How We Sped Up Our Digital Rapid Response Capacity.


If I had a dollar for every business that proclaimed “agile” marketers were running the show while simultaneously using “waterfall” process, I probably wouldn’t be working.

It’s not really the fault of any one business. The fine folks at AIPMM even shared some staggering insights into transformation failure rate here. (Sanjay Zalavadia has highlighted a few more explanations of agile failures here.)

One of the key failings both highlight:

Since agile entails considerable changes like faster release cycles and continuous development, having resources and support is critical to its success. However, as the survey revealed, 44 percent of respondents cited that ability to change organizational culture as the biggest barrier to further agile adoption, while 32 percent believed pre-existing rigid/waterfall frameworks are to blame.

You can see this friction popping up everywhere.

The trouble is, the demand for content has grown so dramatically that there are a number of circumstances where “I’ll write this, show it to my boss, he’ll show it to his or her boss who will show it to….” means you’ll miss your opportunity.

Missing an opportunity because you’ve spent all your production time talking about the opportunity, that’s not cool.

The truth is, that it’s going to take a shift in the way boards and C-level teams view corporate communications before we can take that next step.

That doesn’t mean people haven’t tried before, though.

Solutions vary from integrated and pre-authorized approval paths (like Liz O’Neill Dennison’s Building Your Content Marketing Workflows) or integrating stories into the design flow (Jon Dobrowolski’s “Manage Stakeholders And Get Design More Agile.”) The fact of the matter is, that when it comes to rapid response, even the nuances of a well-designed program like CMG. Potential Realized.’s “The Crucial Role,” can fall flat.

Now, that’s not to say that those approaches aren’t valuable. You’ll find that any one of these paths attempted separately should noticeably improve the speed of your marketing program. The trouble is, when it comes to some marketing opportunities, that still isn’t fast enough.

What sort of opportunities might that sort of 1 week sprint miss?

  1. Live Tweeting A Sporting Event
  2. Fact Checking A Debate In Real Time
  3. Covering A Sponsored Event Like A Concert
  4. Commenting On Current Events
  5. Engaging With An Emerging Story
  6. Extending Coverage Around A Positive Story
  7. Real-Time Engagement With Ad Comments

I could continue, but I suspect those are enough examples to get a rough idea of the sort of thing I’m talking about. Working in these situations, I’ve found that if it takes more than about 15 minutes to execute on any one given idea (say a tweet or landing page) that idea isn’t going to see the light of day. Once you start looking for reasons not to do something, you’ll find them.

Jon Dobrowolski explains why this happens thusly:

Stakeholders feel that they must provide notes on a solution even if the goals are accomplished, this is simply to illustrate their job function (aka justify themselves).

So, you’re worried that you can’t trust your marketing people to market in real time without oversight, but you also know you need to engage in real time. What do?

Here’s two easy steps that worked for us.

  1. Stop Pretending You Have An Agile Process. Embrace Continuous Marketing.
  2. Steal Some Paired Programming Best Practices.

Fix your approval process, get into paired marketing. Easier said than done. Here are some tips that worked for us.

  1. Resist the temptation to sneak in everything Fagner Brack highlights as the “wrong way.”
  2. As Jon Cairns suggests, structure your teams to take advantage of this natural learning opportunity.
  3. If you can empathize with Jami Oetting’s delightful “The Client Review And Approval Process,” there’s a stakeholder somewhere whose decided they belong in the approval chain. Match these people with a production analogue, and you’ll have a powerful pair going on.
  4. Athena Catedral-Bughao offers up some delightful tips for aligning finance and marketing: if you can align your team around strategic objectives, you can dramatically cut down on the temptation by unqualified stakeholders to micromanage tactics.

“Right,” will always look different. It depends on the brand. It depends on the challenge. It depends on the needed outcome. But if you can find a way to better synchronize those needs, you’ll be well on the way to being able to respond on a dime — as a modern business should.

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