It’s like admitting to a friend that you can see exactly why she always attracts the ‘user’ fellas (because she flashes the cash and wears her desire to nurture on her sleeve).
Or that you can see why your sister is so worn down by raising her children and is unable to stamp authority (because she spoils them to the extreme, out of guilt that her marriage broke down and Daddy moved out).
When it comes to stepping inside a business and trying to assist an overhaul of, or insight into, their PR and marketing, it can equally require that brutal analysis from the outside.
A managing director – at the top of his game in his industry – said recently to me:
I don’t get it. I know that marketing and PR would benefit us, but we’re just not getting known out there and our competitors have much better profile than us.
Just 20 minutes of digging under the skin later, and my response to this accomplished businessman was ‘sorry, you’re the problem’.
That’s not to say he wasn’t aware of what PR could potentially achieve, but he was so close to the business (which, by the way, he had breathed life into) that he just couldn’t sit outside of the circle enough to be objective and evolve appropriate action.
Instead, every time he received a suggestion from a well-meaning member of staff, he’d say it ‘just isn’t the way we’ve done it before’, or that ‘it’s just too risky because it’s not what our customers know us for’.
That control-freak stance / rabbit in the headlights pose / change anxiety mode (call it what you will) does you absolutely no good when it comes to garnering the marketing enthusiasm of fellow staff, or ever standing a chance of altering the status quo and breathing new life in.
Fortunately, this story has a happy ending, because as nervous as he might have been about admitting the problem he posed, this particular business owner accepted wholeheartedly that the old adage is probably right: if you always do what you’ve always done – then you always get what you always got.
So, what did he do?
Well, he decided to take holiday, to let me step in for a rather clinical investigation on the business and its competition….and to give me the most open access to the opinion and resource of his entire team.
Suffice to say, he’s back from his holidays and refreshed in creative thought, while his team now feel more engaged and absolutely driven to help make the business thrive in a new era.
Some learning lessons then:
1. No-one expects you to have every answer just because it’s your business
2. Handing over to the services of a specialist fixer or auditor of your company is by no means admitting defeat
3. Your control-freakery could be preventing the cream of your team from rising to the top
4. Marketing and PR people are on your side. If you perform well, that makes them look good
5. Everyone needs a holiday!