Launching a content agency


Guardian Labs is The Guardian’s commercial branded-content service, which uses resources from across the company’s editorial, audio/visual, live events and interactive teams, as well as having its own dedicated staff. The launch of Guardian Labs created the need for new ways of collaborating for a cross functional team and new ways of expressing value to clients.


True & North worked with directors from Guardian Labs to identify the most suitable areas to affect change, eventually deciding to focus on:
– Responding to incoming briefs, in particular how to effectively question them to weed out speculative briefs, and to define the underlying business and communications need.
– Preparing insights to proactively pitch content solutions direct to brands.

True & North then created a series of one-day, experiential workshops, which were attended by 23 frontline sales people, ranging from executives up to directors. In thee workshops participants put our techniques – Empathy Mapping and advanced questioning – into practice on live opportunities and briefs. Further to the workshops, True & North provided one-to-one coaching sessions, a competency survey and commitment cards to successfully embed learning into the workflow at Guardian Labs and into the lives of the participants.

“We saw an immediate impact on new business and closed deals. This revenue outstripped our investment a few times over.” 

Chris Howells Director, Guardian Labs, The Guardian


In its first year, Guardian Labs attracted a portfolio of 100 new and three years on it remains at the head of the pack in terms of delivering products that combine world-class content with state-of-the-art tech to its clients.

The two competency KPIs we were tasked with embedding – better preparation and better getting to the right information – were over delivered against. Furthermore, live briefs worked on in the workshop and deals where our techniques we used in the six weeks following the workshop totaled a significant sum, exceeding the Guardian’s expectation. Further to this successful program, True & North programs were rolled out to two other advertising departments at The Guardian.