Seven Critical Marketing Skills: #5 Communication

Abstract 
Sycamore and Company has identified the Seven Critical Skills which separate successful marketing executives from the rest of the pack. This post focuses on critical skill #5: Communication.

About Our Seven Critical Marketing Skills Series

#5 - Communication

This time we’ll examine more closely the fifth attribute in Critical Marketing Skills – communication. The basic ability to explain to people above you, below you and on your same level is obviously essential to the operation of a company or an organization.  But, beyond that, the senior marketing executive must be able to use communication to rally all of these people and more to the vision that has been set and the steps that have been identified.  Gathering and maintaining support and turning that support into enthusiasm take the concept of communication to a much higher level.  This is not simply the ability to write an effective memorandum.

“I think that in any organization...the ability to explain, communicate and more importantly, persuade verbally and through written communications is tantamount to driving a company...you’ve got to secure support.  You’ve got to drive teamwork.  You’ve got to enlist across various departments appreciation for the vision and respect for the action recommended.”

"...in some ways it's almost a prerequisite for everything else.  But, if you can't present ideas in a way that gets the floor and if you can't rally people behind ideas, then you get nowhere." 

“...in any company, in any function, and marketing is certainly one of the most visible ones, if you don’t communicate through the organization what it is and why you’re doing it, you can very quickly lose support.  And communication is what gives you understanding, but it also keeps locking in the process of buy-in...I just think that probably the number one failure of any executive’s discipline is that they don’t communicate.  This is not a marketing unique thing.  It’s just an executive requirement.” 

In addition to the motivational value of good communication, there is a simple question of efficient and effective business management.  How many dollars and how many hours of effort are lost every day in every business because people are working on the wrong projects or against the wrong objectives?

"I think in my career anyway, I've seen 80% or more of the work that almost everyone does is rework of one kind or another.  And the vast majority of rework...traces in some way or another to poor initial communication."

The risk of this kind of miscommunication is only exacerbated by the more complex, more global, more technically connected organizations, partnerships and alliances we are forming in our "one world" economy.  Clear communication the first time is the key to avoiding a domino of miscommunication.

“We’re doing things in cross functional leadership teams with matrix management with much less rigid and formally defined lines of responsibility and delegation of authority...And to be effective in the corporation of the future, you have to be able to form teams and lead teams and that all comes through communication.  It’s no longer just ordering people.” 
 
“Because we’re more matrixed, because we’re using teamwork more there’s much more communication than there once was...The risk of (miscommunication) is even higher today, because you have that much more interaction.” 

Once again, while this skill has always been high on the list for a senior executive, it is the speed of the marketplace and the complexity of the business that has made it even more of an imperative.  Today miscommunication can be around the world in seconds and much more difficult to correct as a result. .  We are able to communicate instantly so that bad information, bad directions, misunderstandings can get around the world before errors can be found and corrected.

"...communication, both in terms of listening and speaking have always been important, but will be even more important since the world now moves at a faster pace." 

Can it be trained?  Of all of our top seven skills, this is the one that can be trained and developed with people.  It demands discipline and an attention to detail.  But most of all, it requires that everyone inside the company agree on the value.  Some companies believe in presentation “decks”.  Bullet points on Power Point. Decisions in these companies are made in meetings where the presentations are made to flesh out the bullet points.

But then the decks find their way around the company with some sort of covernote that says the plans have been approved.  If you weren’t in the meeting and if all you get are the bullet points from the Power Point, I defy you to be able to fully understand what has been agreed.

Net net, there is nothing more powerful than a well-written memo.  For me, communication starts there.