Modern Marketing Culture

Anyone Can Fly That Thing

Back in the day, when I was still doing public relations (PR), I worked with a wonderful colleague in the U.K. Part of the reason I liked her so much was that I really respected her ability to do her job. Interestingly enough, her last name was Wong – the same name as a contact I had in China, who was…very different.


The need to have really skilled people is apparent when you think about something as dangerous as flying a Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane, the heavy-lift helicopter shown in the images illustrating this post that the fire service uses to pick up water and put out wildfires here in California. However, it’s just as important to have marketers with appropriate skills if you are to have achieve your marketing objectives.

Skills to Staff Globally

There are several issues you need to keep in mind as you think of necessary skills. The first is related to how you support your organization’s global marketing model. Are you like most large, global organizations and using the centrally-created-locally-executed-model? If so, consider the implications to local staffing needs.

Having worked in both global marketing and local marketing roles, I can tell you that nobody in the local markets likes handcuffs on his/her ability to do “real” marketing. If you limit local teams to simple execution of creative from a central source, you risk the best marketers leaving and you will be left with project managers. They may be very good project managers but, given that marketing transformations are about leap-frogging to the next level, they won’t have the skills to help you adapt to the changing world of marketing today, let alone keep ahead of the competition.

More importantly, consider that social media and other channels are becoming increasingly location-specific. You need people who can promote relevant, local content to local audiences. They not only do they have to know the local market, they have to have the skill to be creative in achieving central goals via specific marketing tactics.

For instance, public relations tactics used in North America might not have worked in China due to regional differences – but I wouldn’t have necessarily known that when I was rolling out a global PR plan. I needed an expert in Chinese PR tactics who could also speak English well enough that he/she could discuss the differences with me (the global lead) so we could modify the plan while still addressing the intended goals – or, if China was a key market, I might have made more sense to require that I be fluent in Mandarin.

Public Relations isn’t a common profession anywhere in the world and PR people who are fluent in two languages are even rarer. That’s why most organizations have so few staffers in their global locations who are experts in the various marketing specialties. Instead, you typically find that employees who have to deal with lead generation, public relations, partner relations, and other marketing duties.

Avoid this generalist role if you intend to develop leads from marketers and not sellers in these regions. This is often easier said than done, however, so keep your mind open to the idea that, in some markets where marketing talent is scarce, you might need to enable partners to do your marketing rather than a regional team of you own.

Also take into account the level of expertise required in the central hub that is creating the global programs. You need the best marketers in these spots so that they can tailor campaigns to what the performance data shows and so they can help regional teams when needed. Define handoffs and measures of success for each level and clear feedback loops, to ensure regional data and team needs are being addressed by the central team.

Skills for a Future State

Beyond basic skills related to professional tracks and languages, you need to define, recruit, retain, and train for skills aligned to where you want to be as an organization after your marketing transformation is complete. You can’t just re-organize and re-assign people to new roles without considering what proficiencies employees in each role should have, though, I’ve actually seen that done even in the most sensitive positions, where you really need detailed, practical experience to execute the role properly.

As you map out what the new process in your marketing is, consider what each role will do in the future state of your marketing and what skills that will require. Convert these ideas into job descriptions, so that everyone will know their role in the future state and what hard and soft skills they need to work on to be able to execute these roles. I’ve done this twice now and the skills required for each process were different each time because what the roles did was different in each case. Make sure you are clear about hand-offs and how each role will be measured. This will help each role focus on his or her area while also showing the larger context each role operates within.

You have to note the systems and technologies inherent to your unique organizational processes but you should also relate the industry concepts and techniques that you are using, such as client journey mapping and personas. The reason for this is that you want job descriptions that are clear enough that marketers can easily find additional education on their own (in college or graduate programs, in professional associations, online, etc.).

One great temptation for people writing skills definitions is to talk about “digital skills.” First, this is really vague, since different organizations use different online tactics. Secondly, many people assume that digital skills means execution of digital tactics. Given that many marketers today are still not comfortable with measuring performance or applying persona-specific attributes to digital tactics, saying that a role requires “digital skills” is not enough to help you achieve the future state you need.

Similarly, do your research and find out what leading organizations are searching for in similar roles and call those out. This will help you attract marketing leaders and change the cultural perception of existing employees about what their role is all about. Consider not just hard skills that can be taught but soft skills as well. As time passes, re-evaluate your job descriptions and the associated skills to ensure that you are current. Then, make sure you train and retain for these skills.

Comments welcome, especially if you have examples of how your organization staffs with appropriate skills for your marketing transformation objectives.

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