Review Loops Made Easier – Part 2

What takes most of the time in getting content out the door? The review loops. Here are a few more ways to make review loops go as smoothly as possible.

yarn loops and review loopsIn my last post, I highlighted three ways to make review loops easier in your organization:

  1. Get all reviewers involved from the start.
  2. Ask your white paper writer to include the summary with the outline.
  3. When you send it out, tell reviewers what you do and don’t want.

I’ll finish up my list of 6 tips in this post.

4) Send drafts serially, not in parallel.

In the interest of time, you’re tempted to attach the outline or draft to email, copy all four reviewers and send it out to them in parallel at the same time. You’ll ask each of them to send his/her comments back to you in a day or two, then you’ll forward all of that to your marketing writer.

You’re better off sending a single, cumulative version to each reviewer in sequence. It’s better for the reviewers, better for you and better for the eventual outcome.

What happens when you don’t do that?

Your time-savings in parallel are really a false economy, because you run the risk of sacrificing quality. When you send a draft out for review in parallel:

  • reviewers are unable to see the comments other reviewers have made
  • you may end up getting back a heap of contradictory changes
  • either you have to reconcile conflicting directions or – worse yet – your writer has to reconcile them.

You’re better off sending it first to Sid, asking for his comments by the end of tomorrow, then forwarding Sid’s changes to Carole, then Carole’s changes to Bill, etc. Yes, I know it takes longer, but what you lose in time you gain in quality.

5) Politely persist in your follow-up, even when the reviewer is a customer.

Whether you work serially or in parallel, you’re still going to have to pursue some of your reviewers to get their comments to you. Obtaining these approvals is part of your job, so grin and bear it.

First, everything you send out for review should have a please-return-by deadline in bold type. That’s how people know that you’re serious.

If a reviewer is tardy in returning comments, I recommend sending a single email message within half a workday of your deadline. If you receive no reply within one workday, phone the reviewer.

After that, let office etiquette, politics and the relationship you have with your customer be your guide.

What happens when you don’t do that?

Your editorial schedule slips, and you start having trouble owning the very process these reviewers have begged you to manage.

Don’t hide behind email, though. If your email reminder doesn’t work, then pick up the phone. Leave a message if you have to, but don’t just keep lobbing email at your reviewer.

There’s really nothing wrong with polite persistence. In time, you begin to see whom you can trust as a reviewer, which is a valuable lesson.

6) Read and reconcile comments before you send them to the writer.

Do you read the copy that comes back from reviewers, or do you just turbo-forward it to your marketing writer? Yes, I know you’re busy, and you feel as though you’ve crossed the finish line by corralling all comments and changes and sending them to the writer, but you should have a look at them first.

In particular, scan the comments for food fights among reviewers.

What happens when you don’t do that?

When you don’t take the bull by the horns and reconcile points of contention among your reviewers, you put your writer between a rock and a hard place. If the reviewers haven’t managed to agree on messaging and substance, you shouldn’t expect your writer to do so. A smart writer will incorporate all the other changes, leave the discrepancies untouched and return them to you with a note.

After all, as a marketing manager, you own the relationship with your reviewers. It doesn’t make sense to hand it off to your marketing communications writer, does it?

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a marketing communications writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it. Download his eBook, “10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Marketing Communications Writer.

photo credit: WillowW

Review Loops Made Easier – Part 1

Review loops cause most of the delay when you’re trying to get content out the door. Here are few ways to make review loops go more smoothly.

Rope loops, review loops. Take your pick.On most content projects – white papers, case studies, contributed articles, blog posts, etc. – it’s the marketing manager who ends up getting the squeeze during content reviews.

“Why is this taking so long?” the stakeholders moan. “Sales needs this content to close the Flubdrubber account, and they need it yesterday.”

Alert readers have pointed out to me that there is plenty of glamour and enjoyment in most marketing communication duties, but they can’t find any at all in content review loops. I believe them when they tell me that, so here are a few ways to lessen the pain and shorten turnaround.

1) Get all reviewers involved from the start.

If you know that five different people are ultimately going to review the piece, get all five of them involved from the start. That means:

  • sharing the creative brief with them, if you have one (and if it’s mercifully short)
  • showing all five of them the outline you receive from your marketing writer
  • including all five of them on all review loops

What happens when you don’t do that?

“I don’t want to see anything until after it’s been through all reviews,” says Mr. Big. He is too busy to have a look at it when it’s a work in progress, but not too busy to demand huge changes when your finish line is in sight.

