MarCom 2.0 - Cutting Through the Clutter
In the past five years the communications and marketing world has become increasingly complicated. Google+, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and mobile apps have joined the vast array of outlets and platforms competing for our attention. This blog contains my thoughts on best practices for cutting through the clutter and having impact. I'll also be taking occasional detours into the world of corporate social responsibility and green marketing where I have ten years of expertise.
It has been a few weeks since that fateful day when I was called into the HR office and heard the dreaded phrase, “we need to restructure and your position is being eliminated.” Working for an environmental non-profit, I always knew that my job was never secure. Still, I had been working for Conservation International for ten years and held a senior position. Surely I would be safe even as our budget situation worsened due to the continuing economic downturn. In this case, I was clearly wrong.
With the time to reflect, and the power of “20/20 hindsight,” I have come to see many important lessons in this experience, both personally and professionally, that are applicable to being a good brand steward and communications strategist.
Do you feel a disturbance in the force?
Professionally my job was to design and implement communications strategies that created results around our corporate brand, policy change, increased membership and fundraising. As with any good strategy, I focused on objectives, audiences, core messages, and finally, creative tactics to bring these strategies to life.
What I was neglecting to do was look inward and conduct the same type of due diligence on the institution that I would normally apply to a corporate partner or scientific report we were looking to promote. Yet the signs were there.
Over the past six months, our communications strategy had changed pretty dramatically to fit a shift in the organization’s mission and vision. Where we had previously focused on influencing a core set of decision makers, we were now being asked to expand our reach to large swaths of the general public. Fundraise, fundraise, fundraise was a new drumbeat.
Several key questions should have been asked:
- Why the focus on such a new audience after 25 years?
- Did we have the core competencies to reach this audience?
- Did our leadership have a realistic understanding of the time and investment it would take to change directions and properly ramp up?
- What was the real budget situation?
- What was our core audience thinking about this shift in direction?
I helped write the organization’s first real brand architecture a couple of years ago. I knew who we were and what our brand was. Instinctually I knew that these big shifts being mandated from the leadership office should have forced me to ask the tough questions. Perhaps it was the excitement to try something new. Perhaps I had blinders on to potential fundamental organizational issues. Either way, the series of events over the last six months served to remind me of a number of good lessons for all communicators.
Lessons (Re-) Learned:
- Take time every few months to reflect on your organization's core brand attributes. Ask yourself whether they still hold - from top to bottom - and are being acted upon. If not, ask yourself why and what needs to be done to correct course.
- As a communicator, your focus should be internal as much as it is external. You are on the front lines in dealing with donors, customers and partners. Make it your priority to understand all facets of the business so that you are staying true to your objectives and delivering authentic messages.
- Don’t just accept. Ask questions. Make your voice heard. Remember, you were hired to be the communications professional and provide the necessary guidance. If you are not allowed to do that, ask yourself whether that is the best organization for you.
- Walk the halls and get to know what other departments are doing. Good communicators do not allow themselves to be isolated within their own division. If changes are happening at your company, be among the first to know so that you can understand what, if any, communication strategy shifts are necessary.
- Innovation is a good thing, but not at the expense of your core brand attributes. During tough times extreme moves can further isolate you from your core audiences.
Your brand is a living thing. It must be continually monitored and attended to. Keeping the brand strong is not just a good marketing strategy, it's a good business strategy.
Up Next: Why Getting Laid Off Was A Good Lesson in Branding and Strategy (Part 2 - Personal Lessons)
Tags: branding, marketing