Marketers vs. Makers: What Happens When They Don’t Play Well Together

February 2019

Photos: iStock

In recent weeks, I’ve read and watched tales of two very different entrepreneurs who both led their companies to calamity. They marketed a product or event well before it was ready in order to gain publicity and investors. In both instances, a contractor (among many others) hired to do marketing eventually challenged the CEOs to prove they could do as advertised or pull back on claims.

This is perhaps one of the prickly parts of being a content marketing consultant. You’re hired for your expertise, yet when that advice or work doesn’t align with someone’s grand goals or contrasting tastes, tension ensues. You may be told to do something a completely different way without adequate explanation or warning. Or your ideas are continually overruled, forcing you to start over again and again. (There’s a reason we limit revisions!) At some point, the consultant starts to question why they were hired if a leader no longer heeds their advice.

A good content marketing consultant understands an organization’s strategic goals and aligns the proper content to help achieve them. It’s a collaboration, not a competition. And that means pushing back when ethical lines will be crossed or product quality compromised. Because consultants tend to work with all levels of an organization, from admins to executives, they provide a unique vantage from those stuck in siloes. They also are outsiders and therefore less susceptible to office politics.

With that in mind, here are recommendations for what to consume while curled up on a couch during the next winter storm.

[read] Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup  by John Carreyrou is a five-star book that is said to become a movie. No surprise, given the author is an investigative reporter for The Wall Street Journal who cleverly and clearly explains with just the right amount of detail how Elizabeth Holmes and her then-boyfriend, Sunny Balwani, duped some very smart people into investing their time, money and talent to launch Theranos, once the darling of Silicon Valley. Carreyrou eventually becomes a character in this gripping non-fiction that reads like a fast-paced novel. The tactics the company leadership and its lawyers used to destroy critics and whistleblowers seem incredible but aren’t. At least the author used real names, so we can all avoid those that stood by the fraud and applaud those who risked everything to expose it.

[watch] Fyre: The Greatest Party that Never Happened, now streaming on Netflix, dissects how an exclusive, luxury music festival for millennials fell apart in such spectacular fashion. Again, among the people explaining how the festival went off the rails were marketing consultants who eventually tried to stop front men Billy McFarland and Ja Rule from creating chaos and unsafe conditions on a tiny Bahaman island. It also should be a lesson to anyone who follows social media influencers, especially highly overpaid celebrities whose reputations took a hit. Maybe that’s the real reason Kylie Jenner lost her Instagram title to an ordinary egg. Learn to lead, not follow.

[listen] “Opening Night” on This American LifeSince we’re focused on fiascos, I wanted to share one of my favorite episodes of public radio’s This American Life on that very topic. It includes a hilarious piece about a small-town production of Peter Pan that goes comically wrong. A very good lesson about knowing thy audience and actors’ abilities—not to mention the importance of stagecraft—before straying too far from the script. I do wonder if, all these years later, the director is able to listen and laugh at what happened, or if just the thought of that production still makes him cringe. For the rest of us, we thank him for having a good laugh at his expense.

Thank you for reading this,

Anne Saita