Way back in 1597, the philosopher Sir Francis Bacon remarked, "Knowledge is power." But in today's world of rapid communication and dissemination of information, we might add that it is actually the sharing of knowledge that really cuts it in the power department.
And that's true in all areas of life, but especially so in commercial enterprise. Certainly, in our world of branding and marketing, we all know how crucial it is to share knowledge and information among colleagues and teams.
It's no accident that we work in open-plan offices these days, an environment that supports the sharing of ideas, teamwork, and collective creativity. The late Steve Jobs designed his Pixar offices around a central atrium where colleagues could meet casually and talk about their work. Previously, each department had kept to itself in different parts of the building. Jobs saw the huge potential in creating an environment that "promoted encounters and unplanned collaborations."
Of course, that's fine if your marketing team is centered on one floor in a single building. But how do you promote the values and advantages of unity when you have marketers working in different locations and time zones across the world?
1. Encourage a 'one team' ethos
Psychology plays a vital role in any team activity. In the context of sport, of course it's easier to engender the values of team building because the squad trains and performs together physically. However, similar principles of psychology can still be applied to disparate marketing teams working in different countries.
The key lies in developing a "one team" ethos that values everyone as a member of one team regardless of where he or she might be in the world. Encourage communication and interaction among colleagues in different locations. Share news of successes and applaud the collective results of team endeavor and hard work.
If people perceive themselves as valued members of the team, results will follow in the form of positive connections—even cross-border friendships—and a boost in collective morale.
2. Celebrate team achievements
Marketers sometimes feel that their efforts are not particularly well understood or valued by the business at large. And if the marketing team is spread across the world, that belief is likely to be even more pronounced.
So encourage your local marketers to think globally, to share their ideas confidently, and to make sure news of local successes are properly communicated across the organization. Indeed, let the whole company know what your team has accomplished and promote the role of marketing within the entire business.
Would any marketer not feel encouraged to see the profile of the team enhanced and its professional standing properly recognized as a key component of the company enterprise?
3. Ditch top-down marketing team management
The management of any brand team, particularly one not geographically located together, requires subtlety, sophistication, and—on occasion—a degree of tact and diplomacy.
Local markets inevitably want some freedom, rightly believing they know more about their territory than anyone and resisting materials that are pushed onto them. Conversely, they can lack the bigger picture perspective required to understand how their local brand activity fits into the wider picture.
An online brand management system can solve some of the inevitable tensions between corporate imperatives and creative freedom by forming a brand center where staff can view, share, and engage with collateral, see how it is being used elsewhere within the organization, and offer their own contributions. Most important, it should encourage people in and inspire them to use the materials rather than imposing corporate directives from on high.
Take a unifying approach to marketing team management, give people the tools to be creative within clear brand confines, and make it clear that it is everyone's job (not just central Marketing's) to identify new ideas and advance the brand.
4. Create an online community
To support all of the above, it's essential to build into your brand management system the concept of an online community. Doing so will provide marketing team members with the channel through which they can share knowledge from their own markets and showcase current projects, thus promoting best-practices and interacting with colleagues around the world.
Moreover, duplication of effort and content can be substantially reduced. Good, quality work from one location can be adopted elsewhere by other offices, obviating the need to create marketing materials from the ground up at each geographical location. That not only promotes higher standards but also cuts out waste in marketing budgets.
Finally, ease of communication among colleagues will support all the principles outlined earlier. What better way to facilitate a "one team" ethos, celebrate team achievements, and raise the profile of the marketing team than to establish a true sense of community and group identity among your marketers?
It would certainly make Sir Francis Bacon sit up and take notice!