Marketing project management – why do people underestimate marketing work?

People outside the marketing function have a fairly limited understanding of the steps that go into bringing a marketing project to life. The lack of understanding is visible in blow-away comments which usually start with a something like “hey, why dont we just” – where the “we” means “you” and the “just” is nowhere near reflective of the actual amount of work required.

But the other problem is that marketers themselves are distracted by the sheer number of relationships they have to manage. It used to be just a creative agency and (later) a media agency. Now there’s a sponsorship agency, a digital agency, the PR agency, a direct marketing agency, and the rest. With this level of relationships to manage, just getting the basics organised on the fly means having a mobile phone glued to your ear. No one seems to find the time to do good old-fashioned project planning anymore, because they are too busy barely maintaining the relationships. Ironically, good project management is all about efficient communication.

Great project management sets expectations at the right level, gets team members to work together very efficiently in a outcome-oriented way. The way I approach project management is with a team kick-off meeting to agree:

  • Aims and objectives
  • Milestones and deadlines
  • Work breakdown (who does what and how long it will take)
  • Communication plan

This meeting takes a couple of hours but saves multiples of this time later, yet most marketers still would rather rush ahead with the phone to the ear rather than take the time to plan a project properly. These days, there are some great online tools available too, which can help teams communicate very easily about how projects are progressing.

In my experience, a little project planning goes a long way in marketing. It saves time and guarantees that anyone interested will understand why it always takes so loooong to get things done properly. Many times in my career a well developed project plan has been very helpful to help me explain to a board member just why it isn’t a case of “why don’t we just” after all….

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