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Cultivating influence, strategic communication, and building high-performing teams

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Looking to make a greater impact in your marketing role? Look no further than this insightful "ask me anything" with Tara Robertson, CMO of Bitly.

In it, Tara shares her top tips for:

Get ready to be inspired and take your marketing leadership skills to the next level!

How can you influence a more positive culture when you take on a new marketing leadership role?

When you’re joining a new team or company, it's important to understand the existing culture. You can't just walk in the door and start dictating what the new culture is going to be. Instead, take the time to listen and learn what’s already working and what’s not.

When I first join a team, I typically do a listening tour – it's in equal parts about building out what the team needs now and figuring out how to build the right experience for the team that you want to become. Culture plays such a huge part in that.

During those listening tours, I'll always ask the following questions:

  • What do you love about working here?
  • What do you not love about working here?
  • If you were to wave a magic wand and fast forward a year from now, what would you like to see?

Often, a lot of things come out of those conversations that impact what the day-to-day company culture looks like.

Once I’ve gone through the listening tour, I bring this data back to everyone and share it. For example, in our case, people loved working with their colleagues but disliked the chaos and lack of a Northstar. They also wanted more time to get to know each other better.

We need to work together to solve these issues, and these changes have to come from the bottom up. Communication is key here. The more you can be transparent and communicate with your teams about the things that aren't working, the better you’ll be able to solve those problems together.

A tangible way to do this is by creating team committees. Suppose we identify the need for more recognition within the team. In that case, we can find champions who care about recognition and want to advocate for change.

They can bring new ideas to the team and help roll out initiatives like a quarterly MVP award, where the team votes for the most valuable player in the department, or other events that are important to them individually.

What tactics do you use to influence change in your organization?

I can't emphasize this one enough: communicate your strategy over and over and over and over again. That’s how you bring people along for the ride. If you haven’t read it yet, I’d also recommend picking up a copy of The First 90 Days.

It sets up a great framework for bringing people in and communicating the changes you're making.

Even after those first 90 days, there are a couple of things that I'll consistently do. One is a monthly report – not a report with a whole bunch of slides or words. Sometimes I'll do a video, for instance.

It’s about finding ways to communicate what the marketing department has been able to achieve and what our focus for the next quarter is going to be.

When it comes to communicating with my team, I often do a weekly email and share that with the leadership team as well. That way, people know not just where we're spending our time, but also how things are going more generally.

The world is hard right now and we all have different feelings about it, and that's okay. Talking about it is how we show up as one at work.

Communication in general is an area that I would say is often undervalued. It’s important not just to communicate but to over-communicate, and to make sure you’re sharing the right things with the right people.

What I’m saying to my CEO or my CFO is very different from what I'm saying to our Director of Sales or the go-to-market team, for example.

The CEO gets spreadsheets and plans thrown in his direction every single day. To cut through the noise, I have to distill everything I share with him into the most important things he needs to hear in the day-to-day to be able to say, “Aha, I got it!”

Early on in my career, one of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from my husband, bless him.

I was really struggling with my leader at the time, and he was like, “You do know that your job is to make her look good, right? Your job is to make her show up and be a rockstar. That's how you're a rock star. She shouldn't know everything you're doing – that's why she hired you.”

He was absolutely right.

And that's our job with the CFO and the CEO. If you're a marketing leader, your job is to help them present to the board all the awesome things that marketing is doing as well as all the things that aren't going very well and all the areas you need support in.

If you've got big revenue goals that you need to hit, but you don't have the team, the software, or the capacity to hit those goals, you have to be loud about it – but do it in a way that speaks to them.

If I'm talking to our CFO about unit economics, LTV to CAC, and what’s going to drive the right efficiency, I’m speaking his love language.

Written by:

Tara Robertson

Tara Robertson

CMO at Bitly

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Cultivating influence, strategic communication, and building high-performing teams