Leadership

How to market your internal IT department

Without some element of marketing, IT will often be neither seen nor heard, unless summoned, save for the rumor mill rehashing its most recent stumble or failure. Here's how to promote IT's image.

Marketing their organization is something most CIOs spend little time considering. While no one likes a shameless promoter, many of the most successful IT organizations I have worked for actively market themselves around the corporation, even if they may not use the term "marketing" to describe their activities. Without some element of marketing, IT will often be neither seen nor heard, unless summoned, save for the rumor-mill rehashing of its most recent stumble or failure. With some simple marketing efforts, the company as a whole can be reminded of the services IT can offer, informed of recent successes, and be seen as a home to thought leadership on technology. Here are a few simple ways to market your internal IT organization with little to no marketing budget and a minimal investment of time.

Change your attitude

The most effective leaders in any organization are those who can sell their vision. While it may seem crass to call every great leader an effective salesperson, it is largely true. Effective leaders can pitch their point, expound on the benefits that are most likely to appeal to the current listener, and then "close the deal" with the support of much of the organization.

This "sales" attitude permeates everything from management presentations, to structuring organizational efforts that appeal directly to potential "customers." IT especially is a group that peddles ideas, and considering every interaction with other business units as a chance to pitch your most compelling ideas can do wonders for how you structure a proposal and present its benefits. While something like enterprise software might affect the whole organization, a change in attitude will cause you to present the package differently to operations than you might to finance and will cause you to have laser-like focus on appealing to the listener's interests, rather than self-centered technical discussions or questionable and unconvincing "benefits."

Drop the jargon

The most effective marketing reaches us in a language we can easily understand. The same product description will use different language and imagery when targeted at one group versus another, but in each case will appeal to those groups in their own terms. While we in IT may get excited by talk of virtualized cloud services and ITIL frameworks, the people impacted by these technologies usually care less about the fancy verbal footwork and simply want to know how their working lives will be improved by what we are peddling. When we can separate the benefits from the technologies that deliver them and effectively articulate those benefits, then IT will be best presented and most easily accepted and embraced.

Become a thought leader

Technology, especially in the consumer space, is changing at a record pace. Most of us have been cornered and asked for an opinion on some new gadget or technology making the press's rounds. Rather than waiting for these ad hoc "hallway moments," publish an informal newsletter that talks about some of IT's recent successes and addresses current technology trends. There's no shame in having a young staffer who is passionate about the latest mobile technology pen a couple of paragraphs about how Android could affect the company or about some apps that could help the iPad become a productivity tool. If you as CIO are not presenting this information, executives may be looking to teenage children or staffers outside IT, making corporate IT look like a dated dinosaur rather than a trend spotter.

An IT newsletter need not be an overwrought, ten-page affair with marvelous graphics. It can start as a simple four or five paragraphs that are e-mailed to a handful of colleagues. The best are informal and informational that address the concerns of readers. Ask a trusted colleague or two what technologies they are following and interested in learning more about. Combine this with short and subtle promotional features about IT's recent successes, and you have a winning formula that presents IT as competent and knowledgeable. Old-fashioned e-mail is usually a better tool than a blog buried on an internal Web site that few will read, and if you are comfortable with it, self-effacing humor and an informal style will gain more readers than a staid yawner that reads like a master's thesis.

While marketing is probably one of the last things you thought you would need to worry about as an IT executive, any organization, whether it is a Fortune 100 company or an IT department of five people at a small company, can benefit from being presented in the best possible light. Dedicating four or five hours each month to these activities can build trust in the IT department, improve its image, and even make the next budget-approval process far less painful.

About

Patrick Gray works for a global Fortune 500 consulting and IT services company and is the author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology as well as the companion e-book The Breakthrough CIO's Companion. He has spent ...

11 comments
twig.lewis
twig.lewis

IT is a big black hole that the company keeps allocating large chucks of the budget to. If for no other reason but this, the rest of the company needs to know, in general, what IT is doing with this chunk of the budget. I know the company officers already know in detail. Yes, IT has an attitude. But, so do our customers/users. We (IT) are the experts in what we do, so let us do it the best way we know how. The customers/users are the experts in what they do. Whether it's removing staples, scheduling a pick-up, ordering fuel for the entire truck fleet, producing the product that the company makes or negotiating with insurance/medical companies so we have healthcare and can afford to take our kids to the doctor. I feel you don't have to let everyone know everything IT is doing. That WOULD take way too much time and money. I don't have the answer, but with us every month or so, the help desk has a function. On Pancake Day we turned a conference room into a small breakfast grill/serving line. One day we did the same thing on Hotdog day. While all this is going on, the attendees ask questions. We ask questions. Now they are asking us when the next function will be. They are getting their questions ready. Some of the 'geeks' are asking to help. If you have a larger company, go from dept. to dept. or take it on the road. Maybe this won't work for you, but maybe do something similar. The 'geeks' will never understand why 'users' do what they do or vise versa. But, when we know each other a little better, it certainly makes things a litter easier.

