Communication Architecture, Pt. 3

Part 3 on the Comm. Arch. model that I’ve been developing and using with clients. The reason I’ve been working on this is to try and develop a strategic dashboard that will help CEO’s and CMO’s manage their end of the communication, content and conversation of their brands, people and organization. There is a big challenges with this:

Organizations are built around an old model.

We have departments built around functional silos that do not recognize today’s communication realities. The marketing department handles brand advertising. The sales department does it’s own promotions. The PR department handles the press. Perhaps there is even an investor relations group. And within any of these you have sub-silos for internet, social media, events, even search has pure SEO/SEM people. It’s maddening to navigate and ends up barraging the consumer with so much confusing noise. But what is the solution?

For example, when people posted videos about Domino’s Pizza on YouTube who should respond — marketing or public relations? It’s a problem for both departments. Because it is showing up in the press, you need crisis response PR working on it. And because it is hurt the brand and potentially sales, you need marketing working on it. But doing what and how?

In this instance, we have an unusual response from an unusual source – the CEO himself on YouTube. It’s brilliant. The right response from the right person on the right medium. And then a campaign went into gear that addressed needs across the board: product, research, marketing, PR. It was not a “new media” or a “social media” campaign (as is so en vogue right now). It was an authentic response to real customer feedback. They listened, did something about it, captured content of them doing something about it, and then told that story. It hits all four quadrants on the matrix.  But this is rare, and it shouldn’t be.

Top leaders need to own macro-message management of their company and brand.

Period. End of story. Show me a great brand and I will show you a fanatical leader behind it who is accused of micro-managing every detail. There are the obvious ones like Steve Jobs who’s brilliant secrecy around new product development whips people into such a frenzy that he needs very little PR staff to handle it. But there are lesser known brand geniuses like Herb Keller at Southwest Airlines who keep a company focused, on-message and relevant to consumers. Unfortunately, these leaders are the exception and not the rule.

This Comm Arch model proposes a structure to manage all communications.

It is a tool for development and a dashboard for reviewing messages. In fact, on the next post, we’ll deconstruct the Domino’s Pizza example into this framework to see how it works.

  • timbwalker

    Your comment about macro-messaging and micro-managing is interesting.

    The micro-manager is vilified in business culture, and for some good reason, usually due to those who've micro-managed competent staff to the point of counter-productivity and demotivating them. We're all taught in traditional business channels that as leaders it's not the best use of our time to over manage the details of the daily execution of work. But when it comes to advancing brand vision and operationalizing brand, the plain truth is no one else will care about it like a founder will or a CEO should.

    As much as the concept of brand has been explored, written about, etc. over the last two decades, I don' t think we've yet to infuse it's importance into the broader workforce culture. So someone has to drive it forward or it falters.

    In my own experience, I've been lucky to build a small company that, over the course of nearly 20 years now has managed to establish a regionally recognized brand. On the one hand, I'm frustrated on a daily basis with the feeling that I'm the only one who really sees the tiny details and their implication to our brand image. On the other hand, I'm continually amazed at how our brand is shaped by so many people and factors that are out of my control. Stewarding a brand, particularly in a small service-based company like mine, seems akin to parenting. Too much micro-managing is damaging, not enough is disastrous.

    I'm guilty of being late to the table in recognizing the usefulness of the new tools, like social media, for advancing this cause. Your post reminded me to reconsider that and refocus on it.

  • slowmack

    Tim, it is a delicate balance isn't it? We can do all that we can in our conversations (1:1), and in the crafting of our story (1:n), but then it has to be released (n:n) and it will become something beyond our control. We can listen in on the conversation, and actually join in the conversation from time to time, but control is an illusion.

    It's interesting that we call it brand management when there's so little you can do to manage it. We can create something and offer it up, but the brand lives inside the consumer as a set of perceptions. You really cannot manage what's in someone else's head. Well, you can, but I'm pretty sure that's illegal.

    About micro-managing — I agree that it's a bad management practice. I think I meant to imply that someone has to be “the buck stops here” for the brand. And the brands that people want to actually talk about are typically lead by someone who champions the values and vision of that brand relentlessly, authentically and consistently. Putting remarkable passion into something typically yields remarkable results. And people tend to remark about remarkable things — to butcher Seth Godin's Purple Cow idea.

    If we spent more time thinking about how to do remarkable work, then the branding would be a lot easier. The brand would be oozing with meaning. As in 'overflowing' not 'infected.'

    I think you are carrier of the vision for Doxa, and are the guardian of its values. It's why it has meaning to your clients and in the industry. And it's why your team knows what is and is not on brand. A good friend of mine always says “you ship your culture” I'd also add that “your culture is your brand.” Your's I know, and it is good.