Maybe you save Mr. Big for the final review because you want to reduce the number of cooks in the kitchen. In that case, you’ll find comments from him that look like this:

  • “This is not the messaging we’re going with in the future.”
  • “Why are we mentioning Blunderbuss Industries? They told us that we were not to use their name.”
  • “I thought Bluetooth Smart was our secret weapon. We shouldn’t describe it in public-facing content.”

In other words, you squeeze yourself even tighter, you undermine your credibility with all of the other reviewers and you antagonize the writer. Bringing everyone in as early as possible helps you avoid that.

2) Ask your white paper writer to include the summary with the outline.

How do you know what the writer really took away from that one-hour interview with your director of engineering? She’ll prepare and send you an outline, but most outlines are just a box of bullets arranged in chronological order. How do you know she got the right message?

Consider a small but important insurance policy on your project: Ask your marketing writer for the introduction or up-front summary along with the box of outline bullets.

What happens when you don’t do that?

Without a summary, you can get all the way through the first draft before it dawns on you that the writer is off message. You can get as far as a first draft that describes your peer-to-peer networking technology accurately, but for deeply technical readers instead of the business-focused readers you intended. Or you may find yourself with a draft that reads more like a newsletter article than the white paper you wanted. That means a lot of re-work. And more squeeze. Taking the writer’s temperature at the outline stage helps you avoid that.

3) When you send it out, tell reviewers what you do and don’t want.

When you specify the depth of review and the kind of feedback you want from your reviewers, you make it easier for them to perform the task and easier for you to incorporate their comments.

Drop a few bullets on page one, labeled “Comments for Reviewers,” with guidelines such as:

  • “Ignore formatting. This draft is for review of content only.”
  • “Focus on ensuring that technical details in this draft are accurate.”
  • “Your concrete changes to the text will help us stick to our release schedule. Change tracking is enabled. Add/edit/delete text freely.”
  • “Use embedded comments only for unresolved questions.”
  • “Please return your marked-up copy by Tuesday, December 10.” (Always include a deadline when you ask for a review.)

What happens when you don’t do that?

If you send out a draft for review without specific do’s and don’ts, you’ll find that at least one reviewer has taken  it apart with a scalpel and tweezers and put it back together “the way it should be.” That may be beneficial, but most of the time it’s hopelessly vexing because marketing managers don’t like to open a review draft and see that somebody has changed it completely.

Also, you don’t want to get reams of comments with vague questions or topics for debate. In a draft, concrete changes are best. If Mrs. Big has an issue with messaging or disagrees with the project on some existential level, draft comments are not the best place to work that out.

Assume that your reviewers crave your leadership and direction. Give them specific instructions.

Start with those.

That’s plenty to get you started simplifying your content review process. In my next post, I’ll include more ways to make review loops easier.

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a marketing communications writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it. Download his eBook, “10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Marketing Communications Writer.

photo credit: Joe Loong

What’s the Difference Between a Blogger and a Cartoonist?

Christmas decorations - Charlie Brown and Sally read the Sunday comicsIn at least one important way, there is no difference.

Both have to come up with something to fill their spot on the page. Every. Blessed. Day.

Longest running comic strips

Do you read the newspaper any more? I still get it a couple of days a week. I look forward to the comics – two full pages in the daily U-T San Diego – because they give me the chance to sit in spellbound admiration at the intestinal fortitude of the cartoonists.

Cartoonists have to deliver creativity and meet reader expectations every day of every week of every year for the rest of their career. Sure, they take time off, but you know it means that they’ve had to work extra hard before they leave and extra hard when they return to come up with clever content that we want to read and will enjoy. Every. Blessed. Day.

Some comic strips go on for decades, like Little Orphan Annie, Popeye and The Katzenjammer Kids. Don’t you ever wonder how Mort Walker can keep coming up with ways for Beetle Bailey and the Sarge to cross each other? Or how many more flat puns Johnny Hart can coax out of Wiley’s Dictionary in B.C.? Or how many exclamation marks Moy and Giella have used in Mary Worth’s unending life?

When the “single most important characteristic of successful content marketers is perseverance” (Joe Pulizzi), do you have the chops for that kind of longevity in your blog?

How do they do it?

Don’t ask me how they do it. This blog has nothing on The Wizard of Id, or on any of the long-in-the-tooth bunch, so I don’t have their secret inside of me.

