Can you name that brand that uses the slogan “Just do it!”? Not too hard, right? Regardless of how you feel about a marketing campaign, you’re bound to associate it with a product or brand. Why shouldn't the same be true for a project?
I can still recall this one lecture on “project management basics”. The subject of project marketing came up. It went something like this: “There’s something called project marketing, and it's important.”
This roughly sums up everything that was written in this one PowerPoint slide, which is all that was there regarding this subject. So that was it for the next three years of the study program. The literature tends to be theoretical and kind of impractical, too.
And then there’s the money question. “It’s useless! Who needs it?” (or something like that.)
As a result, there are millions of project plans with the project marketing work package that no one wants to deal with and no one is interested in. And then projects fail. Pretty quickly, they find the guy who’s to blame – the requirements weren’t clear, or the communication was poor. What does this have to do with project marketing?
IT projects in particular should be treated as products. Otherwise, they become too abstract and intangible for the people involved. The result is usually fear. Fear of having to learn something new, fear of becoming (more) surveillable, fear of being laid off. This fear has a negative effect on the project and/or its requirements, because they increasingly reflect the old way of working. This makes it hard for the company to evolve, and innovation becomes impossible.
Imagine you had a tool that can remove fear, turn people affected by a project into project participants and even prevent rumors from spreading. I’m sure you’ve already figured it out – I’m talking about project marketing.
Look at your project as a product that you’d like to launch on the market. The market could also be your own company and its employees. This way of looking at a project starts right from the definition of the project goalsor project visions and extends all the way to the requirements. But at the same time, it’s also already a part of project marketing, since this perspective is going to heavily influence project marketing.
Marketing is considered a discipline of economics, and rightfully so. But project marketing has little or nothing to do with that. It’s not rocket science. So there’s no need to worry that it’ll have to be expensive or complicated.
Always underappreciated, project goals are essential to many aspects of a project. In our case, they’re a powerful tool for communication – the spirit and purpose of the project. If your project goals are displayed publicly and prominently, people will soon be talking about them all over the company. This should at least partially shut down the gossip factory, since everyone knows why the project exists and what it’s meant to achieve.
Just about every company has a platform like SharePoint set up for distributing information. This platform can be used to regularly (!) post information on the current progress of the project. You could also send out an electronic newsletter briefly summarizing the current status. Either way you do it, it doesn’t take much effort. The project manager will regularly report the status to the stakeholders. He/she can also use the same information for the news items.
Of course, you could also use your own blog for a project. This takes a bit more time, since, in order to survive, a blog requires you to post interesting material pretty frequently. You might run out of newsworthy material pretty quickly, and a blog with barely any updates won’t keep anyone interested.
At this point, you’re probably thinking, “What?” Publish the project plan. That way, the future is somewhat more certain, and there’s less to worry about. A high-level plan is enough. Details aren't all that interesting and tend to have the opposite effect. A detailed plan has to be adjusted constantly and can give the impression that the project team doesn’t know what they're doing, even though this is completely normal.
Review meetings are actually taken from Scrum. Their purpose is to present the current progress status of the product to the stakeholders and get their feedback. You could use this with non-agile projects too. Anyone can attend the review meeting and get updates on the project. Review meetings should be held no later than after each release.
For large projects in large companies, it makes sense to hold regular info events. You could design the set-up in a way that will be interesting and make people want to come. If you're developing software, these events can also be used as showcases and a chance to collect user feedback. This method can be pretty expensive, though.
With these methods, you can already achieve quite a lot. Project awareness will increase throughout the company, and people might even start looking forward to the progress. There’s one thing to keep in mind, though. Project marketing sets up expectations that the project then has to meet. If that doesn’t happen, morale will sink pretty swiftly. In the restaurant business, they say that in order to satisfy a guest, you need to exceed their expectations. If you ask me, the same holds true for projects.
One last tip: the cheapest and least intrusive project marketing is when you use well-designed flip charts in the meetings and just happen to leave them hanging up where everyone can see them. I call that guerilla project marketing.