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Climbing the Corporate Marketing Ladder of Success

Suddenly you find yourself quickly rising through the corporate ranks, marcom coordinator, marcom manager, director of marketing, VP of Marketing!

Ahhhhhh, the sweet life.

One sec, don’t forget the rise to stardom takes more than the ability to kick ass in any one segment of marketing. As you grow, so should your horizons, experiences, talents, capabilities, and expertise. Whichever discipline launched your rise to fame, as you clime the ladder of corporate success, your comfort zone will expand until you can excel outside of it.

Case in point. I’ve watched one person in particular rapidly gain notoriety within the corporate environment as the resident PR ace. She had the ability to land coverage, win-over reporters, and party with the most influential people in the business. She was then, only a mere marketing coordinator. Whoa. But she quickly jumped up to associate and eventually marketing manager. This is where the pretty bow started to unravel.

Technically she was responsible for multiple marcom fronts now, but was she would only pay cursory attention to other elements of the marketing mix. You could say that she started to flirt with disaster when she didn’t want to let go of the day-to-day allure of publicity – even though she now had a marcom coordinator now reporting to her.

One glorious day, she was wooed by her company’s primary competitor, who offered a promotion and the ability to telecommute and live happily ever after. She accepted and soon became the director of marketing at her employer’s rival company.

She was now a director of marketing of a huge company, responsible now for its marcom, advertising, tradeshows, direct marketing, and PR. The Web remained with a separate internal team. All was supposed to be a launch pad, only a momentary step until she rose to VP of marketing.

But…there’s always a “but” right? See, she just couldn’t let go of her passion for PR and all of its accoutrements. What she also didn’t experience in her rise to “director” was co-existing, leading and leveraging an existing PR agency. You know…the group of folks who offload the daily grind of pitching and placing products and corporate branding with reporters and analysts so that you can lead and bask in all of the glory.

She was unprepared for this dilemma. “A PR agency?” she questioned. “I’m the PR star!”

Unfortunately she unnecessarily reacted as if her job was in jeopardy, so she decided to start a game of “survivor” with her PR team to outdo the great work that was already in place.


It was the beginning of her dissention. She actually regressed to her good ole’ marcom manager days at her previous company (which technically should have been labeled as PR manager) to actually prevent her PR team from potentially stealing her perceived thunder, attention from the media, and accolades from the executive staff.

When it came to placing reviews, she tried to do most of it. Creative and innovative ideas? You bet; suddenly they were all hers. Booking a press tour? You guessed it; she took it over and would try to book most of it.

Senior management suddenly questioned the validity of having a PR agency if their PR and marketing vixen could take care of everything. Unfortunately they wound up letting them go. The agency that actually made them famous, taking them from a foreign and oft ridiculed hardware company with active critics in editorial communities, was suddenly fired.

Oh wait, didn’t we say that she was Director of Marketing? Oh yeah…she was also responsible for direct marketing, advertising, affiliate and co-op marketing, and tradeshows. Who managed those fronts while she was busy running and executing on every project associated with PR? Uh oh…no one.

Suddenly, management was getting wise to her strengths and weaknesses. The pressure was on and she slowly collapsed until she was faced with an option of either succeeding on all fronts or failing completely.

The ego was bruised, but ignorance persevered and nothing was learned. Afterall, she was brilliant on the PR front right? Considering she was responsible for at least five separate programs, from the c-level (chief level for all of those just starting to read these posts), that’s only 1/6 or 15% successful. No es bueno.

Truth is that as you rise up in an organization, your role and stature also escalate. With each new level, additional responsibilities are introduced into the mix, eventually leading teams (internal and outsourced) and growing them under your leadership. All things combined equate to stronger brand equity and expanded brand resonance.

There are many stepping stones along the way, where in order to grow, you need to let go. I know that it can be difficult, especially if you favor a particular discipline over others. But if you’re at a director level or above, every facet is critical to the overall success of the corporate marketing machine.

Whether you’re coming up from Sales, PR, or Marcomm, take the time to learn and kick-ass on every front. BE A LEADER!

In this particular case, the star of the story might have been a better match as the resident PR manager and hoping to convince the execs to build an internal PR team underneath her, letting her grow into a director position. If she was upfront and outrageously successful, the c-level would have found budget to hire a marketing person to run the rest of the programs. Another option for her is to shift gears altogether and take a crack at running a PR consultancy.

Everyday, we learn, we grow, we succeed, and sometimes we even fail. Learn from it and grow. Here are some directive to help you clime the corporate ladder of success:

  • Work hard
  • Stay focused
  • Take credit for your great work
  • Recognize the good work around you
  • Expand your horizons
  • Allow yourself to grow outside of the comfort zone
  • Wear new hats
  • Excel in all marketing disciplines or focus where you specifically want to grow
  • Communicate your goals
  • Be a leader
  • Delegate and also get your hands dirty
  • Enjoy the ride

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Tags: PR, public relations, pr2.0, marketing, pr 2.0, Brian Solis

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