I need to search the Web for it.

James Dodds III, creator at www.truenuff.com, notes:

I find that in my (non-brilliant) creative endeavors it pays to keep a notebook (or smart phone) to capture comic strip ideas, jokes, etc.

I find that I can only hold 2 – 3 ideas in my head before new ideas start “over-writing” them. If I write down the ideas as I get them I can go back and develop them at my leisure.

Write it down, you will forget.

Eternally on your guard

You may have to give up a little bit of your consciousness to be a long-term blogger or content marketer. You may have to be eternally on your guard, collecting and jotting down ideas here and there, because they won’t always come at the most convenient moment.

When a couple of good ideas pop into your head, and you know you’d better write them down before they slip into Lethe’s waters:

  • you may spend years hearing an inner voice randomly nag, “Oh! Gotta jot that down!”
  • you may miss your boss praising your writing in front of your co-workers.
  • you may not hear your spouse tell you how good you look since you’ve lost weight.
  • you may turn to ask the man behind you for a pen, just as your daughter scores a goal.

That’s the potential price of being eternally on guard for ideas to turn into content. It may be too high for you. You may not want to live that way, even temporarily. If so, you may just chuck the whole be-on-your-guard thing and publish whatever self-promoting drivel occurs to you, since nobody ever got fired for toeing the company line.

But what cartoonist would dare do that?

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a marketing communications writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it. Download his eBook, “10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Marketing Communications Writer.”

photo credit: Kevin Dooley

Get My Attention in 20 Seconds. The Motown Way.

Tell your readers what they want to know, and do it fast. Here’s how Motown did it.

“Now, if you were hungry and had only one dollar, would you buy this record or a hot dog?”

In the early days of Motown Records, Berry Gordy Jr. would pose thmotown product marketingis question to his employees in their Friday morning product evaluation meetings. With dozens of songs per week competing for promotion, the hot dog test was one of Gordy’s pet criteria.

Translations for your marketing content:

  • “If you were in a hurry and your inbox was full, would you read this email or skip to something else?”
  • “If you had 15 minutes to do research, would you read this white paper or a competitor’s?”

The 20-Second Hook

“Dancing in the Street” by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas was one of Gordy’s personal favorites. Why?

“My goal to hook people in the first 20 seconds was never accomplished better.”

Think about the songs (or movies or books or poems or blog posts – in short, the content) that grabs you from the very start. Nowadays, 20 seconds is an eternity, but hooking your audience is still what sells.

Translations:

  • “How long will it take a reader to get into this article?”
  • “Start this article off with a compelling question or statistic or quotation – something that will grab me.”

Try harder next time

Motown didn’t abandon songs that failed the Friday morning tests. Their champions – the artists, writers, promoters or producers – would take them back into the studio for more work.

The Supremes were eager to release “Baby Love,” but Gordy didn’t think it started strong enough, so the group went back to the studio, increased the tempo and added the “Ooo-ooo-ooo” to the beginning. Within two months of its release, the song became the first number-one Motown hit in both the U.S. and Britain.

Translations for your marketing communications writers:

  • “I get lost in the middle of this paper. Make it easier for me to see the structure.”
  • “This case study is too much about us and not enough about the reader. Would you want to read that? Fix it.”

Why not pretend you’re in a product evaluation meeting at Motown for a few weeks and whip your content into shape? I can recommend that all you marketing managers read Motown: Money, Music, Sex and Power by Gerald Posner as you’re getting your Berry Gordy on.

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a marketing communications writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it. Download his eBook, “10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Marketing Communications Writer.”

Marketing Communications – Finding Your Voice Can Be This Simple

“Find your voice,” say the top bloggers. Some businesses don’t need to find it; it’s the only one they have, as in this example.

Javier Hernández next to his father's truckLike most newspapers, the U-T San Diego is changing fast. The paper-based press has to move fast to keep up with the news cycle, and even faster to stay in business.

