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Helping non-marketing people think through marketing ideas

25/11/2010

This week I’ve been part of a team delivering marketing and communications workshops to non-marketing people and its been a hugely informative few days for me, let alone the delegates (who, incidentally agreed via their feedback sheets that they valued the sessions).

We’ve run into some interesting issues working with groups from a mixture of business, charity and public sector backgrounds and I thought I’d be open and share some of our learning to see if it resonates with others.  Having taken a quick straw poll amongst the team, and in pursuit of improvement, here are the things we will be thinking differently about for future workshops.

It would be great to hear your thoughts too.

  • In the words of Dr. Gregory House, people lie! No matter how many times it is covered in pre-workshop materials, if you ask people whether they know anything about marketing, they say yes.  I expect it’s because we don’t want to feel daft amongst our peers and other groups but asking people to self-select workshops based on their own level of knowledge coming into the event does not guarantee a base-level of knowledge on which you can build.
  • We need to find better ways of ensuring content is relevant and valuable for people of all levels of experience. Perhaps a tiered programme where everyone starts at level one and builds? Or use stronger words like ‘beginner’, ‘intermediate’ and ‘advanced’ to be really clear.
  • Use examples people can understand to explain concepts like branding, emotional benefits etc. even if they aren’t relevant to the subject or the audience’s line of work. It’s better that they understand the ideas than trying to shoe-horn a specific example into a session.  We were talking about destination marketing to a number of community groups and local authority teams and I think they would have understood more easily if we had led with ‘what do you want visitors to feel when they visit your destination?’ and left all the official labels like ‘brand’ out of it altogether.
  • Some people can’t see beyond what they can’t do. Local authority teams seemed to struggle with moving beyond the reasons they couldn’t try new ideas because of Council edicts or financial pressures. Marketing and communications activity was seen as a discretionary spend and therefore there to be cut. Our approach was to focus on three approaches:
  1. look at your objectives and assess what marketing you can deliver to support them for free (like a basic social media plan)
  2. help them to find smaller initiatives they can deliver ‘under the radar’ and then present a successful outcome to others as the case for rolling out wider-reaching activity
  3. Look at what other similar groups are doing and basically copy what works.
  • People think marketing is only for big organisations with lots of money to spend. We shared lots of examples that other similar groups are doing every day and dared them (in a friendly way) to come up with reasons why they couldn’t do the same.
  • People are frightened of social media. Concerns around privacy, the number of tools available and having it absorb all available time abound. We talked about creating a policy which enables teams to share the workload by using organisational profiles based on basic rules around tone of voice, personality they want to portray etc. We also recommended they start with just a few key platforms where the largest numbers of their audiences are to be found. If we’d had more time perhaps it would have been good to get online and show them how people interact with twitter and facebook as well as show them how to set privacy settings?
  • People struggle to think about plans and strategy. Successful marketing and communications campaigns come from planning activity before launching into the next round of tactics. But lots of people feel more comfortable with tangible ideas and trying out the ‘sexy stuff’. ‘House of cards’ and ‘building foundations’ analogies seemed a bit trite even if people did understand them. Does anyone have any other ideas which can help emphasise the importance of strategy and planning to an audience that doesn’t think on this level in their roles as volunteers or municipal workers?
  • Lastly, the most conscientious member of our team was concerned that we didn’t get 100% excellent feedback from all of the workshops. We all discussed the old adage ‘you can’t please all of the people all of the time’ and agreed it pretty much applies when you have nearly 50 people in the room. But where would you set the benchmark realistically for conveying communications concepts and ideas to an inexperienced audience?

In the continued spirit of open and honest conversations, we’d love to see your thoughts… I’ve showed you ours so please feel free to reciprocate and we can share some ideas with marketers and non-marketers alike.

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