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Washington Post’s Chief Experience Officer to Speak

By Anna Miars

Laura Evans

Laura Evans, SPA/BA '99, MA '00

The Washington Post has a new way of doing business: letting readers’ points of view drive product changes.

And as the media company's first CXO, or Chief Experience Officer, Laura Evans, SPA/BA '99, MA '00, is in charge of the process.

Evans, who was promoted to her new position in 2011, will headline this year's Alan Meltzer CEO Leadership Speaker Series spring event on April 11. The series brings senior executives to campus to share practitioner insight.

The theme of this year's speaker series is Women and Emerging Platforms; Pandora’s Jessica Steel spoke in November. Evans’ presentation is entitled "The Future is Data: Decision-Making Shouldn't Be Done Without It."

Traditional product decision-making has generally been internally-driven, according to Evans. What was often left out of the internal discussion was customers’ input: what problems they encounter, what they would like to see fixed, and what they think of new ideas.

“The Post has always had a strong propensity to include research into our decision-making,” she said. “This role is meant to formalize the process, so we give readers a voice at the table in a clear and consistent way throughout the entire product development cycle.”

“In any business and in any role it will be important to be able to understand data because it leads to a better understanding of your customers,” she explained. “Our goal is to understand how our products are used not only to make each individual product more suitable, but to also to encourage usage of them all.”

A New Approach

The role of chief experience officer is still a budding position across all industries. Some are calling it a chief customer officer, and it ranges in background and role.

“I think it is so new to journalism because media companies, prior to the Internet and mobile, had very limited competition,” Evans said.

Now, multiple publications, websites, and apps also offer multiple ways to engage with content. People use different products for different reasons, at different times, and they have differing expectations of each, she said.

“Consumers are also seeking out particular content and have particular interests,” she said. “How media will change by blending personalized content with editorial judgment will be an important consideration for media companies going forward.

I expect more companies, and more media companies, to have CXOs or CCOs in the future.”

Before joining The Washington Post, Evans worked in the research division of the public relations and communications firm Weber Shandwick, and as an analyst for a nonprofit association.

Evans is currently completing her PhD in Political Science with a concentration in quantitative methods at The George Washington University.

The American University community is invited to hear Evans’ presentation on Wednesday, April 11, in the Kogod Student Lounge at 4:00 p.m. The event is co-sponsored by Alpha Kappa Psi, the Kogod Graduate Business Association, Kogod Women in Business, and the Professional Women's Association.