Monday July 28, 2014
In a world where brands are now present on more platforms than ever before, who has to hold the baton for representing the voice of the business, is it marketing, or is it HR?
In an era where creativity, content and jaw dropping digital media delivery brings a whole host of audiences together, I don’t think that I have ever seen a truly integrated campaign. By this I mean when all aspects of the corporate message come into unison as a total package where every channel is singing sweetly to create a brand powerhouse.
Businesses need to stop working in silos. Whilst many messages we see are based on companies encouraging an open conversation with their customers, do they really mean it?
We are living through the biggest culture shift of our lives, it is time for companies to be more focused where HR and marketing become connected on a deeper level. It is the responsibility for everyone in a business to be the face of a brand and not left to a particular team.
My business has been in discussion with a new customer in terms of creating a content strategy for the business and the familiar question of where the inspiration should come from to help generate useful information. We then hit the ‘sweet spot.’ During the conversation an employee mentioned that the customer facing teams working on a day-to-day level were being asked a host of the same questions, we had nailed it.
This is an example that the responsibility for a business to deliver its message and being useful to others is from all departments and not just restricted to the brand and marketing team. It is the responsibility of everyone within the business. We only have to look at the London Underground strikes earlier this year and responsibility given to employees to tweet on behalf of the company during the widespread disruption.
One of the biggest success stories of this approach in the world of content marketing is that of River Pools and Spas, an installer of fiberglass swimming pools owned by Marcus Sheridan (founded in 2001). During tough economic times around 2008 and 2009 the company was receiving a decrease in pool orders, from six per month to barely two. The $250,000 marketing budget was rehauled from radio, TV and pay per click to focus specifically on answering customer questions and informational blog posts, based around the questions asked. The company employees effectively became the biggest marketing resource, by talking to customers and taking on the role of ongoing content creators where the ‘they ask, you answer’ became an approach embraced by the company. River Pools is now one of the largest pool companies in the United States.
A strategy within a business has to be transparent for everyone to be a part of, and for departments to collaborate and not be in confinement. There are stories, creativity and inspiration from every nook and cranny and should not be the sole responsibility of a few. One function is never more important than the other.
Rather than titles and job specs that were created from a time before the democratisation of media and the rise of the social web, we need to create company-wide responsibility to engage and interact with employees and customers, and there is an acknowledgement of people to take responsibility and encourage leadership throughout an organisation. Let’s market in the age we are living in, rather than relying on traditional ways that don’t work anymore.
Rather than responsibility being given to sections of a business, when it comes to communicating a brand message, a company needs to become more self-sufficient. The internet has meant that every business has the opportunity to think and act like a media company, in terms of having the ability to create information, think quickly and distribute through channels that you have ownership of (namely your website, your email and your blog). Let’s look at it this way, all of us have an ongoing distribution channel in our pockets.
We don’t require permission from anyone anymore to create, but businesses need to learn to see the opportunity to grow and collaborate internally rather than passing the buck completely to someone else. Affordable technology is now allowing us to generate new skills and to retrain our mind-sets, to be able to support a company message and to grow an audience to drive profitable action.
The role of marketing and HR has a responsibility to motivate and influence others, but the biggest assets we have are the people around us and to work collectively.
I have been part of the marketing industry for around 15 years now and the rulebook has been thrown out the window. We’re all getting used to a new game to play, but haven’t quite got to grips with the new rules just yet. No matter what size our businesses are, we are all marketing, but if our front line is poor with how we interact with our customers, no matter how good our logo is and the slick quarterly meetings, it doesn’t count for anything.
The successful businesses today are those who make a connection, on an external and internal level. Whilst we are faced with new shiny toys to use and technology that is supposed to make our lives easier, people want to work with those they know, like and trust and this hasn’t changed in hundreds of years.
Mark Masters is the MD of The ID Group, a content marketing consultancy helping businesses stand for something, find their voice and tell a better story in their marketplace.