Other than its ham-handed attempts to manipulate the local electorate, most of its changes make sense to me, none more so than a “Featured Service Provider” callout on page one of the Shopping+Services section recently. Picked at random (or not) from the section’s Services Directory is West Coast Fence, whose marketing communications – not advertising – reads like this:

My name is Javier Hernandez. I am the owner of West Coast Fence Co. I started installing fences in 1970. I am 5 years old in this photo. This is when my father, who was also a fencer, purchased his first truck. Throughout the years, my five brothers and I helped him install fences throughout the West Coast. I received my contractor’s license and started a branch in San Diego five years ago. I will go measure your fence and install it. Just like I have done for the last 40 years.  Lic#906613  619-471-6852

What else is there to say in 100 words or fewer? It’s more like a backgrounder than a fully developed piece of content marketing, but in a blogosphere that urges us to find our ideal writing voice, Javier doesn’t have much searching to do, does he?

Can you tell your organization’s story as simply as that?

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a marketing communications writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s dirty work, but somebody has to do it. Download his eBook, “10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Marketing Communications Writer.”

photo credit: Javier Hernández

Hey, Can I Get Research with That White Paper?

A white paper without research is not much of a white paper. But how much research do you want in yours? What kind of research? Be sure your writer understands what you have in mind.

Marketing Research with TumblrIf your task is to create a white paper that:

  • puts your company and technology in a particular quadrant
  • surveys your industry and researches market trends
  • estimates the number of units sold and to what kind of customer for the next few years

then your project is beyond the scope of the average marketing communications writer. You should be talking to industry analysts instead.

That is indeed a valid white paper, but few marketing writers are set up to conduct that kind of wide-ranging research and pull it into a single piece. If you have already conducted the research and can point your writers to it, it’s a better bet that their deliverable will meet your expectations.

Research and white papers go together

It gets back to the fact that “white paper” is about as specific a term as “women’s shoes:” what one person understands by it is rarely what another person understands by it. Platforms? Slingbacks? Open toe? Slides? Mules?

It also underscores the importance of examining samples when you’re shopping for a writer.

“That’s not a white paper,”  you say.

“My client was pleased by it,” replies the prospective writer. “It explains their business and technology in a way that makes sense for this audience, it includes a discussion of market trends, it contains relevant diagrams that make it easy to read and understand, it allows readers to draw their own conclusions and it suggests ways they can follow up and find out more.”

“Yeah, but that’s not what I want in my white paper, and it’s different from what I’ve seen in other white papers.”

Your paper needs some kind of research or it will fall flat. So what do you consider research?

  • industry surveys that validate your approach
  • industry surveys that don’t validate your approach
  • interviews with your engineers and product managers
  • perspective from your customers
  • schematics and technical diagrams
  • citations from the press that support your arguments
  • great thoughts from your execs

You can turn all of these into a white paper, but be sure you and your writer agree about the amount AND TYPE of research you have in mind.

Otherwise, you may end up with Mary Janes when you’re expecting pumps.

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a marketing communications writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s dirty work, but somebody has to do it. Download his eBook, “10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Marketing Communications Writer.”

photo credit: dmhoro

Social Media:1; Blogging: 0

Blogging takes work. Social media takes work, too. But it’s so much shinier and prettier that it’s becoming an easier case for marketing managers to make.

shiny holiday decorationsA recent article in USA Today points to more companies quitting their blogging efforts in favor of Facebook and Twitter.

Who can blame them?

Blogging takes work. It’s like watching public television. Social media takes work, too. It’s like watching “Dancing with the Stars.”

Writers like blogging, and blogging likes writers

If your organization is lucky enough to have:

  • a good message
  • a stable of strong writers
  • a community of people who enjoy reading what you write

then blogging will go a long way for you. But if you become weak in any of those, as most organizations eventually do, then your online marketing will have to shift to the snackable content that is social media.

In that case, don’t fight it. According to the article, Bank of America, Owens Corning, Sport Chalet and OkCupid don’t. “We want to be where our customers are,” says a BofA spokesman, mentioning Twitter and Facebook.

Among other reasons to bail on a blog:

  • underestimating the amount of work a blog requires
  • worrying about legal or regulatory trouble from saying the wrong thing and not being able to take it back
  • not connecting with readers, usually because of the urge to pitch products

Face it: there are easier ways to spend a precious marketing buck.

Keeping the air in the tires

Still, no matter how you spend that marketing buck, you need to put out valuable content to your audience. You can fill only so many tweets and posts with emoticons and exclamation marks before you have to start linking to content that gives your readers something to think about. So in effect, you’ll be blogging one way or the other, even if not in WordPress.

Among other reasons to keep waving the flag of blogging and valuable content:

  • establishing expertise in your industry
  • showing that you’re paying attention to your customers’ problems and not just to how cool your products are
  • search-engine-friendliness (at least, for the time being)

Don’t take my word for it; have a look at the array of comments under Roger Yu’s article in USA Today. As you would suspect, most of them favor blogging over social media, but for different reasons.

