Catalyst or controller of the brand message? Here’s some new data.

A key theme we’ve returned to over and over in this blog is the idea that the corporate model for communications is rapidly changing from one where communications leaders keep tight control of the message their company is putting out to a model where these same folks are instead the catalyst for the ensuring the brand message is delivered well– whether by them, by other employees, or by brand evangelists.

This communicator has the right idea. Conduct a symphony of communications rather than trying to play every instrument yourself.

Control to catalyst.

It’s happening whether we like it or not. So it is a good time to heed my friend Tom Rabon‘s advice: “the train can’t run you over if you’re on it.”

How do you get on board? I keep coming back to the fabulous report by the Arthur W. Page Society, The Authentic Enterprise, which lays out this change in great detail. If you are in the communications field and haven’t read it, please do. It’ll help.

As formal communications channels like advertising and press releases become less relevant and things like social media and reputational capital become more relevant, marketing folks are simply going to have to make changes to where they put their money and effort if they want to continue to be successful.

A new study out today from The CMO Club and Hill & Knowlton (and reported on suggests Chief Marketing Officers are still running behind in moving their marketing dollars from the old model to the new one. According to the study, 84% of these folks spend less than 10% of their budgets on social media and non-traditional communications channels, and over 1/2 of them spend 5% or less.

That means they are still spending a lot of money on the old tools of the trade.

A quote from the story:

“Marketing used to be a linear process, with a discussion flowing from the CMO to the target audience. In today’s digital age, communication has evolved into a new model that requires active listening and engaging in numerous conversations,” said Pete Krainik, CEO, The CMO Club. “CMOs are finding the additions to the job more challenging and the need to lead beyond the marketing department is critical for their success.”


In terms of leading beyond the marketing department, being the brand message catalyst rather than controller, the study had some good data about how supportive most marketing departments are of internal and external communicators beyond themselves (the full report is here).

Only about 30% of companies surveyed have developed a social media policy that is widely adhered to, while almost 50% either don’t have a policy or are still developing one. About 2/3 of the companies surveyed encourage social media participation by evangelists in some way, while the other 1/3 do not encourage it or experiment “a little” with enabling commentary from outsiders.

Not great, but overall the data is reasonably encouraging regarding the move from control to catalyst on the experimentation side. Lots of folks are testing loosening the reins on brand message delivery. But the money to really support these programs hasn’t followed yet.

I don’t know about you, but my guess is this survey will look very different in a couple of years.

Was this post helpful?

If so, you can find more tips about how to build your brand effectively in my book, The Ad-Free Brand (not an advertisement, mind you, just a friendly suggestion:).

Only $9.99 for the Kindle, but available in each of these formats:
| Kindle | Nook | EPUB/PDF

About Chris Grams

Chris Grams is Head of Marketing at Tidelift. He is also the author of The Ad-Free Brand: Secrets to Successful Brand Positioning in a Digital World.

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