Is your team run by marketers or a bureaucrats?
Bureaucratic, political and overly constrained teams are getting lapped in the digital age
What concerns you more – that your team properly follows templates, formats and processes or they are passionate, express their creativity and are results-driven? This is the difference between being a bureaucrat or a marketer. In digital marketing and PR – following templates, formats and processes is second tier to nurturing creativity and passion. Not sometimes, always.
A bureaucrat is an official in a government or corporation, in particular one perceived as being concerned with procedural correctness at the expense of people's needs.
In a world where no one has a monopoly on attention treating marketing as if it’s a factory and must be part of a paint by numbers process is a mistake. Your end products will be generic and produce mediocre-at-best results while more creative competitors will dominate you. And yet, most marketers still focus on the wrong part of the equation.
Of course there is a balance but by far the most important asset your marketing team has is creative talent. Without that, any sort of rules or processes you’re drawing up to help make things more efficient are irrelevant anyway. Good luck getting noticed with your ultra-efficient blog post or ad campaign which lacks any soul or humanity.
A quote from a post by my friend David Armano still stands true today:
There are actually few organizations that can support passionate employees—even if they say they want them. That’s because the original industrial revolution was designed to support productivity. Productivity means you produce. That’s how you’re measured. Passion is difficult to quantify, and yet if you ever talk to teams who have produced break through products and innovative solutions—you know it was there. Passionate employees believe in something bigger than themselves. They’re not interested in punching the clock, and sometimes they bend the rules.
Unless your strategy revolves around being fast and cheap (this may work for some ad-driven media companies but not brands with actual products) you have to care about what you’re implementing and your team has to care too.
Those who obsess over things like process are putting pressure on the wrong areas. It’s the exact reason individuals are running circles around your brand. Take Joe Rogan for example: love or hate him he’s absolutely obliterating CNN Primetime a polished show produced by a team of people.
Average Number of Viewers per Show:
CNN Primetime: 810,000
Joe Rogan: 11,000,000
What do you think Joe is focused on? Great guests and being creative. That’s it.
What are you really focused on and why?
If someone didn’t follow a process properly but still produced results, do you really care? If yes, you’re a bureaucrat and focused on the wrong things. Harping on adherence is silly and will only succeed in frustrating your passion-driven team members. That’s not why they work for you. They care about interesting projects, not coloring within the lines or taking orders from someone who sees them as a number, not a human. Smart marketers treat processes as something flexible enough to allow for team members to express themselves even if it’s in a slightly different way than you prefer.
It’s not just processes. If you are meeting or status-update obsessed, you’re a bureaucrat and don’t really trust your team. Your team can spend their time reporting and placating superiors or they can achieve results for your brand that move the needle. Time spent on one side impacts the other. If you have to micro-manage, you have the wrong team – focus on fixing that, but additional micro-management is not the solution. In fact, executives at the right teams don’t manage at all in the traditional sense – they lead.
Some specific thoughts as relates to marketing for the bureaucrats to keep in mind:
Quality, consistent work is what will set your digital metrics on fire
As I noted in my now decade+ old primer on content marketing, you’re wasting your time with cheap/fast content. No one cares and even if you can make it scale you’re not going to persuade anyone. You need smart marketers capable of creating remarkable content if you hope to lead your category. Otherwise you’ll never organically attract a community or build organic traffic. No amount of optimization can fix this.
Cheap outsourcing sucks – you get what you pay for
Outsourcing things like blog posts or other creative tactics to cheap vendors is poor business practice because even though it saves on cost, it has larger tolls. Someone internally is going to have to fix that mess of work being sent over, and not only is it frustrating it ends up taking more of your team’s time anyway. Just do things right the first time whether via quality vendor or internal resource. It’s always worth it.
Nurturing a creative team is far more defensible (and harder) than obsessing over efficiencies
Talent matters, and while no one is irreplaceable – if you nurture a team of creative, passionate problem solvers they’re going to be able to adapt to changes in the market far better than process driven teams. Digital marketing rewards those who are improvisational and free to experiment vs. those stuck in rigid settings. The one constant of the web is change – embrace that, get agile with your marketing and you’ll thrive where others falter.
