Product Comms Series #20 | Antonia Landi

Jack Lancaster | Co-founder & CPO
March 26, 2024

It was a pleasure to have Antonia Landi with me today. Product Operations is a relatively new role, becoming increasingly important. It is aimed at enabling product management excellence and support PMs to do their best work. And one part of it is communication.

I’ve personally learned a lot from Antonia, but mainly to treat internal communication also like a product. It has a huge impact.

Key Learnings

✅ Defining Product Ops: Product Ops is aimed at enabling product management excellence, ensuring PMs can focus solely on meaningful product work.

✅ Importance of Communication: Effective communication is critical, not just broadcasting information but ensuring it's readable, understandable, and actionable.

✅ Newsletter Overhaul: Revamping communication tools, like newsletters, to align with strategic goals and improve readability can significantly enhance information dissemination.

✅ Engagement Strategies: Using engaging elements like emojis in communications can initially attract attention, leading to better engagement and habit formation among the audience.

✅ Treating Communication as a Product: Approach every piece of communication as a product, focusing on its structure, accessibility, and utility to ensure it serves its intended purpose effectively.


Antonia (00:00)

Yeah, absolutely. So my name is Antonia, Berlin based product ops consultant and coach and all around product nerd.

Jack (00:38)Love it. And we were just saying kind of before starting recording that like product ops is obviously this new area. You know, it's kind of something that I've seen, you know, from speaking to people in the U .S. and I've heard from companies like Stripe, you know, them adopting it. I think Trade Republic has some product ops function. I think back to my time with N26, we didn't have anything like that. And it was definitely a bit of a struggle.

Maybe just say in a couple of sentences what Product Ops is and kind of the scope of that. And of course, I guess it changes organization to organization, but I'd be really interested in your definition.

Antonia (01:11)

Yeah, so I think for me at the super high level, product ops is there to enable product management excellence, right? Like my mission is to help PMs do their best work. And like you say, what that looks like can be different at every company because the barriers to that are different. But broadly speaking, what drives us is making sure PMs can actually dedicate all of their time doing meaningful product work.

Jack (01:39)

I think that time thing is a big thing. I remember at N26, the thing that I reckon I was most annoyed about was actually trying to book meeting rooms. That was the single most annoying thing. It was like, oh, we need to move the team planning. Oh, now I need to find another meeting room for 12 people. This was, of course, pre -remote work. But yeah, there's many things that I think can get in the way of doing real product work. So I think the mission makes a lot of sense.

We were talking as well about an experience of a time where it hasn't gone so well around communication. Obviously that's something that we're really interested in with what kind of we're working on and what we're trying to do with Spoke. Tell us a story about an experience you've had where that communication didn't work so well and what sort of happened.

Antonia (02:28)

Yeah, so I think this is actually one of my favorite examples. So some folks might have heard this before when speaking to me privately, but it's just such an excellent use case, right? I was at an organization, I was doing operations for the whole product and tech department. So it was more of a broad scope than just looking at product management specifically.

And we had a bi -weekly newsletter, we would send out to everybody in the company and it would tell people what happened in the last two weeks, what's going to happen in the next two weeks and generally where the teams are at. And I joined the team with sort of fresh eyes. This newsletter has existed for a while. And honestly, even me having been in the tech space for a decade, the newsletter was nearly impenetrable.

There was so much jargon in it. There were so many company specific abbreviations. Certain things just weren't as important as others, right? And that just made the  newsletter long. It didn't really reflect our strategic initiatives or plans.

So it was really just a really long, dense document of lots and lots of bullet points that everybody thought were super, super important. So one of the early things that I did was actually help restructure this newsletter. Now, an interesting caveat there is that the thing that I did badly was actually as like being in my role of product ops person.

I almost immediately realized we needed to redo this newsletter, right? Like I said, it held all the issues I just mentioned. But what I did badly from my point of view was really take people on that journey with me and really very explicitly say, these are the issues I've identified. These are the issues that your readership has identified, right? The people actually consuming this newsletter.

And this is why all of these things are enough of a problem that we need to invest time in getting better at this particular piece of communication. So it was a little bit two -fold the issue there. Yeah.

Jack (04:58)

Yeah, maybe you can drill into both of those those pieces in a little bit more detail, maybe one by one.