bajab
bajab

Market by doing a good job.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Concepts and ideas don't sell, period. First of all, an IT department presenting a newsletter of any sort is seen as a waste of time that could be better spent elsewhere. Secondly, IT is not a marketing department, I've seen IT newsletters used in national corporations and they are usually used to write on the back on while talking on the phone. They are so poorly put together, hold no relevant benefits for the readers. If you're studying C++ at home, you shouldn't be getting a newsletter from work giving you tips, what a waste of IT time! They never catch the reader's attention, nor should they, I couldn't give a rats arse what the IT department thinks or does. Just keep the network running and stop sending me bloody newsletters about your great work, I don't send you a newsletter trying to explain what I do for a living, talk about self appreciation! Would the IT department be interested in a newsletter on vertical market development against a key competitor? Of course not, nor should they, it's MY job to know, not theirs; if they ARE interested, they are in the wrong field. If you want to notify users and management of your fantastic work, because it does not actually show in their day to day lives, try just offering an INFO email with a list of great "benefits" users will find as a result of your hard work or recent changes. The worst thing any employee can do is MORE than they need to. Everyone KNOWS what your job is, keep the network running, and they just don't care nor need to know anything else. Other than that, you are just wasting time on marketing your worth, while you are being paid to do something else. It's a desperate plea for attention, a weak person's grasping at straws to define his role or value. IT newsletter? Fire them and hire IT staff instead.

Imprecator
Imprecator

I've seen plenty of those "IT Marketing" schemes. In the end users (and their bosses) only care to complain that they can't print and after they make you check the whole thing it turns out the printer is out of paper. IT is infrastructure. Infrastructure by its very nature is EXTREMELY hard to market. Can be used to radically change how a particular company operates? Maybe, but in the end it's STILL infrastructure.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

If you're doing it right, nobody notices. If you're doing it wrong, everybody notices and you hope they don't know who to blame. If an audience can hear everything just fine, they think, "Who needs a PA system?" when the PA system is the *reason* thy can hear fine. They don't look for credit, they only look for fault. The need for a reliable infrastructure is not recognized until it begins to fail. That's human nature and all the promotions ever dreamed will not change that.

bkindle
bkindle

We don't market, we occasionally do a presentation on some projects we are working on and why, along with an occasional email with helpful tips for computing at home and at work. They are NEVER too geeky or mundane. But as others have said, if you try to market, people don't care. Only care when something doesn't work. Don't ever want to pay for new hardware, only to ask why it wasn't bought when it fails..... and on and on.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Mine was big enough for me to make a hat to fit it. Actually our points are quite different. While we agree that IT is hardly the place to seek credible marketing, my view is also with consideration of what IT roles entail. I have yet to see an IT job description include "IT newsletter creation". It seems people in IT are bored and don't get enough tummy rubs from the rest of the staff so they feel a bit left out and that their work should be openly discussed and applauded each month. Monday we'll get [b]Receptionist Weekly[/b] [i]full of tips and tricks on how to dump people into voice mail, how to address a telemarketer and staple removal 101. [/i] Get a cake, tell her that you love her work and how you couldn't live without her, she needs it! Tuesday is [b]The Shipper's Log[/b][i]a weekly digest describing the ins and outs of filling out paperwork, calling a freight company and requesting a pick up. Next week tune in to find out what they resolve the 10 top picking issues![/i] On Wednesday, it's roll up your sleeves day for the [b]"Janitors Journal!"[/b] [i]4mm or 6 mm bin bags, which does YOUR company choose and why?[/i] Come in early on Thursdays and we have the [b]Sales Professionals Pipeline Press![/b][i] You'll learn how meeting quota means effectively managing a sales pipeline. Also, is your prospect and A or B class prospect, elevating the C's to B's, Trial Closing for dummies and more![/i] Friday's of course, bring us the [b]Accounting and Accountability Digest[/b] [i]This week addresses the waste of employee time creating newsletters, cost cutbacks in the IT department "are they really doing their job?" and more![/i] I can see doing this, once, being warned about wasting time and the second edition cleaning out the IT room. If it was my company, it wouldn't see the first edition, it' s the type of time waster that would be nipped in the bud right away and people told that if they had no work to do, they were no longer needed. Why not just send out a blanket email saying, we don't know what to do with our time, so we thought we'd waste it telling you what we Do do when we have something better to do than write newsletters.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Nobody expects Finance or Legal to market themselves internally. Is this because they don't spend a bunch of money compared to IT? In some companies the Sales department runs up a huge travel and entertainment tab, but they're not expect to sell themselves to other employees.

santeewelding
santeewelding

Long time ago, in a steel fabrication shop, the joke was, "Grinders Weekly" (shut the f**k up and grind).

Imprecator
Imprecator

IT is infrastructure Therefore by its very nature nobody cares about it till it fails. So "marketing it" is useless. Since the people who think that IT sucks (which whom the OP thinks "Internal Marketing" should be aimed at) will continue viewing it that way no matter what. Now I'll go back to getting my tummy rubs.

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