By Anne Potts, EVP, Global Client Services & Standards, Racepoint Global
This article was originally published in CommPRO.biz
What? I’m saying that. Yes, I am. It’s a mess. If you’re in it, you know it.
It’s planning time for next year. You’re dreading it because you’re still not sure that you’re spending your money well. There’s a gap between what you know is right and where you think you’re going to land come budget time. It’s not even about the money, but it’s about allocation – same thing all over again wins, year after year.
You’re reading the rags and seeing cool stuff – hell, you live in a world of promotions you think are great and you’re dreaming up concepts on the walk to work. The ideas aren’t what’s really hard. It’s getting the correct direction sold. You know that emotions or a grabbing narrative is what you need to break through, but you’re talking to executives who believe that you have to be product-centered. The thought of talking about emotion in your board room makes you break out in a cold sweat.
We could talk about research that shows that emotion wins, but statistics can mean whatever anyone wants them to, and you already know what we’re pitching, so the stats and even research automatically have a lower value.
Instead, let’s talk logically. You don’t live under a rock. You know that news cycles are short and social media is cutting them by seemingly minutes each day. You know that your audience is busy and overwhelmed by their choices of things to listen to or read. You know that because that’s your life, and colleagues’, neighbors’ and kids’ lives. Your content could be buried in this overwhelm, or it could speak to the audience in a way that they can’t resist.
OK, we agree – content must be good enough to break through. Great.
So, let’s say that you beat out the engineers and win the emotion argument. You get a standing ovation in the board room when you pitch your campaign. Congratulations. Now, that great content has got to be wherever your audiences go.
Oh no, the cold sweat is back. Apologies in advance, but let’s confront the worst of it. Let’s do an exercise – take a minute to write down your audiences. How many primary audiences do you have? Are there more than 10?
Now, write down how many direct and indirect marketing channels you use to communicate to and interact with those audiences. Stop at 20 because this isn’t supposed to give you a nervous breakdown. Do you or your team control these channels? No? How many belong to other teams? Remember to think globally – a good campaign idea should seek to pay off wherever you do business. Is your list pretty long? No doubt it is. Some of the channels work for a variety of audiences, but others are 1:1. Similarly, some content works for a variety of audiences, but others are high value for only one.
Welcome to the $%#*show.
The way out isn’t easy, but it’s necessary. It takes leadership to look closely at the way teams operate – job titles could be marketing, sales, channel management, advertising, social media, e-commerce, marcom, mobile, investor relations, customer support, public relations, analyst relations – it’s overwhelming. They need to tie together. It’s a process of changing how planning gets done, budgets are set and how interaction happens.
You thought you had your greatest victory with the standing ovation. True greatness awaits. But it won’t be easy. Because we’re talking about a $%#*show.
Your colleagues are old-school types who have their way of doing things. They are lone wolves who want nothing to do with a new collaborative model. They can’t imagine how to manage the complexity of thinking of a variety of channels at once. They’re not walking with your audiences – they’re stuck in their jobs. Jobs are good – they feed us and keep our dependents safe and warm. Why are we using jobs as an excuse for failing to deliver for your audiences? Remember all those channels and audiences? Remember the content challenge? It’s a big deal, aspects of which change almost every month. The old way won’t work. Focusing on protecting your job by not changing is the fastest way to guarantee your obsolescence.
These people are in jobs that connect them with at least one audience. What if all of these roles were placed under one umbrella, forming the Audience Interaction Team?
The Audience Interaction Team is a force to be reckoned with – they understand their audiences and know what it takes to satisfy them. They’re Audience Interactors, which means that they need freedom to go off and do their own thing to delight their audiences. Investor relations people are going to spend their day very differently than employee engagement or sales. That can’t change, but at the highest level they need to be brought together to support one another on how the channels work for their audiences.
A good ad campaign needs to play out on social and with investors in a meaningful way and line customer support up for success. Excellent media coverage should be carried through in advertising, sales channels, investor relations and employee engagement. Thought leadership concepts should be crafted by the extended team to answer the right questions that make conversations easier.
At first, the focus needs to be on building consistency without screwing anything up. It won’t ever be perfect, but get a few things right each time. Build on and communicate your successes.
Greatness is around the corner. See you later, $%#*show.