Extra time

Earlier this week there was a particularly amusing story in the local news . During an FA Cup preliminary qualifying round tie Baldock Town footballer Liam Kenner was subbed on with 10 minutes to go. This meant he couldn't fulfill his usual job of updating the club's Twitter account with the latest on pitch action. The absence of his tweets prompted him to post an apology on behalf of the club the following day, which quickly went viral:


As a result of this the FA have promised to do Baldock's tweeting for them in the next round so Kenna can concentrate on playing!

This raises an interesting point with regards to multi-tasking in Communications and Marketing. I see lots of evidence to show that these disciplines are very often just tagged onto people's job roles. Lots of people have Comms and Marketing listed in their job descriptions but very few actually have any qualifications, or advanced skills, in these disciplines. Of course, no-one would ever dream of asking a barista at Luton airport's Costa Coffee to fly a plane as part of their duties. So why is marketing not seen as a specialist skill which is best left to the professionals? For me the difference is between implementation and know-how.

In the past I have spent a lot of time training colleagues on social media strategy. Sometimes it's easy and they really get what is required to run a successful campaign/account. But sometimes no amount of training can teach the innate judgement and planning required to not compromise the business as a whole.

Another factor is that when people see the finished article - the advertising campaign, the packaging, the new flavour, the shiny social media campaign, it's tempting to think that these things are relatively simple and straightforward to plan and execute.

But those of us "in the know" know. It's a long hard slog. It involves hours of analytics, focus groups, competitive intelligence gathering, furious debate and days of navel-gazing, followed by panic and frenetic middle-of-the-night calls as the deadlines loom. Followed by more furious debate - over semantics, phrases and word choices. And that's just to write a halfway-decent brief!

The point is that we marketers need to own our skills gaps, and we need to do something about addressing them, so that we deliver world-class marketing and world-class advertising for our brands and our businesses. We will potentially lose the privilege of a place at the top table and could be viewed as a "nice-to-have", rather than as an essential business driver in the cut-throat economic times we live in. Marketers must try something different with their campaigns and spend our budgets wisely - we can't afford to waste those resources.

It's up to us to champion Marketing and Comms as professional discipline and not just something which anyone can pick up and put down. The real way to do this is to instill discipline in teams and to act as consultants who recommend and advise on the best way to achieve results. If all we are doing is serving up a menu of channels for clients to pick from to get their message out then there's no hope of succeeding. By presenting evidence, a clear opinion and judgement we'll be taken much more seriously.

The same is true with demonstrating practical skills in writing, designing and project managing. Where these are lacking people will be quick to assume Marketing is something which they can pick up and play with.

As it stands Baldock town's Twitter account isn't actually half bad in the content it posts if the aim is keep people updated on the match. But brands need to be much more sophisticated with the variety of content they post if their social media strategy is going to evolve in the long term. I was always the penultimate person to be picked in football at school which gave me a good idea of where there was room for improvement!
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