Antonia (05:03)

Yeah, absolutely. So as far as the newsletter itself was concerned, I'm a little bit of a gung -ho person, right? So if I identify an issue, I will just go for it. And I think with just how new product ops is, there still needs to be quite a lot of explaining, quite a lot of setting the stage, right? Quite a lot of, this is what I'm doing, this is why I'm doing it, I'm doing this for your benefit, I'm not against you, right? I'm with you, I'm here to enable you to make sure that you get the space and time back to do the things that are most meaningful to you.

And yeah, specifically, I think we sometimes, turn a blind eye to just how important effective communication is, right? Like there is a notion that as long as we communicate, everything's fine. As long as we just put out something into the world, maybe no matter the format or the readability or thinking about the audience that will consume this, as long as we put something out, people can then self -serve, right?

So I think it was really helping folks to understand the different nuances that go into effective communication. And very concretely speaking, we restructured the newsletter in a way that always started with our OKRs, always started with where we are at with our OKRs and what changed since the last time we checked in, right? Referring all of our work items back to our OKRs saying we are doing this because we think it will positively impact that.

But then also just coaching people through writing better content, right? So defining abbreviations, defining maybe jargon, also making sure the timeliness of the newsletter makes sense to people that were in sales, for example, or people in customer support, making sure they had the information when they needed the information. So that was that project, I think in a nutshell.

Jack (07:09)

Really interesting. Yeah, I've heard so much in, I think it especially happens as companies get larger, right? And there are those kind of information silos or, you know, sales doesn't just sit next to the product or sit next to engineering anymore, but you have to actually proactively share that information. And what I hear a lot is then everyone starts sending a newsletter, right? And no one is reading things anymore. Or, you know, whether that newsletter is an email or it's a Slack message or whatever, but like the broadcasting of information increases.

And as you said, you know, people just start doing it, they don't necessarily consider whether it's, you know, the right information at the right time or whatever. How do you get over in your experience that readability? Like, how do you make people actually read it? Because it's obviously only valuable if it's sort of two way, this, you know, putting it out there and it actually being consumed by people.

Antonia (08:10)

Yeah, I love that question, right? I think that's the second big part because once you have a well -written piece of communication, the other person still needs to read it. They still need to want to read it. And I think some of that is a little bit of PR. It is maybe also a little bit of marketing, right? Like I started sending out this newsletter and I actually started adding emoji in the subject line, like stuff like just something that will grab people's attention, right?

Just for that initial drive to make sure that they are, they're kind of reactivated, right? Into this piece of communication. And then once they see and understand that it's now more readable, it's more scannable, you know, like important things are highlighted and if they want to dig deeper, they know either who to speak to or where to go.

Once they then understand that it's now a more useful document, hopefully that will then become a habit. Right. But I do think that the initial hurdle is really it, honestly, it's just a bit of marketing.

Jack (09:14)

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And I think at the core of that is also this idea of thinking about everything as a product, right? It's like every single thing that you put out is like someone, if you know, if you started a newsletter, I mean, I subscribe to way too many AI newsletters, right?

And now I'm like, I've got to the point where I archive nine of them and then I read one of them because it's the one that I can actually quite quickly scan and it's structured in the way that I like. But it really has to be, if it's internal, you still have to think about it as a product. And I think too often then it's just like, oh, they'll read it anyway, but everyone has enough things going on. So the emoji in the subject line or this kind of like the structure of being able to refer to things.

Antonia (09:51)100%. Yeah. And like even just issues of findability or the tool that you put this newsletter out on, right? Is it email? And then you really have to make sure people can search through their email and they will find the relevant newsletter. If you put it on Slack, it kind of, it disappears into the ether, right? After three or four messages, if it's on Confluence, you have to make sure that.

Actually people that aren't in the tech department are also on Confluence and know how to navigate it. And I really think it is this treating everything like a product. And that's, that's exactly how I do product ops as well. Right? Like every piece, whether it's a new process, whether it's tool adoption or a piece of communication, that's my product. And I will be the product manager of that thing.

Jack (10:49)

Brilliant, I love that. Antonia, thanks so much for joining me.

Antonia (10:58)

Thank you, it was a pleasure.

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