Finally Saying Goodbye to Marketing’s Safe Space

Tony Compton, Managing Director

There was a time when marketing personnel could solely operate behind the scenes.

Creating grandiose departmental strategies.
Weaving together technological support structures.
Producing colorful slides, crisply formatted pdf brochures, and countless text-heavy web pages.
Overly-concentrating on keywords, search engines, and tactical online activities.
Delivering routine, carbon-copy, and nondescript case study videos.
Babysitting data, and their repositories.
Attending daily meetings, and running weekly “sometimes they get read” reports.
Hiding behind multiple desktop monitors, and increasingly bigger smartphone screens.
Developing content which one day may or may not be useful, to anybody.
Shipping that content to events, and to those standing in run-of-the-mill trade show booths.
Pushing papers, while texting, typing, and emailing mundane busywork.

…all the while having nothing more than cursory conversations with sales, product management, customer service, operations, IT, HR, executives, the remaining departments, partner companies, analysts, the media, or the outside business world.

And simultaneously:

Tuning out sales people, and the sales enablement needs of the company.
Neglecting to include passion, energy, and excitement as building blocks of customer stories.
Overlooking the new importance and social value of great business storytelling.
Minimizing the need to disseminate consistent content across multiple, worldwide channels.
Allowing the atrophy of any personal and team communication skills.
Setting adrift coworkers who make repeated requests for assistance with content, and its usage.
Having little meaningful interaction with customers, prospects, or partners.
Becoming ill-equipped to create exceptional experiences for customers and colleagues.
Remaining wired-in, but personally disconnected.
Spending money.

I’ve written down 2015 as my official year in which the marketing safe space ended.
If an exact date is required, it’s Friday, the 13th of November 2015.

Marketing Should Never Have Had a Safe Space

But it got one anyway. How? By the long-running passive acceptance of solo busy work, and the path of least resistance. It’s easy, and it was certainly less expensive, to have marketers sit at their desks at 8:30 am and write. Write formulaic press releases, procedural case studies, and the occasional fill-in-the-blank worksheet for battle cards, competitor profiles, product briefings, and award entries. They’d also write content descriptions for website wireframes, abstracts for the next conference demo or session, and submissions for the forthcoming annual analyst evaluation. Today, you can add the hours spent on social media with keywords, search engines, apps, and websites. And for those who cram all of the above and then some into a one-size-fits-all digital manager role, you might as well send your digital marketers to Matt Damon’s now-abandoned Martian base if your wish to isolate them and create the illusion of a safe space.

You may argue the importance of all of that work. I get it. Yes, there is substantial value to those deliverables, but most of it’s accomplished behind a screen. Marketing work, and developmental exercises that centered on sales-driven personal communication skills was either seen as too costly, not needed, or a low priority. Though equal in importance, that aspect of marketing has been largely abandoned.

But those days are over.

What’s Obliterating Marketing’s Safe Space?

Three things, to be exact.

1. The suddenly-new-again and popular topic of Business Storytelling.

There is no marketing safe space in front of a live audience.

No matter how anybody tries to rationalize it, a marketer needs to be connected to, and actively communicating throughout an organization in order to develop a proficiency in business storytelling. Message development and content creation can’t happen in the vacuum of a cubicle or home office. Moreover, possessing exceptional personal communication skills which would allow a marketer to articulate business stories won’t happen in isolation. And the annual two-day, one-off, internal entry-level public speaking workshop is nice, but today’s business climate requires much more.
It takes a process of disciplined practice, exercise, and effort to build and maintain the personal communication strength and proficiency to become an exceptional business storyteller.

In this case, I’m advocating that marketers possess the full suite of abilities to write, present, and disseminate business stories, while enabling and coaching colleagues and partners to achieve a comparable level of communication excellence.

2. The onrush of social media video apps Periscope, Meerkat, and Blab.

There is no marketing safe space in front of a live camera.

It’s one thing to write, text, tweet, design, email, surf, check voice mail, hold conference calls, print, ship, and upload. But it’s a frightening new world in front of a live camera. Your cover has been blown. No more hiding out behind the faceless marketing scenes; it’s now showtime for you.

Neil Hughes shared a great post on LinkedIn, and I must commend him for his perspectives on the unedited nature of Persicope’s video content. I love it. The security blanket of perfecting public-facing, anonymous corporate content evaporates wth the usage of live video apps, and it’s a phenomenal aspect of new streaming media technology that will be embraced by game changing marketing innovators. But it will, by definition, also push marketers out of their hidden safe spaces.

3. The mandatory linking of sales, marketing, and revenue.

Sales has never been more vocal about requiring marketing’s efforts to be aligned with sales enablement functions and revenue-generating activities. And as long as that continues, marketing will be pushed out of its comfort zones at the end of the quarter, and fiscal year.

Because, when numbers are reported on the last day of the quarter, there definitely is no marketing safe space.

Eulogizing the Marketing Safe Space

There was a time when it was perfectly acceptable, and maybe even encouraged, to focus on isolated marketing work that produced tangible mountains of content that withered within corporate intranets and seldom-viewed websites.

There was a time when marketing was able to get by with noses firmly embedded in desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones, when the sun rose and set on keywords, phrases, tags, and search engines.

There was a time when the blanket of anonymity covered the comfortable marketing safe space, because few dared to shift marketing’s corporate charge from generic, busybody producers of ordinary off- and on-line content, to a dynamic team of contributors capable of influencing, motivating, and impacting the corporate ecosystem with skill, human emotion, and unique personality.

Marketing no longer has its safe space. I believe it never should have been allowed to have one in the first place.

Because with preparation, a great storyteller knows how to create exceptional audience experiences. With practice, on-camera personalities know how to productively interact with viewers. With alignment, marketing teams know how to effectively partner with sales.

If you believe that marketing should stay behind the scenes, hidden in it’s safe space, and that only bad things can happen otherwise, I suggest a new way of approaching the function. Because the business world and its live, social technologies are moving in a new direction.

Marketing’s safe space is now finally gone, for good.

Say goodbye to it.

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