Unshackle your local marcom efforts from head-office control

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By Leo Valiquette unshackled

“We will embrace blogs just as they cease to be effective.”

Such was the lament of one of my clients during a recent conference call.

Here’s the context. This is an organization in an industry where thought leadership and subject matter expertise are fundamental tools for business development. News bulletins and newsletters have, to date, been the most popular means for publicizing and promoting the organization’s principals as both service providers of choice and as sources of comment for the media.

But this organization’s own internal metrics and pilot projects are suggesting that a blog might represent a better expenditure of resources. Blogs can build loyal followings and they can be better tweaked for search engine optimization.

I couldn’t agree more. But here’s the problem. This is a multinational organization with branch operations on three continents. Marketing and communications programs are largely subject to centralized oversight. Individual branch ops have a limited ability to chart their own destinies. Any content marketing and social media initiatives they wish to pursue to for business development are subject to the approval of the mothership’s marketing and communications gatekeepers.

There are obvious reasons for this. In a highly competitive industry, there is a legitimate need to promote the brand with one consistent tone and voice. There are also budgetary concerns.

But to effectively serve the needs of a branch operation in a local market, you often need marcomm feet on the ground in that market. It’s too easy for a centralized marcomm team, usually making the best of limited resources, to focus their efforts on the wheels that squeak loudest. It’s usually the biggest wheels that make the most noise. Smaller branch operations are not as well served as they could be.

In this particular instance, I am in the mix on a part-time basis as that local resource for the Ottawa branch operation, to compliment the in-house marcomm folks, all of whom are based in larger centres outside of Ottawa. But my mandate is again limited by the mothership’s budget restrictions and, dare I say it, the willingness of the marcomm gatekeepers to give up a little control.

Which brings us back to that quote up top. It came from the fellow in charge of the local Ottawa operation. If left to our own devices, and for a quite modest budget, he and I could do a lot more to boost the profile of the Ottawa operation to bring new business to the door, but anything do to with content marketing and PR remains firmly leashed by the mothership’s marcomm gatekeepers.

When I first engaged with this client more than two years ago, I had offered up an ambitious proposal that included a local blog site, but the gatekeepers shot this down. And now here we are, with somber consideration being given to whether a blog is the more effective way to go. Better late than never, I suppose.

A few weeks back, I wrote about the struggle to balance process with results. That also applies to this situation, where the local branch operation, capable of acting with the speed and grace of a startup, is instead shackled by the bureaucratic process of its larger parent organization. But there is merit in granting a little free rein and budgetary discretion for that local team to assume more responsibility for charting its own destiny. It can only be to its benefit and may yield insights and results that can be duplicated throughout the organization.


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