‘Culture cards’ promote innovation at Time Inc.

As publishers seek ways to stimulate change, the media giant takes the outward-facing idea of a business-style card and turns it into a source of inspiration for its employees.

Perhaps stuck in your wallet or buried in your desk behind the stapler are some business cards that you never quite remember to give away at important events.

Maybe you’re one of those well-organized people who hand them out by the dozen.

Either way, those business cards intended for people outside your organization have inspired Time Inc. to print up a similar item for internal use: a “culture card” to remind employees of the company mission, strategy, expected behaviors and other points.

Chief Executive Joe Ripp recently revealed the new communication vehicle at a powwow for publishers, saying the cards were distributed to staffers amid a larger push for cultural transformation, AdAge reported recently.

“We are now one Time Inc.,'” Ripp said. “We now all carry around culture cards.”

Amplifying four areas

To emphasize that, the cards read One Time Inc. at the top. The front side lists four areas that explain its raison d’être: mission, strategy, vision and heritage.

Time’s mission, the cards explain, is “to create content and experiences that educate, entertain and inspire the world.” The strategy subhead offers examples that include “to enhance our core business … to invest and grow profitably [and] to empower our teams to win.”

The cards also give a nod to the vision of Time’s founder: “To embrace Henry Luce’s ‘unlimited interest in the whole of human life.'”

The reverse side lists four key expectations: “teamwork,” “motivate,” “innovate” and “execute.”

Time even squeezes in a “brand manifesto” that reads in part, “It’s time to open up the possibilities, open up the connections, and open up the experience with one of the world’s most influential media networks.”

Winning PR points, too

The notion of giving employees an espresso-size jolt of inspiration has drawn interest from others. Though intended for an internal audience, the cards have reaped a PR bonus for Time in the industry press.

Associations Now reports, “Time Inc. puts a unique spin on solving the common problem of unifying an organization.”

It adds: “Big organizations, filled to the brim with employees working on numerous different teams and spread across offices in different states, regions, or countries, can be tough to keep together. And fostering a unified culture is even more difficult, something that global publisher Time Inc. is well aware of.”

In a time of profound change across the industry, publishers worry not only about survival but how internal culture can inspire innovation. Publishing Executive notes that Time Inc.’s push for a common culture was widely discussed at the conference.

“The overwhelming topic of the event, which was repeated many times by most of the speakers there, was the need for corporate culture change in the media workplace,” the author stated.

Sean Williams, owner of Communication Ammo, says that whether the cards make a difference will depend on several factors: “Who are they handing them to, and what do they want people to think, feel or do as a result?”


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