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Ego vs. Outcome


Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle once said, “egotism is the source and summary of all faults and miseries.”

Indeed, from time-to-time we are all guilty of letting one of the three constructs in Sigmund Freud’s structural model of the psyche get the better of us. While we may not recognize its negative impact as we bask in our own sense self-importance, an ego steering the ship can often damage our ability to focus on what’s most important — the outcome. 

In brand marketing and reputation management, we often see this in the form of the channels and metrics some clients deem most valuable for varying reasons.

For example, in spite of the lessening influence of traditional media, I’ve frequently witnessed the C-suite’s relentless obsession with landing media placements in likes of the New York Times, on the CBS Evening News or NPR. I get it — these are big names and they still wield influence. But for some executives, seeing their organization or brand name on page A-98 somehow becomes the holy grail. The problem being it doesn’t really move the needle. As a result, corporate communications leaders (and thus the agency) are stuck between serving the CEO who hired them (and could fire them) vs. simply focusing on solving a problem or addressing a communications challenge with a more targeted, effective solution. 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and search marketing can be similar. Despite being perhaps the most under-appreciated and effective tool in our toolbox, unlike other options search is relatively simple to track and measure. And yet, search is perhaps one of the hardest services to sell, often because it lacks the sex appeal of a Buzzfeed placement, a funny video, using the hottest social app or a front page story in the Wall Street Journal

I recently had a conversation with the CEO of a very large national organization and he asked me what we do best. I told him we solve complex communications challenges, otherwise he wouldn’t even be speaking with me.

And that’s the key. It’s not about being married to a marketing channel, a big media placement, nor the sex appeal of a new trend. Thinking like that is typically driven by ego.

Instead, brands and organizations need to measure marketing and reputation management the same way they would any other aspect of their business. Does it drive revenue, improve organizational reputation or brand affinity, or positively change something?

The focus needs to be on addressing challenges, solving problems, in the end the focus needs to be about the outcome. 

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