Recently I was asked by a Not for Profit client to be involved in the selection process for a newly created marketing position. They had absolutely no marketing expertise on staff and were justifiably concerned about understanding and comparing the marketing skills, experience and knowledge of those who had applied.
So many Western Australian Not for Profits are in this particular boat right now – especially those that work in the disabilities services sector. With tight budgets, it has been hard to justify hiring marketing specialists in the past. However as the trials of NDIS and My Way come to a close and the WA Government sets the way forward, many such organisations are going to have to face a brave new marketing world. Some will be in the position of having to attract clients for the first time and their messaging, look and marketing approach will become vital in their ability to survive and thrive.
Many will stick with hiring a marketing consultant and using other specialist input, but some are keen to get someone on staff. Using a consultant on your selection panel is actually a very good move, but if you want to handle it totally yourselves here are some aspects to consider.
Marketing skills are totally transferable
Trust me on this. Us marketing types thrive on adapting to new environments – in fact most of us choose marketing because we don’t want to only work in one sector or type of organisation. This means you don’t have to only talk to people who have previously worked in a Not for Profit environment.Adding someone to your team from outside the sector can have the advantage of providing a different insight and a broader view. I suggest you choose to interview people who have done some services marketing at some point in their career as that implies a broad range of stakeholders and a longer, more complex relationship with clients, than those who have specialised purely in product marketing.
New graduates will need some mentoring
Tight budgets often mean the kind of salary range that attracts new graduates or those with only a few years of experience. They will come equipped with the very latest information and very likely a fresh approach, however may not have a great deal of strategic experience. By asking an established marketing professional to mentor them for the first 6 to 12 months, either as a consultant or on a pro-bono basis, you are getting the best of both worlds. The mentor does not need to have intimate knowledge of your organisation. After all, it’s up to you to provide that information to your new marketing staff member. But it is useful if the mentor has experience in the sector as they already have an understanding of the context in which you operate. There are a few of us that fit that bill – just ask around. If your new staff member can suggest someone, or even comes with an established mentor, ask to meet them and make sure they understand your expectations of the role.
Assess their personal brand
Marketing people are supposed to understand the value of branding. That means they should be good at developing their own brand and communicating it to others. Get them to make a presentation at the interview on a previous marketing project they have managed, or even on what they understand to be your biggest marketing challenges. Any marketing specialist worth their salt should be able to do a reasonable presentation, even allowing for interview nerves. I would also suggest you check out their various social media and professional media profiles. In particular look at how their profile is set up, the type of profile photo they use, how up to date it is and if they have a blog. Again – a marketing person is supposed to be good at this stuff. They don’t have to use all (or in fact any) forms of social media – that is very much a personal choice. But if they do, you would like to see an attention to detail and a professional approach. Who they follow on social media is also a great way to understand what is important to them and is particularly helpful in getting a handle on their values.
They must play well with others
Everyone in the universe tends to list “good team work skills” in job criteria. Yes – you need to ensure that the person you take on is a team player. However, marketing is very much a collaborative function and so your new marketing staff member will need to be able to communicate effectively with just about everyone in your universe. Keep in mind that marketing folk really need to be EXCELLENT communicators. They don’t need to be personality plus, but they do need the emotional intelligence to be able to alter their communication style to suit their audience. I’d recommend you use a hypothetical in the interview to understand how they deal with challenging personalities. Asking them about the type of teams they have worked with in the past, and what they learned from those experiences is also useful.