I felt like Dear Abby, listening to the plight of Ignored Marketer in Minneapolis (the pen name I assigned her in my mind). She asked me, “What am I supposed to do to get people to trust my team?”
The “people” she was referring to were leaders, peers, vendors – her entire organization. And the situation was a common one.
I was talking to the leader of a marketing team that felt like no one valued their opinions or trusted their advice. I’d seen – and personally experienced this before – and I knew it could happen any number of ways. Was there a failed campaign? Was it a reaction to a high-stress situation? Has the surge in fake news left people thinking all marketers lie all the time? I’ve seen leaders dismiss campaigns because the presenters didn’t seem confident and I’ve seen the same result because presenters were overconfident. I’ve seen marketers routinely dismissed simply because it was part of the company’s culture not to trust their opinions.
However you ended up in an environment where your internal team doesn’t trust your advice, you need a plan to get that trust back (or maybe secure it in the first place) or your talented team will never achieve fulfilling, successful work.
Take Your Seat at the Table
The bad press United Airlines received in April of 2017 is the perfect example of why marketers should be involved in the decision-making processes for the organization. Social media strategists quickly realized there was more opportunity for development than most people saw. Yes, the CEO missed a critical opportunity to send the right message. Yes, statements needed to be released in response to such a shocking incident. And, yes, this crossed between traditional marketing, social media, and public relations roles in the organization. It was a time when everyone needed to work together to stay on top of incoming messages and remain consistent in outgoing responses.
But social media strategists were asking other questions – because their unique understanding of the importance of public perception brought other considerations to light.
- Do we need to revisit our policy on removing passengers once they’ve already boarded? Is there anything that could have been done differently to bring this need to light sooner?
- Why was our random selection process misunderstood and/or questioned? Do employees find it hard to explain?
- How are UA employees responding to this – on their social media, of course. But also, with an inundation of negative messaging associated with the work they do every day, how are they feeling about coming to work every day?
Many people would hesitate to call these “marketing questions” and even fewer would look to marketers for their insights – even though they are the individuals monitoring the conversations in real-time on social media. As a marketing team, if you want to be taken seriously, take your seat at the table. Don’t wait to be asked. Tell the leaders that – while managing the immediate fallout – you see a bigger picture and strategic needs that need to be addressed.
Talk Data to Me
Whether you’re responding to a crisis, launching a new campaign, or just looking at your overall brand presence, find a way to share what you’re observing as concrete processes and measurable data.
- If you’re responding to a crisis, share the plan you’re following and why. And if you just realized you don’t have a plan to follow, now is the time to write one – not the moment a crisis hits. Being able to demonstrate that you have an if/then plan to manage negative activity on your social media platforms will help everyone in the organization see your team as strategic professionals. And they will take great comfort in the stability you can offer.
- If you’re launching a campaign, similar rules apply. Demonstrate that you have a plan. You might host a meeting, share a planning document, or otherwise integrate others in the organization into the success of the campaign. The idea is to gather their thoughts and contributions in advance and in an organized fashion – and that only happens if you’re executing a plan. Be obvious about your process and their role in the plan. It will establish you as a committed professional.
- What about the opportunities you have day-to-day to demonstrate your expertise? Identify the corporate communication process (who meets when to discuss what, how is the wider organization informed of important information, etc.) and add your team’s data on a regular basis. This is the very essence of being proactive and it’s often overlooked in marketing. Don’t wait for people to come to you because of a significant event. Make your routine contributions to brand health and organizational success known.
Take Your Language Cue from Goldilocks
When you’re sharing all of this data, remember where Goldilocks found her success.
- Don’t use impressive-sounding, unfamiliar words with the hope that people will be too intimated by your obvious intelligence and expertise to ask questions. What do you really accomplish if no one understands your message? Typically, instead of being impressed, people quickly decide you’re using smoke and mirrors…and that if you had anything valuable to say, you’d just say it.
- Don’t leave out technical terms because you think people won’t understand them. If your organization needs to understand the difference between reach and engagement, explain it to them. And if they don’t understand it the first time, explain it to them again. Part of your role as a marketing professional is helping people understand information critical to brand health. Not talking about the challenging concepts associated with your role in the organization will only hurt your reputation and leave people wondering if you know what you’re doing.
- Do share relevant information in a way that’s easy to understand. Define terms respectfully by providing handouts or simply stating definitions as you use potentially unfamiliar terms. Use industry benchmarks to help people understand the information deeply. Know the value you bring to the organization and don’t let people tell you they don’t have time to hear about marketing or that they don’t understand how social media works. Make yourself heard by meeting them where they are with the information they need.
Get Some Credentials
Another way to demonstrate your expertise is by maintaining industry credentials. Becoming a certified Social Media Strategist (SMS) through the National Institute for Social Media is one way to demonstrate your expertise – and there are others! You might have a marketing degree or certificate, serve on a board that contributes to the field of marketing, or even write/speak on current marketing trends. For most people, one or two options are a better fit than the others. Personally, when I became a consultant six years ago, I knew I’d need to establish my credibility with clients quickly – and I didn’t have the time, money or desire to go back to school for another degree. The SMS certification and blogging was a great fit.
What advice did I give to Ignored Marketer in Minneapolis? I told her to do something. Anything. The problem wasn’t going to fix itself and no one was going to fix it for her. If she wanted her team to be respected, she had a list of options. Change how they perceive you by changing what information you share. Improve how you share information – make it measurable and easy to understand. Establish your team as experts – through a team SMS certification or another demonstration of your professionalism.
However you look at it, the power to be seen differently in your organization is in your hands.
Dr. Amy Jauman, SMS, is the Chief Learning Officer at the National Institute for Social Media and author of the Comprehensive Field Guide for Social Media Strategists. Amy is also one of 58 members representing 12 countries in the inaugural class of the Prezi Educator Society. Previously she was the Social Media Director for Women Entrepreneurs of Minnesota (WeMN) and she currently serves as the marketing director for the Minnesota Chapter of the National Speakers Association. She is also an adjunct professor in the St. Catherine University Business Department and the St. Mary’s University of Minnesota MBA program.