TAL. 022: Kill Marketing by Committee

The Arete Letter

Marketing by committee is how good ideas become bad deliverables. Here’s how to kill committees before they’re born.

Marketing by committee is how good ideas become bad deliverables.

So today’s letter is about killing committees before they’re born – for faster, better marketing.

(This is the seventh letter in a 12-part series that started with issue .016, which you can find here.)

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1. The Problem

Most bad marketing collateral doesn’t start out that way.

Often, the original idea is good – and maybe the first iteration is too.

But then different stakeholders get asked for their opinions.

And all those contrasting opinions – because, invariably, every stakeholder has a different take – shape the final product.

Best case: a bland, boring deliverable that offends no-one and engages no-one.

Worst case: a confused, jumbled mess that has no clear purpose and actively discourages buyers.

This is marketing by committee, and it happens far too often.

2. The Solution

Once someone is asked for their input, it’s very hard to un-ask them, and directly ignoring their advice can have political consequences.

By the same token, certain stakeholders will always need to be involved in projects.

The key is to keep committees as small as possible and limit the scope of their feedback.

To make that happen, use a decision-making framework like DACI.

Under DACI, there are four roles: Driver, Approver, Contributor(s), and Informed.

Driver = One person who is responsible for keeping the project moving forward.

This person gathers information, informs stakeholders, manages timelines and costs, and sets action items.

Approver = One person who is responsible for approving decisions.

They can be the same person as the Driver, but don’t have to be.

Contributor(s) = The person or people who contribute to the project in some way.

Informed = Anyone who isn’t involved in the project but needs to be kept in the loop.

Here’s a basic example (skip this if you’re short on time).

Brand A is creating a sales enablement asset.

It’s being created by the content marketing team with input from sales staff.

Megan is the content marketing manager and the Driver.

Sam is the head of sales and the Approver who’ll sign off on the asset at two points: when a structure is proposed, and when the final version is complete.

Danyon is the content writer tasked with creating the asset.

He’s interviewed three senior sales staff, Georgia, Simon and Heather, as SMEs; the piece will also be copy edited by Charlie, a senior copywriter, and reviewed for sales effectiveness by Sharon, the sales manager.

Together, all six are Contributors.

Margaret, the head of marketing, is Informed.

Using DACI means everyone’s role in the project is explicit – and it gives you a politically sensitive way to reject further requests for involvement.

The other part to note here is that there’s no overlap in functions.

Charlie and Sharon are both reviewing the asset – but Charlie is copy editing it and Sharon is reviewing its effectiveness.

Neither should be making edits outside their respective remits (a common cause of marketing by committee).

3. Implementation

Tech Needed: Project management software like Asana

Ease of Uptake: Easy

  1. Before starting a project, specify exactly who will be involved and what DACI role they’ll have.
  2. If you’re using Asana, you can add team members to your project under the ‘Overview’ tab, where you can specify what role(s) they’ll hold. (Asana actually uses DACI roles for placeholder text.)
    1. Specify different Collaborator functions in parentheses. For example: Danyon’s role in Asana might be ‘Collaborator (Content Writer)’.
  3. If you’ve followed DACI correctly, project communication outside Asana should be minimal. There should be no ad hoc requests for input or stakeholder updates – everyone who needs to be involved should be able to follow the project in Asana.

By Duncan Croker

Duncan is a copywriter with a background in editing and storytelling. He loves collaborating with brands big and small, and thrives on the challenges of hard marketing.