By Beth Hammock
When I was in journalism school, we learned about the “care and feeding of your pet producer.” I became a news producer and completely understood what that meant. Producers are behind the scenes. Their jobs are tough and stressful. Treat them kindly and show your appreciation. When reporters and anchors did that, I was on cloud nine.
Valentine’s Day presents an opportunity to love on your MarComm team, in a politically correct way, of course. I suggest this because MarComm teams have been trimmed to the bone in many nonprofits. This is unfortunate because the workload for marketing and communications professionals expanded exponentially with the advent of digital marketing.
Creating an email newsletter involves numerous time-consuming steps. When staff finish the newsletter, they are tackling website design, copywriting, SEO, SEM, video production, print pieces, media relations, and events. Wow! They need some love!
This post includes
- Last-minute Valentine’s Day ideas
- Ways to show your appreciation to MarComm teams year-round
- My experiences that have led me to make these recommendations
Ideas for Showing Some Valentine’s Day Love to Your MarComm Team
- An email from the CEO to all staff expressing appreciation will be uplifting.
- If you’re in the office, provide cookies, cupcakes, or chocolate.
- Order gifts online and have them delivered to your staff members’ homes. Check out Snappy, a corporate gift company, your local florist, bakery or sandwich shop.
Year-Round Ideas to Show Some Love
- Provide positive feedback every time one of your MarComm team’s creations crosses your desk.
- Show them some respect by recognizing team members publicly for specific actions.
- Let your designers, writers, and marketing leaders show their creativity in their work life. This may mean dressing a little outside the norm; breaking a few rules that do no harm; or adding funny memes to your Teams channel.
- Invite MarComm team managers to be part of the conversation. Many feel they are admin staff, simply doing what other managers tell them to. In fact, they are trained to think strategically and would love to be guiding the MarComm process for all teams. Including them shows respect.
- Think hard about whether to cut MarComm team members. Ask their opinion and take their thoughts seriously. Marketing and strategic communications staff need time to make excellent products.
- Always give staff the benefit of the doubt. They believe in your mission and are doing their best to advance it. When conflict arises, don’t make assumptions. Listen to both sides of the story before judging. Creatives are sensitive people, generally, and appreciate being treated fairly.
My Experience Informs This Advice
My background for this list comes from 20 years as a strategic communications and marketing leader in university advancement shops and nonprofits. It’s been a crazy ride. Sometimes insane. I am a creative, a leader, and an activator. I’m also pretty damn independent. If I think I’m doing the right thing I don’t check first to see if there is a rule against it. Some of the mind-blowing things that have happened to me include:
- Wishing a team member happy birthday on the Teams channel landed me in the CEO’s office. I learned that per HR we don’t mark birthdays unless asking the person’s permission. This was much different than previous places I had worked, where birthdays were displayed on the wall and there was a monthly birthday gathering. Again, I was an activator. The organization’s Morale Committee began posting birthdays on the Teams channel.
- As a Chief Advancement Officer, I made the mistake of cutting a communications director position on my team when we needed to cut staff to make the budget. I thought I could make up the loss on my own since I am both a strategic communications and development professional. This was a bad move. The two full-time people in MarComm were constantly under water. Others on the executive team didn’t understand the need for a communications director, and it was hard to make a case when I had suggested cutting it. Like I said earlier, think hard before cutting MarComm positions.
- I’ve worked places where the leaders know to send an all-staff email the day after a big event. The leaders say thanks and point out a few highlights of the event. We all feel good and move on to the next task. I’ve also worked for leaders where there are crickets the day after an event. What a weird feeling for the team that poured their heart and soul into throwing a big bash. Don’t be the guy or gal who doesn’t thank your staff.
While working at a college 90 miles from Kansas City, I observed Red Friday before a Chiefs playoff game. Everyone in Kansas City does this, and I had worked in KC for 15 years, so it seemed natural to me. I wore a nice Chiefs sweatshirt and dressy jeans. We. the HR director asked me to go home and change at lunch because I was dressed inappropriately. The next Friday, the president decreed a jeans day and encouraged people to wear Chiefs gear. We took a picture and posted it on social media. I had displayed my activator strength, but in an uncomfortable way.
- Finally, the grand finale of workplace weirdness that goes with my suggestions #6 about giving staff the benefit of the doubt. In Montana, soaking in hot springs in the mountains is a popular activity I enjoyed. One day, the CEO and HR director of the University of Montana Foundation informed me there was a photo on our share drive of me nude in a hot spring with a man. “What?” I exclaimed. “I’m over 50 and overweight. There is no picture of me nude anywhere!” The CEO laughed. There was a photo of me with a man in a hot spring. I was wearing a modest black swimsuit. I had asked my assistant to take some work-related photos off my camera and he delegated that to an IT person, who found the hot spring photo and shared it widely. I was angry and demoralized. The craziest part of it was the CEO and HR director had not seen the photo. Which leads to my point, give your staff the benefit of the doubt, don’t make assumptions, and listen to both sides before judging. Note: The CEO and HR director who were part of this story are no longer with the University of Montana Foundation.
So, my friends, celebrate the good work of your MarComm teams. Treat them with respect every day. And give them a little treat on Valentine’s Day!