In the following article, based on an excerpt from The Collaborative Organization (June 2012), the author discusses the role of marketing teams in planning, coordinating, and helping launch collaboration tools and strategies within the enterprise.

Marketing and support are crucial for the initial success of any organization-wide collaboration project, so you'll want to let employees know about the new initiative long before it goes live. I've seen organizations start internal marketing and communications efforts anywhere between a few weeks and five to six months in advance of the launch.

The timeline is something you are going to have to gauge for yourself, depending on how receptive your organization is to marketing, how large the company is, and whether employees are excited about the initiative.

For example, if your company is large and the employees are already bombarded by internal marketing communications messages, you might want to give yourself a longer timeline to launch—say, four months. If your organization is smaller (a few hundred employees) and the employees are receptive to innovations and improvements, you can give yourself a bit less time—maybe a month or so. But, to be safe, give yourself around 90 days to market and drum up excitement about the launch.

And, of course, make sure Marketing has the resources and staff to do the job.

Keep in mind that this isn't just a marketing project, it's an organization-wide project. Here are a few ideas I have seen companies implement, along with a few of my own:

  • Announce a "secret project" that the company is working on, and over the course of a few months drop clues about what the project is.
  • Showcase regular video interviews of employees who talk about the challenges they are faced with at work regarding collaboration. Ask them what a solution would mean for them (you don't need to tell them that the organization is looking to deploy something yet, but you can).
  • Issue very clear senior directives stating that during a certain time period employees will be able to find only certain information on the new platform.
  • Implement employee surveys, focus groups, and discussions that highlight the importance of improved collaboration.
  • Show humorous videos that depict the frustrations employees have with the current ways of doing things.
  • Send messages and announcements directly from senior-level executives talking about their support for and excitement about the emergent collaboration project.
  • Distribute physical flyers and little gifts to employees to help generate buzz around the new launch.

A Couple of Examples

Penn State Outreach planned its rollout almost two months before launching, and it used its creative potential to make it successful. Posters and banners were hung throughout offices on topics such as "Who was on Romper Room at age five?" (referring, of course, to an employee). Penn State also asked that no one schedule anything on the day of the launch: no meetings, no conferences, nothing. Rather, that day was to be set aside to try out the new platform and experiment with it. Fifteen hundred welcome packages were put together for all employees, and Penn State Outreach distributed a video of someone from the executive team expressing support for the initiative. Finally, a video tour of the platform was put together to help employees navigate the features.

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Jacob Morgan is the principal and co-founder of Chess Media Group, a management consulting and strategic advisory firm specializing in employee, customer, and partner collaboration. He is also the author of The Collaborative Organization, a comprehensive guide to emergent workplace collaboration. Jacob can be reached via Twitter: @JacobM.