Facebook, blogging, Twitter, LinkedIn…As a marketing manager, how do you make the case for where your organization will invest in online marketing?

John White is a marketing communications writer who posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s dirty work, but somebody has to do it. Download his eBook, “10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Marketing Communications Writer,” then take your best shot at hiring him.

photo credit: Vicky Brock

Marketing Communications Nirvana: One-Sentence Pitches

Elevator speeches, About Us pages, press release boilerplate and LinkedIn profiles are your chance to describe what you do in one sentence. Can you pull that off?

short marketing messagesQuick – What does your company do?

Did it take you more than one sentence to answer that question? It probably did. Now suppose you were an entrepreneur pitching your company. Could you do it in one sentence?

Brevity is the soul of Marketing

Maybe not the soul of Marketing, but surely the esophagus: If the copy is too big or too noxious, Marketing should kick it back out.

Anthony Ha posted a few weeks back on the winners of the One-Sentence Pitch Competition that TechCrunch hosted for the Founder Institute.They recommended this format:

“My company, _(insert name of company)_, is developing _(a defined offering)_ to help _(a defined audience)_ _(solve a problem)_ with _(secret sauce)_”

From 450 entries, the Institute selected a handful of winners. Every one of them embodies the enviable spirit of “Faß Dich kurz!” the motto with which the German telephone company used to exhort customers to keep their conversations as brief as possible.

Does your press release boilerplate describe your company as succinctly as this?

“My company, Airto, is developing a web-based social seating check-in platform to help air travelers see who is on board their flight and use Facebook and Linked in to assign all flight seats with one click.”

Not much ambiguity or fluff, hemming or hawing in that one, is there? Or this one:

“My company, GradeZone Points, is developing an online and mobile platform to help socially-conscious businesses reward high school students for good grades and good attendance with deals and local programs that inspire a community-wide concern for education.”

Easy to see what’s in it for businesses, what’s in it for students and what’s in it for the community.

Do you ever try to make your marketing communications  that succinct? What comes of it?

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a marketing communications writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s dirty work, but somebody has to do it. Download his eBook, “10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Marketing Communications Writer.”

photo credit: futureshape

Case Study Questions: “Tell Me About…”

Case studies and customer success stories don’t just happen; your questions make them happen. Here are some ideas on new ways to draw out your interviewees.

Tell me about...You’ve scheduled a phone interview with a customer who is willing to reference your products. You’ve sent along a list of questions on the topics you’ll be covering.

Now all you need to do is get her to say nice things about you. That’s no slam dunk.

Interviewing for case studies

Some people are a good interview. They talk freely about their business and how they use your products to save time and money. They practically write the case study for you.

Others…not so much.

  • Some people are guarded in their remarks. They don’t know what they’re allowed to say – even when you assure them that they’ll have the opportunity to review the piece before it’s published – and they’re afraid of breaking some internal company rule and getting into trouble.
  • Some interviewees are naturally reticent. They don’t like talking to people and they don’t appreciate being put on the spot to artificially pay you a compliment.
  • Some references aren’t really references. They don’t know anything about you or your products, but all the people you really wanted to talk to are on travel, so they dumped the interview on somebody in Accounting.
  • Some customers think it’s all about them. They look upon the interview as an opportunity to go on at length about their own company, or to help you fill out your product requirements for the next version of your product.

I’ve posted before on some basics of customer interviews and great case study questions, but those are for best-case scenarios. How will you humor and please a tough interview, yet still get enough of a story and recommendation to make the case study worth writing (and worth reading, more important)?

Veteran journalist Peter Rowe offers three succinct tips based on the hundreds of interviews he’s conducted for feature articles.

1. Latch onto a theme

“I go into these interviews with a theme in mind. Sure, it’s nice to hear war stories from a 94-year-old WWII vet, but I have to tie them into an underlying theme, like the impact a distant war can have on the home region, or a demographic trend the interviewee embodies. I just keep nudging people back to that theme with my questions to make sure I get what my readers are going to want.”

Your case study questions can do that as well. Pick your theme:

  • Companies in the entertainment industry use our products
  • Our services help our customers get closer to their own customers
  • Mobile apps built with our tools run 15% faster

and nudge your interviewee back to it.

