How Rodale Transformed Its Business in the Digital Age

Rodale“Our theme today is transformation at Rodale,” began Mary Ann Naples, former senior vice president and publisher of Rodale Books and Rodale Wellness, during her talk at Digital Book World 2016. “As an industry, we’ve been through a lot. How did Rodale, which is not a Big Five publisher, gain and keep a competitive edge?”

The answer, simply put, is that Rodale diversified and created projects that each benefited its book publishing business.

One such project is Rodale Wellness, a website that repurposes content from the company’s books and reports on general health topics. Others are  “author center” websites (which facilitate book discovery), an online wellness summit, a compelling direct email marketing strategy, and engaged Facebook groups.

Finally, Naples proposed a transformation manifesto:

  1. Embrace change because transformation is the new safety.
  2. Transform your company by transforming personally.
  3. If you’re going to do bold things, make sure you’ll get a bold result.
  4. Get excited about failure. Fear of failure will stop you from playing your best game. Don’t let it paralyze you.
  5. Be “adaptive and adoptive.” Ideas are always in the air. You’ll get plenty of them if you remain engaged. 
  6. Do experiments and test your hypotheses. Many of Rodale’s experiments failed, but some succeeded tremendously.
  7. Conquer impostor syndrome and go after what you want.

“Beyond a business transformation story, this is a personal one,” said Naples as her talk was concluding. “Only when I got more comfortable with failure did things really transform.”


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