You know the saying. If a bough breaks in the forest and no-one hears it, does it make a sound? Well. Marketing can be a bit like that. There’s being heard and there’s being heard. And then there’s people listening to you.
Once when I worked in the University of Ulster, we were charged annually with the job of marketing the institution’s nursing programmes to the local profession. The course offered included undergraduate programmes, postgraduate courses and programmes that were specialist in nature.
The latter were aimed at nurses already qualified who may wish to add further specialisms to their skills portfolio. It was all dressed up in very serious and sententious descriptions like those I have just used.
Each year we would churn out what was called the nursing prospectus, basically a fairly drab printed volume in which was abstracted the various nursing programmes. I remember once a colleague – actually I wouldn’t call him that, another employee in the University we’ll call him – picked holes in the project because he said it hadn’t been validated. Validated was a laborious process whereby the validation wonks read the material to make sure it complied with various strictures imposed by University statute.
I was more interested in the effectiveness of the marketing and the way in which we spent the budget. We developed advertising that presented the nursing career in its true light. Caring, professional, well trained dedicated. A true vocation.
As part of the marketing mix we arranged for flyer insertions in the professional nursing publications. The Nursing Times etc. The lady I worked with was a very petite professor of nursing. She was waspish is you didn’t know here, capable of the most scathing comment and caustic to those who crossed her. She and I got on very well.
With our plentiful marcomms mix we had the media booked, the material printed. We were all set. The on uncontrollable in this process is that inevitably someone somewhere screws up and the likes of myself were left to pick up whatever pieces there were.
This lady, we’ll call her Liz, was looking forward greatly to her copy of Nursing Standard or whatever her professional publication was. I had assured her that we she opened the cellophane the University’s Nursing flyer would very obtrusively fall into her lap.
Relaxing at home on the evening of D Day, the day we had planned when the campaign would break and nurses everywhere would be assailed with a barrage of UU themed nursing material, I was unprepared for the call I received.
The envelope stuffers of the publication in question had neglected to place the promotional material in the one envelope that politically I need to be bursting to the seams with University positivity.
A barbed and caustic phonecall from my hitherto nursing colleague, previously collegiate in the extreme, informed me the material wasn’t in her envelope and queried further how did I know it was anyone else’s package? The answer was of course, I didn’t but I had been reassured by the publication and the fulfilment house. The goodwill and positivity that had been built up evaporated in an instant.
Of course we tracked the problem down, one or two technical hitches had deprived Liz of her material and holed our marketing cred just above the waterline. Enough to destabilize but not sink us.
The lesson in all of this, is to ensure that irrespective of target audiences and demographics, make sure that the person writing the cheque and paying the bill has clear evidence that your marketing is happening.
It is a simple truism, but if they can’t see it, it isn’t happening. Even if it is the most hi vis campaign ever and you feel you have the world covered, make sure the man or woman with the money sees it in the real world. They may not be in the target audience but by hook or by crook, if the boss is driving home, make sure you have one of your 48 sheets at the side of the road so he can see it. Otherwise, it just ain’t happening.