2. Collect insignificant details

“When the interviewee gets stuck or starts giving me monosyllables, I ask about details. ‘As you were getting onto the troop train, what was going through your head? Did you have a travel bag with you? What was in it? What conversations were going on around you? Did you have the jitters?’ Now sometimes he’ll just say, ‘I don’t remember,’ but I find that most of the time, silly questions like these get the wheels turning, and later in the interview something will pop into his head and he’ll come out with a remark that makes for a good read.”

You don’t want to fill your case study with the answers to banal questions like:

  • Who in your company used our service first?
  • How did you discover us?
  • Do you remember the first time you saw our product in action? What did you think?

but they can net you a few pull-quotes. They also show the interviewee that you’re not solely interested in landing big fish, and that you’ll take little ones as well.

3. “Tell me about…”

“Nobody can resist ‘Tell me about…’ If a person can’t do anything else in the world, he can still tell a story. All I do is give him a ball and an open field and I tell him to run with it any way he likes. It’s a pure invitation to a story.”

This works in a case study interview because people forget that you are in fact trying to write a story, and that’s what people want to read. Save your features and benefits for the datasheets; you’re trying to start a conversation with a prospect, and the best way to introduce yourself is by drawing out a story from a valued customer:

  • Tell me about the way your business uses products like ours.
  • Tell me about the kinds of customers you have, and the kind of customers you want to have.
  • Tell me about how your company makes money, and why our services make that easier.

Is this how you conduct your case study interviews? What kind of questions do you ask? If your case studies are starting to have a cookie-cutter look to them, get back onto the path of making stories out of them. It makes for better copy.

And tell me about the time you did this successfully.

John White is a marketing communications writer who posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s dirty work, but somebody has to do it. Download his eBook, “10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Marketing Communications Writer,” then take your best shot at hiring him.

photo credit: wadem

Marketing Mangers: Make Up Your Own Job Title

What’s in a marketing manager’s job title? Did you invent your title? Which title would you pick, if you could?

Make up your own job titleFrom PR Web comes a thought-provoking post, “Newest Member of Marketing Team Tasked with Creating Her Own Job Title.” Marketing new-hire Meg Strobel monitors DiamondNexus’ social media presence and creates new content for the company’s channels. She was hired without a title, and has yet to arrive at one, which became a problem when she had to order business cards.

Current candidates for her title include: Social Media Strategist, Web Communications Architect, or Facebooker Extraordinaire. “I’m kind of leaning towards Web Communications Architect, because how cool would it be to actually be an architect?”

How cool indeed?

The not-so-new hire reached out to the director of marketing, Kyle Blades, for help. Blades, unavailable for comment, reportedly told Strobel, “I don’t know. It’s really not that important – just make it up.”

I don’t agree that it’s not important, but making it up could be a very good idea.

The marketing manager’s title

After all, “marketing manager” is rather long in the tooth as a title, isn’t it? Is it your title? Are you still happy with it? Consider a few others:

  • Content manager – Yes, you probably do manage content, but so does a content management system (CMS). Your website and blog involve content management, but you actively work at creating the content, not just at organizing it. It’s too close to Technical Publications.
  • Community manager – This title is becoming much more current, even in enterprises, and it describes the important function of keeping your online plates spinning. But it smacks of herding cats and handing out the new toys to keep them interested, rather than building those toys.
  • Content wrangler – You do wrangle content from its source to its target, don’t you? It’s a pretty accurate title, but it’s taken.
  • Conversation manager – At its heart, marketing is the process of starting and maintaining conversations. That’s what all the fuss is about, and it’s what really leads to sales. I wish “conversation manager” didn’t sound so much like a euphemism, because it would help people better understand the role of marketing.

One marketing manager for a technology company told me how difficult it is to explain the role and value of marketing in an  engineering-heavy organization: “They think we throw parties.”

That’s why your job title is so important. It needs to be concrete enough for others (even co-workers) to understand, yet with a hint of the figurative.

So, I wish Ms. Strobel luck in coming up with her title. The article suggests she’s willing to crowdsource the process:

Strobel welcomes further suggestions from the general public. She can be reached via facebook.com/diamondnexus.

But as of this posting, the communication that she’s architecting there focuses more on the product than on her title.

That’s a better conversation.

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a marketing communications writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s dirty work, but somebody has to do it. Download his eBook, “10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Marketing Communications Writer.”

photo credit: Katherina London