If you’ve been in marketing for any amount of time, you’ve been there: someone with a huge ego highjacks a meeting, taking it from collaborative to hostile, and causing colleagues to silently seethe. Or, co-workers must make a group decision, but when they can’t agree, the project veers off-course.
Perhaps you’re launching an important new initiative with a clueless yet intimidating project point-person, and the rest of the team is terrified about speaking up.
These are all great examples of how office politics gets in the way of creative, impactful marketing. Here are a couple more instances we frequently see that can be especially harmful to your a business’ marketing efforts:
Marketing should be powerful, memorable, and on-brand. When a creative concept is stripped down, no one remembers it or responds. This deconstruction tends to happen most often when a company takes the dreaded “marketing-by-committee” approach.
In this scenario, multiple people are appointed decision-makers with equal say. Each person brings their own preferences that conflict with their colleagues’ preferences. As a result of multiple people making edits, creative and engaging concepts are reduced to the most boring basics, losing all their impact.
Copywriters and creatives create concepts with target audiences in mind, crafting the creative to a strategy. But when words and images get changed based on the “preferences” of multiple people, a concept will then adhere to all the preferences and the strategy is eliminated. The campaign, ad, website, or flyer they took months to approve then wildly underperforms. When that happens, the committee then starts pointing fingers and everyone, but especially your marketing experts, and ends up feeling frustrated.
The Non-Expert in Charge
Have you ever worked for a know-it-all who knows very little about the things they’re deciding? There are times when a non-expert is making decisions about marketing, and no one on the team is willing to speak up to defend it.
We see this with large corporations that acquired multiple businesses or grew so quickly that they have numerous team members who don’t know each other, much less each other’s strengths. The newly-formed, disjointed team has heavy-duty internal politics at play, where the noisiest person might be the appointed leader and no one is speaking up to provide solid strategy in the area of their expertise.
During meetings, most teammembers get frustrated and later stop contributing to the conversation. This silence leads to siloed teams that are not maximizing and repurposing content across multiple departments. They work inefficiently, reinventing the wheel instead of leaning on each other’s resources, experience, and expertise.
As in the previous scenario, the internal politics easily derail all efforts spearheaded by the non-expert, and the lackluster results further frustrate the team.
What to Do when Office Politics Rear Their Ugly Head
Allow the marketing experts to present their concepts.
When you allow the experts to present their ideas, they can also present the strategies behind them so everyone on your team understands what parts are important to keep, and what parts might be more open to change without affecting it’s effectiveness.
Appoint one decision-maker.
Others can give their input and it will be considered by the decision-maker, but the decision ultimately lies with one person and not a committe.
Inventory and interview a new team.
It’s hard to have people working with you or for you when they were “acqui-hired” and no one on your team may have interviewed them to see if they were right for the position. So, why not interview them now? You don’t have to grill them and make them feel like they have to earn the position they already have. But, you do want to get an understanding of their experience, strengths, and weaknesses in a less formal way.
Provide opportunities for trust-building.
Non-experts may override others on the team if they don’t know them and therefore, don’t trust them. Opening lines of communication will allow your team to naturally inventory and interview each other. The more they know the strengths of their teammates, the more likely they are to let go and let them have input.
Hire a marketing firm.
Members of your team might have a hard time telling any superior non-expert that they don’t know what they’re talking about. So, why not let outside experts do that? When you hire a firm like Liger Partners to provide strategy, your non-expert will hear marketing experts tell them what’s needed, and they’ll have a hard time disagreeing without support to back them up.
Some Tips for Working with a Marketing Firm
Work with a firm you trust.
A marketing firm can look great on paper, but for a relationship to work, you need great chemistry, open communication, and trust. When you trust your agency, they can maximize your success.
Your marketing firm should back up recommendations with data, objectively showing how they are meeting your goals. They should have check-in calls to discuss project status, results to date, and any issues.
When one approach isn’t working, they should be honest and nimble enough to suggest a new direction. The right marketing firm partners with their clients, helps them understand – and be excited about – the work.
Listen to your marketing firm.
Your firm has extensive expertise and has seen firsthand what works (and what doesn’t). They’ve collected data and conducted research to provide informed recommendations. And, they’ve developed strategies based on each client’s specific goals and needs. So, LISTEN to their advice and be open to their amazing ideas and creativity.
Appoint one point-person to work with your firm.
Designating one decision-maker speeds up the time it takes to move a strategy or an asset out into the world so it can start bringing in leads. This also ensures a campaign’s creativity and ingenuity are not diluted through a committee approval process.
The point person can socialize the concepts and invite team input, making everyone feel good about the choices presented. If the decision maker isn’t an expert, the agency should provide data, examples, and ideas to help steer the project (and the point person) in the right direction.
Collaborate with the right account manager.
Your agency account manager should be friendly, agile, and emotionally intelligent, able to work with many types of personalities, foster honest conversations, consider everyone’s feedback, and drive the best possible outcomes.
This person should welcome critical feedback and not take it personally. At the same time, they must be willing to politely push back if they don’t think certain ideas will get you the results you’re looking for. They should be able to clearly communicate their rationale so you’re comfortable with the advice and direction.
Liger Partners has handled office politics and every type of personality and has successfully seen businesses through market and rebranding through major mergers and acquisitions. Contact us to chat about your marketing needs, challenges, goals … and messes.