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Wednesday Wisdom: From the Classroom to the Conference Room, Teams of Marketers Build Better Campaigns

In this week’s installment of Wednesday Wisdom, Consultants Collective member consultant Hester Tinti-Kane continues her series on human-centered marketing.

Last month I published a post on Human Centered Marketing. This piece was inspired by a podcast on the topic. The main idea was: remember that our target audience is not just a group of contacts fitting certain descriptors, but human beings with human needs. That podcast was an assignment for the students in my social media marketing course. I am an adjunct lecturer at a small liberal arts college in Massachusetts. This is my first semester teaching. It has definitely been an adventure! When I set out to develop my course, I knew I had to include this human element of marketing. Our target audiences are humans with human needs and of course, we marketers are too.

Teamwork is challenging

Teamwork is one of the most challenging aspects of being a professional these days and I wanted to give my students the chance to experience it. When I was in graduate school for Communication at the University of Hartford, my thesis was based around Teams and I find the topic fascinating. What happens when a group of people come together to take on a challenge? How do they cope with communication, interpersonal needs, task coordination? I felt that we could all use a refresher on this challenging aspect of work today, so here’s my post!  

“Collaboration flourishes in a climate of trust”

One of the primary resources for my Master’s thesis was Teamwork: What Must Go Right / What Can Go Wrong by Larson and LaFasto. Above is a favorite quote from that text (p.87). So as a first time college educator teaching teamwork, how could I help my students establish trust? Well, I started by allowing them to form teams based upon their seating choices. They came into class the first day and sat where they felt comfortable. If they knew other students, they sat near them. If they had friends in class, they sat right next to them. We started teamwork exercises the first day of class:

I had the students gather into groups, then open up their social streams on their favorite network. They had to find a brand post, pick one post for the team to analyze, then share back that analysis with the class. I did not give them instructions about “how” to analyse the post. I let them figure that out. This was the start of building trust in teams in my classroom.

From the classroom to the conference room

So let’s move from the classroom to the conference room, from students to professionals. The last project based team I formed was last fall with a small but mighty team that put together an event for 200 people. As anyone who has ever entered into the rough waters of events marketing knows, event planning needs a highly effective team. One of the ways we built trust on this team was through consistent, earnest communication in face to face meetings and on project management technology tools Slack and Asana. (Slack is a great communication tool that allows project-based communication in a stream. Asana is a task-based tool that allows you to assign and track project based tasks over time.) Each week my teammates and I all had clarity of where we were in our progress towards our goal. It was a serious grind but we did our best to keep it light and made time for fun – there were a lot of laughs. And in the end, with of course lots of running around behind the scenes, we pulled together a successful event that our speakers, attendees and exhibitors all loved. There was a great feeling of accomplishment, of empowerment as our team achieved its goal. And since we spent so much time working so hard in an atmosphere of trust, I will always consider those colleagues of mine friends too. It’s amazing the way high-stakes projects can bring people together, isn’t it? So – let’s head back to my classroom…

Sustaining team energy in challenging circumstances

So it’s one thing to work as group on a low-stakes activity in class each day, it’s another to collaborate on a final exam project. Throughout the first half of the semester, I worked to establish an environment of trust. Each class, students would share group activity results with their peers for feedback. With prompting, that feedback happened. I continue to be impressed by the respect and thoughtfulness the students take when relaying feedback to each other. This is actually the pinnacle of teaching for me – watching learners support each other. This supportive empathy came to life in a new way when we moved into our TEAM campaigns. This was our final exam project for the semester. First of all, I wanted to be sure each team was not established by existing social ties, but intentionally built for success. So I assigned students to teams and to roles within those teams based upon their performance in their mid-term project, which was a SOLO campaign. In the TEAM project, each student submits the campaign slides they are responsible for and the assignment for their teammates is to add comments to their slides (I don’t say this often, but thank you, Google! You can add comments to Google Slides presentations and this is so helpful!). The comments these students leave for each other at times bring tears to my eyes. Not only do they cheer for and encourage each other, but they provided thoughtful feedback for optimization that helps that student get a better grade on the assignment. Wow!

From the classroom to the conference room, once again

So moving again from the classroom to the conference room once again, I remember last fall when we were prepping for our event and our ticket sales were not what we wanted them to be. When speakers had to drop out because of family emergencies, when our founder was not pleased with the way we did the seating plan. Those were high stakes moments. All we had was each other. Not all conversations were friendly. BUT they were respectful, they were supportive, they were productive and we leaned on the trust and relationships we’d built along the way. We were open to all ideas to solve the issue at hand, whether they came from the most junior person on the team or from the founder of the company. Even now we still feel some stress when we talk about these challenging times as we did in a meeting last week (the company is now a client of mine), but we can also smile and even laugh about how intense those challenges were and how they demanded the most of us as a team.

There is so much more I can write on this topic and perhaps I will. It would be great to hear about your experiences forming, leading, working in teams. Please share in the comments below!

Hester Tinti-Kane

Hester Tinti-Kane

Hester Tinti-Kane is a leader and educator in digital, content and social media marketing. Her background in global corporate, startup and school settings allows her to support organizations of all types. Hester spent 15 years in the education industry and has experience in K12, higher education and professional training markets. She teaches college courses to nurture the next generation of marketers and helps organizations uncover market intelligence, expand their audience, engage with influencers and acquire prospects and customers. Closing the loop on marketing strategy, execution and conversion, she helps organizations track analytics to understand the return on investment for marketing.

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