Succeeding Into The Crisis Of Change

The question I’m asked most frequently at the end of a workshop or keynote is some version of this: “When your management team doesn’t see the value in content marketing, how do you convince them that change is needed?”

It’s a thorny problem because change requires not only getting one or two people to think differently. The obstacle is in getting the company (as a whole) to change its collective mind and try something that flies in the face of everything that brought success in the past.

In other words, it’s not only the failures that bring our teams and our companies into a crisis of change. We also frequently come to a crisis of change because we’re still doing some successful thing that has outlasted its usefulness.

When we look at the inspiration for change from the “we are doing something wrong” perspective, the inevitable problem is that the company starts answering the wrong questions. We start asking how to fix the thing that seems to be losing momentum or showing signs of age. We were right in choosing these strategies, and we assume we just need a minor course correction. So, we pull data and research and gather input from stakeholders, looking for ways to fix a strategy that’s increasingly worthless.

One global company I recently consulted with is slavishly working on a “one website 2020” strategy. They’ve been down this road before when launching microsites and campaign-websites created a mess of digital experiences. They’ve gathered extensive information to build the case that one website (as opposed to other owned digital media properties) will provide better brand consistency, efficiency in asset management, and easier workflow. Will it? It might. But they haven’t answered (or really even asked) whether it’s actually better for their customers.

Remember, the once-successful strategies outliving their usefulness were typically developed by the corporate leaders who now resist changing them. So, these leaders are in no mood to hear new facts, disruptive ideas, or things that fly in the face of what’s been successful. Put simply, they don’t want to now be told their strategies are a failure.  So, they couch their reactions in nostalgic logic, saying “this isn’t the way things are done here,” or “that isn’t core to our brand architecture,” or “our founders didn’t think that way.” The frustrating corporate reaction is “our problem isn’t our strategy, it’s the execution. We just need to do better.”

This pushback is a normal human reaction. As Seth Godin recently said so brilliantly, “It’s almost impossible to get someone to try something new today if they also have to admit that they were wrong yesterday.”

So how, instead, to make this argument for change?

One technique I’ve found useful is to change the entire premise of the “ask.” We have to make clear to our colleagues and our bosses that our marketing strategy is not in crisis because it’s flawed, but because our successful strategies have outlived their useful lifespan.

It’s not about blaming the current strategies – and it’s especially not about blaming the people behind them. In meetings where we build our crisis-of-change strategies, we should be asking, “What did we successfully create that brought us to this inflection point?”  Then, ask not how to course correct the old, but how to create the new approach that will continue our success moving forward.

Look at how we’ve succeeded our way into the opportunity to change. It’s a great first step in convincing the company not to change the current course, but to change out the steering mechanism and create an entirely new one.

It’s your story. Tell it well.

Robert Rose
Chief Strategy Officer at The Content Advisory
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS.

Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.
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Author: Robert Rose
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS. Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.