Have a big rebrand or organizational change coming up? Maybe just a lot of marketing activities across several business units or subsidiaries? That can make it tough to keep track of what’s going on when you’re up at the C-level, but we’ve worked recently with large organizations to help streamline communication and marketing processes and get everyone on the same page.
It’s pretty likely that you have more than one agency that deals in some kind of communication on your company’s payroll. And hey, we don’t blame you — it’s smart to work with people who specialize in certain areas such as market segments or geographies, messaging, branding, web development, sales training, internal communications, investor communications, media relations and so on. Why not work with the best in the business for each respective area of strategic marketing and communication that you need?
But having all those ideas and long lists of deliverables to keep track of can get messy and unproductive. Your VPs and directors of marketing have other tasks at hand and should really be playing a more strategic role in how you roll out messages. The solution?
Hire a strategic communication firm with broad proficiency at producing tactical deliverables but also that has strong qualifications in program management and very specific expertise in branding and strategic messaging.
This agency will serve as your marketing program management office (PMO) with the ability to help internal marketing and operations personnel keep deliverables across the organization on track and integrated with the overall corporate strategy — all while staying on brand and on message. Here’s what to look for in your marketing program management agency:
- Past performance in managing large cross-organizational projects on budget and on time. A good fit might be an agency that has managed some of the most mission-critical communication initiatives for large government agencies where the stakes are high. Or maybe one that’s managed national and global organizational change projects for complex publicly traded commercial organizations.
- Masterful facilitation skills. The group you hire to streamline marketing and communication and move all the projects forward from your other agencies has to excel at interpersonal communication. They need one or more people who bring a strong, but not off-putting, demeanor to meetings with the ability to keep discussions on track between all of the vendors and your company.
- Plays well with others. The sandbox is pretty big, so there’s no need for infighting and jockeying for position. You need a no-nonsense group that knows exactly what its role is and that can keep other vendors squarely within their areas of expertise as well. We’re all on the same team — let’s share information, not horde it. It has to be clear to the full marketing team — internal and all your other agencies — that teamwork is a business imperative and this new agency is just here to integrate capabilities, not mimic them.
- Knows messaging, and knows how to apply it across various platforms to drive action, awareness and understanding during times of organizational change. The other key role, and perhaps the most important one, you’ll need this agency to play is that of messaging steward. They may even help you create strategic messaging that will be applied across all marketing deliverables, targeted by various audiences of course. Regardless, this agency needs to know that messaging is more than just flowy words, a sexy tagline or some aspirational-but-not-actionable mission statements. You need business-driven creativity — practicality and specificity balanced with memorable, arresting language. Once you’ve established that, it’s important not to think of this team as brand police. Yes, branding is important, but the real oversight role here is to ensure all materials consistently reinforce the message across every platform — web, print, sales materials, advertising, PR, investors, the board and so on.
- Understands how strategic marketing elements integrate. Your marketing program management agency doesn’t have to be an expert at everything. But it helps if the team has a broad understanding of the types of deliverables your other agencies are producing. And in fact, if you have any gaps, an agency with many tactical capabilities (such as writing content, graphic design, competitive analysis, market research, etc.) might come in handy. But at the very least, your other vendors won’t have to waste time explaining what it is they do — and your oversight team will know exactly how the corporate messaging best applies to each type of delivery platform, from the website to the sides of your company vehicles.
- An uncanny ability to distill large quantities of complex information and quickly turn it into recommendations. Can I let you in on a little secret? An agency’s history with a certain vertical such as consumer electronics or fashion really only goes so far. Can prior knowledge of a vertical reduce ramp-up time and add a safety net to a degree? Absolutely. But what’s even more important is hiring marketing people who are smart enough to learn new things fast. That’ll get you more in the long run. Make sure your marketing program management agency can articulate its history of tackling new topic areas and sifting through data to quickly come up with actionable recommendations that led to success.
Adding a marketing program management group to your already robust arsenal of agencies might sound like an added cost you don’t want at first. But the time and resources you’ll save in tracking down deliverables and redoing projects because they fail the strategic messaging test are quickly apparent once you try it. All your marketing deliverables across all your businesses across all your vendors organized by one point of contact responsible for keeping them all up to snuff — so you and your internal marketing team can actually get things done. That’s making complexity clear.