The Secret Marketer

As Gordon Brown reshuffles his cabinet, I am reshuffling my brand team. There are to be changes: some out, some in and a few changes of responsibility between now and the year’s end. I’m sure Brown will know exactly what I mean when I say that right now there’s a lot of unrest, backbench whispering and an uncomfortable silence whenever I enter the office.

Fortunately, I’ve been faced with only one major personal issue this year – and I wasn’t too upset to see my own “Hazel Blears” leave my cabinet. She had only been with us for a year and things were not working out well. I spotted this early, but with hindsight, let things fester for too long before dealing with it head on.

Aside from upsetting just about everybody else in the marketing team, this particular person has also caused mayhem in her dealings with important colleagues in the production and grocery box shifting departments. Moreover, she has managed to seriously upset our long-standing agency partners by telling them she was going to put everything out to pitch as she feels the brand needs some fresh blood (it had filtered back to me that she had already told her mates from a previous agency that they were going to get our business).

So why the hell did I hire her in the first place? She was utterly convincing in the interview and I genuinely thought she would enhance our existing team. I was wrong. The longer I have been a marketing director, the more I have learnt to be wary of people who interview too well, and the more time I spend investigating their past.

We operate in a small world and it is not difficult to find out the inside track, very often from agency contacts who have had the pleasure, or indeed traumatic experience, of seeing a particular candidate in action.

The next time anybody asks you to write a reference, do think about what you say. Be honest and fair and do not say things you don’t mean. Last month, I interviewed the former boss of my problem child. He had applied for a role in our business and I read out to him the reference he had written for his former charge. He was deeply embarrassed and admitted that his company were actually hugely relieved at the time to be offloading her.

I thanked him for his contribution and advised that he wouldn’t be coming back for a second interview. Marketing is indeed a very small world.

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