planning process that would help them explore creative options for moving forward and handle the complexity of decisions and issues they faced. We designed a custom process for them based on Strategy Mapping. The team developed big picture maps of their complex environment and the dynamics of their evolving industry. They explored a variety of business models for growing, shifting their business models, and being on the leading edge of internet services.
It was important to Cirrus that the whole organization felt engaged and involved in the planning process, so we facilitated a series of “Challenge Brainstorm” sessions. Participants were invited from all over the company to participate in fast-paced, creative idea generation sessions that were designed to capture and process as many ideas as possible in response to the biggest challenges the company faced. All the ideas were mapped out on a Strategy Spectrum and alternative strategies were defined and evaluated. A Vision and Strategy Map were then created to synthesize the best strategic choices and set a clear direction.
The Cirrus team is now deep in its process of implementing the strategy and managing the change. One of the first changes apparent from the outside was a new name — formerly known as Cirrus Newspapers, the company renamed itself Cirrus Communications to reflect its broader vision of media publishing and connecting communities.