There’s a time and a place for automation
Bureaucratic and process-driven digital marketers love the notion of automation – which does have a place. But the creative aspects of digital marketing can’t be automated. Not really. Those who do might save costs but sacrifice real returns. There are just some things you should never automate:
Auto-responses to DMs in any social platform
Nothing irks me more than when I choose to follow someone on Twitter and I get an auto-DM thanking me for following them. It is especially bothersome because Twitter DMs from the people I chose to follow have an incredibly high signal to noise ratio. I immediately un-follow people who auto-ping me after I follow them and you should too – it shows a complete lack of respect for users as many of us have tied Twitter to our mobile devices. You know who you’re dealing with immediately: someone who takes but does not give back. DMs were designed to be personal communications to the person receiving them, treat them as such.
A reason certain people are extremely trusted or seen as high degrees of signal is due to the fact they share content with care and purpose. You simply can’t automate this, and it ruins your ability to build social capital and a strong digital reputation. Besides, automating curation can’t approach the quality of doing this selectively and personally. Having an eye for interesting work is a talent in and of itself and is actually what makes many social media power users special. Also when you’re inevitably caught doing this on sites like Reddit, they’ll ban you.
Auto-responses from customer service
If you’re in a consumer-facing business and actively pushing marketing/PR efforts on the web, yet at the same time pushing automatic and/or canned responses to consumers from your customer service department, you’re potentially fighting yourself. In many ways, customer service is the new PR or at least a potent form of it. Direct, personal and quality human responses that leave consumers buzzing is a huge PR tactic in itself not just to hedge negativity, but also to build positive relationships. Be a special company that deeply respects every customer enough to take the time to interact with them personally. You aren’t above this: even Jeff Bezos personally responded to emails in the early days of Amazon (and beyond, he’s known for it).
Some people use tools to automatically scrape content to build resource lists, but the only way to build truly useful lists or any type of content that is compelling enough to be shared and linked to is to create it manually with thought behind it. Don’t ever be sold on tools that automatically generate or scrape content, there is no machine that replaces what a smart author who understands her category can do.
Search/social ad optimization
As someone with many years experience working in AdWords I manually work on my campaigns. I’ve played around with Google’s automated tools many times before – and while it can prove somewhat useful under certain circumstances, you really have to vest time in AdWords manually if you want to get results from their system. I get what they’re trying to do with campaign optimization, but the system is one which begs to be tweaked manually by someone who has been watching the data carefully and understands all aspects of what is happening with thought behind the decisions.
White papers/resources for your sector
It may be tempting to pull automated, generic insights for clients if you are in the marketing industry and have access to tools which output such things, but there is much greater value in spending the time to provide industry-specific, researched reports tailored to each client/sector. Take the time to create specific consulting, and you’ll prove yourself that much more of an asset than merely providing generic material. Done properly, these types of documents/consult demonstrate you truly understand the business a client is in and that you deeply care.
Simply put, you can’t and never will be able to automate this. It’s the antithesis of what a relationship is. Every relationship is unique, and for it to be valuable it must be forged and nurtured in that manner. If you try to automate any parts of this, you’re missing the point entirely. If you’re not sure where to start with finding people to build relationships with, there are great tools like Sparktoro that will help you get research done efficiently. Bonus: their VP of marketing Amanda is a great follow on Twitter if you don’t already. Trying to automate connections positions you as the colder, less human option. The web actually enables you to be warmer and more personalized, and there is much to gain by embracing that philosophy.
Take a look at what the brands or individuals continually referenced are doing with their digital communications – notice it’s creative, personal and not easily duplicated. Closer to the work of an artist and creative than a stodgy bureaucrat. And that’s kind of the point. The richest man on Earth posts memes, they’re frequently not the best, and he definitely says a lot he shouldn’t, but that’s besides the point: he understands all of what I’ve written above (while many still don’t). He stands out every day and commands the attention of not just the auto industry, but the entire business world. Imagine if you could do this just for your sector (probably all that’s required). The surprising part is, it’s actually not that hard to do, it just requires a different type of work than your comms team was classically trained in.
So what will happen when the business digital divide finally bridges? The answer is simple: we’ll look to the most creative minds in the space for consult and leadership – aka proper marketers, not bureaucrats.
Turns out people are good bot detectors. Trying to automate relationship building is one of the most relentlessly dumb things I’ve ever seen so called “growth hackers” try to do.
Auto generated blog content, that’s a new one though. But seeing a lot of brands’ mediocre and worse content, I’m not surprised. If you have so little to say about the topic you are in the business of doing that you have to automate content creation, please just sell your company.