Programs, Not Projects

An uncontrollable tick in my neck begins to emerge. The wrinkle in my forehead that now has no boundaries slowly makes it way to my balding scalp. My porcelain, china doll complexion gradually transforms itself to resemble a Honeycrisp to ultimately a Red Delicious apple. Finally, the irrepressible urge to take a huge, deep breath instinctively follows. My need to suck up all the air in the room allows me to self-edit what would otherwise certainly be my preachy remarks.

To my fellow marketing communications peeps, you know what I’m talking about. You’ve been there every time a valued colleague gallops into your office and states, “I need an advertisement.” “We require a basic brochure.” “Let’s do a video.” “I gotta get me some scintillating trade show trinkets.” All separate silos, as if the marketing plan was intended to collect dust on the shelves and seemingly generated because it was included as a mandatory field in the business plan template. For those of us that take pride in our craft, we’d like to scream, “Stop the insanity! Think about your programs, not projects.”

To be completely truthful, my colleagues have had the unique experience of hearing me rant about this subject repeatedly over the last three decades. And now, I share the meaning behind my mantra with you…


Very few, if any, communications should ever be confined to one tactical project. Introducing a capability such as a new product, corporate initiative or participation at an upcoming technical conference can and should be executed as part of a strategic program that will elevate your company’s image and enable the opportunity to establish thought leadership by utilizing a mix of both digital and traditional media.

There does not need to be a “Sophie’s Choice,” made on what tactics to use, regardless of budget or if the offering is revolutionary or evolutionary in nature.  An impactful and powerful market launch or singular corporate communication looks beyond the obvious news release and employs an integrated program that is relevant to your targeted customers and markets where the product or service will create engaging and differentiated value.  Although marketing may be driving most of these programs, the sales team should be key disciples that can introduce and address questions that any successfully deployed program will elicit.

Now of course there are occasions where the one-off projects are needed, but quite often they become the rule. These, “need it now” projects should be viewed as potential launching pads for new and emerging programs. Instead, these tactical executions are rarely shared, expanded or repurposed to benefit a strategic marketing campaign or redeployed as a sales tool. What’s worse, the core value proposition and overall tone for the same product or service as presented in each “silo” sometimes contradict one another. This should never be the case. A project that is generated out of necessity should not be cast off like some unwanted, orphan child when the immediate need ceases. The project should be carefully cultivated and evaluated for future opportunities.

Well-crafted marketing programs require continuous collaboration with your team and should result in the generation of a strategic and creative plan that clearly delineates milestones and deliverables. Every facet of the plan should bolster your marketing and sales activities, as well as include an understanding of your targeted audience’s business drivers and technology roadmaps. This also includes a review of the industry and competitive landscapes, current and future market situation, customers’ perceptions, keynote positioning and other criteria that would take several more blog articles to detail.

Beyond meeting agreed upon objectives and addressing budget parameters prior to execution, the integrated tactics used to deploy your program must elicit voice of customer. Based on the agreed plan, the tactics could range from web content and print materials to technology presentations, articles and more. The higher the increase in exposures and frequencies to targeted editorial the better. With third party placements, comes higher credibility. Keep the conversation going by employing social media, webinars, microsites, online surveys, and customer visits to name a few.

In essence, the strategic and creative plan becomes your bible for the program. Okay, maybe not “The Bible,” but most definitely the plan should be viewed as a contract not to be broken unless agreed by all the key stakeholders. If not vigilantly managed, changes in strategic messaging and creative can increase time and costs, as well as sacrifice the delicate balance between the efficiency required to execute agile, go-to-market strategies and the mandated effectiveness to communicate compelling and relevant messages that offer value creation for your customers, applications, markets, and industries served.

 Programs, not projects: A mantra worth memorizing and embracing.