Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Putting a little public relations into IT

Yesterday, I had a discussion with a CIO about the need to put a little more effort into his public relations. The gist of the discussion was that if the IT group doesn't communicate its successes, who will? On the one hand, the IT group gets plenty of free negative publicity when systems fail to meet user needs, or projects go south. But when the IT group does something right, the word doesn't get out with nearly the same velocity, if at all. It's not a matter of promoting one's self. It's a matter of promoting the benefits of good systems. If using a new system is in the best interest of the organization, shouldn't the CIO should talk about it? If a CIO doesn't believe in his own systems enough to talk about them, why should anyone else?

Shortly after this conversation, I noticed an article in CIO Magazine that says basically the same thing. In a series on running IT like a business, there is an article entitled Internal Marketing: The Secret Weapon. It says,
"Marketing is absolutely critical to being internally successful," says Stephen Norman, COO of Merrill Lynch's technology group. "We live in a world where by and large our customers don't understand what we do. So we need to market internally to have a shot at building partnerships and avoiding surprises."

Steve Sheinheit, CIO of MetLife, agrees. "That we have to communicate and market is a fact of life," he says. "If you want to get resources and support, you have to sell your message. Marketing and communications is a natural part of doing business."
The article goes on to talk about crafting a thematic message, writing marketing collateral, and even developing a brand for the IT group and individual projects.

One word of warning, however, is that you've got to back up the message with reality: "Be forewarned. Marketing will come off as a lot of hot air—and could even damage IT's reputation—if CIOs haven't built an organization that can consistently deliver the goods."

Check out other articles in the CIO series:
How to run IT like a business
IT management best practices

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