Cancer Research UK's Newman: Get obstacles out of the way for your team
A view from Anthony Newman

Cancer Research UK's Newman: Get obstacles out of the way for your team

Anthony Newman explains the methodology behind his team building strategy and explains why he's a believer of leader as servant.

Having the right team is the route to everything

Start with recruiting the best people you can. I’d rather live with a vacancy – even for extended periods of time – than accept second best.

That doesn’t just mean experience – it means organisational and team fit. I agree with Google, which recruits for "Googliness" – will this person thrive here and will they help others thrive? And, very importantly, can they learn?

When trying to assess potential, we often turn to track record – but this is only assessing performance. Potential is driven by a person’s ability to adapt and grow. Only by filling your organisation with people with potential can you expect to create growth.

Once I’ve recruited great people, I need to develop and retain them

Sometimes, this is a lot harder with brilliant people, who naturally have high expectations.

I give my team the maximum empowerment I possibly can so that they are able to constantly grow and learn. I’m a great believer in the idea of leader as servant – often, my job is just to get obstacles out of the way for my brilliant team.

Suppliers aren’t suppliers – they’re partners

Just like my own team, my agencies are filled with brilliant people who want to do a brilliant job. Explain to people what you are trying to achieve, and they will come up with far better ways to do it than you ever could.

And, similarly to my team, I hire agencies that "fit" – it’s essential that my agencies work together with us and with each other as one team.

Creativity creates

I believe creativity delivers competitive advantage and, therefore, growth. This can be "the creative" – with Race for Life, I wanted advertising that looked nothing like anything the charity sector had done before. I hired Mother, and that’s what we got with "Join the pink army" – a cyber-punk world ganging up on cancer.

But creativity must run through everything – from improving a process to full-on innovation. With Dryathlon, we made going dry for January the done thing and, with Pretty Muddy, we have 250,000 women this year crawling through mud to fundraise.

Our current brand campaign is innovative too

There are no scripts and no actors – everything is real. In fact, our production company, The Garden, had never made an ad before but is famous for fly-on-the-wall series such as 24 Hours in A&E. And we made not one or two TV commercials but 12 rotating across two bursts, as well as the same approach across all channels, including more than 200 digital out-of-home executions.

This meant an innovative approach to media planning and buying – our creative agency, Anomaly, worked in partnership with MediaCom to deliver this. But, importantly, this campaign was always about putting social content at its heart, and that has paid off with stunning reach and engagement.

Brand pays

As brand-building is a long-term game, it can be hard to justify proper investment, especially when times are tough. But, again and again, I’ve learned that disinvesting is a dangerous game as indicators start dropping very quickly, followed by business performance.

That’s not to say that I only do what is measurable. My way of working is to very carefully measure what I can but not limit decisions and actions to only those things that are measurable.

Customers come first

Over my career, the big challenge and opportunity has remained the same – putting the customer at the heart of strategy, product development and communications. A few years ago, our biggest issue was data and CRM, so I led a programme to revolutionise the way we managed data, insight and customer planning, completely reorganising the business around the customer.

The challenge now is more defined in terms of customer experience. In an organisation that is essentially about various guises of direct marketing, how can the customer experience with Cancer Research stand out among its competitors?

This is something we’re working very hard on but, to give you an idea of how seriously we’re approaching this, we have shifted from "opt-out" to "opt-in" for all fundraising communications despite European legislation still backing opt-out.

Anthony Newman started his career in data and direct marketing at Rapp Media and Acxiom. He is now responsible for brand marketing and communications at Cancer Research UK