The marketing communications team was in trouble. The CEO had let the head of the department and the number two person go. A competent, marcom professional early in her career was holding things down on an interim basis. The other team members were all competent and good people. Why were they in trouble?
Over the years, the marketing communications team had taken on a variety of roles as the organization changed. While some areas of the company had adapted to new needs, many areas were stuck in the past and the marcom team was “leading” when it came to living in the past.
Things needed fixing, and that’s why I got hired for the job.
My background in marketing communications is not unique. I started out as a copy writer, moved into a writer / project leader role, and then ultimately into management. The big game changer for me was going to work at GE, where diligent process management, alignment of resources with business needs, rigorous measurement, and continual adaptation and improvement were the mainstays of business. GE’s business training was powerful, and it is a huge part of my success.
When I was hired into this company to lead the marketing communications team, I had some idea of what I was getting into, but some of the things I was told about some team members as well as the work of the department were completely wrong. How did I find out?
We started with the mission of the department. At a high level, it was to help the company communicate effectively so that we could get more business. We fleshed that out in great detail to understand what our internal clients expected marketing communications to do and what the leaders of the company really wanted us to do. We shed tasks that didn’t fit with our mission and focused on what was most essential to our mission.
The processes in our department were substantially messed up. Not uncommon in the marketing communications world, we would have business leaders who were too busy to give meaningful input at the start of a project, but had ample time to get angry and crap all over the work of the team near the end of a project if the staff had not somehow magically anticipated what the leaders really wanted from the project.
In our marketing communications world, we defined a very clear process that was our mantra through all of our work: 1) Initiate, 2) Create, 3) Review, 4) Publish, 5) Distribute. This approach is universal in the world of marketing communications – something I learned through my work at GE – and can be applied to ALL types of marketing communications, whether the deliverables are ads, brochures, website content, email blasts, social media, and so on. Of course, the granular process steps under each of these higher level steps need to be defined, and clear process inputs and outputs need to be established.
Once we had a strong grasp on mission and process, we were then able to look at our people – or perhaps more specifically – what people needed to do in the organization, and then how our people fit those requirements. As I mentioned at the outset, we had no bad people, which made this process challenging.
Defining the work of positions and the skills required to do the work was somewhat tedious, but not hard. Taking a careful look at our team and assessing their skills and interests was hard.
With one exception, everyone on the team had skills or the potential to develop the skills that were required to do the work of our team. In one case, a person’s talents were so focused and no longer the work of the department that it was best for him to move on. In three cases, very talented people did not prefer to do the work that was now required for our team to succeed, so they gradually left the company.
We had a couple of people whose talents and interests fit perfectly with our needs. And in several other cases we had good people with strong skills who we invested in to help them develop new skills to meet our needs. It was also clear that we needed to add talented people to our team to succeed. This was fairly easy because we so clearly knew who we were looking for. After all the hard work we were finally ready to make our team fully operational.
This hard work was the essential responsibility of management. It was not the completion of something, but the beginning of getting things right so that the team could succeed. Over time, we monitored and measured and managed by making changes and tweaks. We had to acknowledge mistakes and misunderstandings. We had to have hard conversations with internal clients. We had to sometimes have tough battles with our leadership team. We had to find ways to collaborate with our legal and compliance teams, who had previously been considered necessary evils instead of powerful allies.
Over time, we made it work, and it continued to work well right up to the time the company was swallowed up by a larger, less-enlightened company. Their approach was basically “we might not do it as well as you, but we’re bigger and in charge.” It was time to move one. . . but that’s another story.
If your marketing communications – or other team – is not doing as well as you’d like it to, let’s talk.
I can help.