How to manage the expectations of your non-comms stakeholders

Regularly feel the pressure when it comes to other teams’ perception and expectations of your work? If you look after communications or marketing for your organisation, it’s likely you’ll answer with a yes.

The business looks to your team for the kind of robust narrative and slick storytelling they can easily use to impress sales and investment prospects. That’s what you’re here for, after all. But unrealistic expectations around production output and timings can leave everyone feeling somewhat defeated. Sales, product and executive teams want help guiding customers from the awareness stage to action and loyalty in record time, whilst your team knows that every successful marketing and comms campaign takes ample time for planning, strategy and reflection.

You also know that expectation is the enemy of creativity, right?
Fear not, though. There are ways to manage these expectations and make sure your campaigns feel at least somewhat harmonious. It comes down to a few tweaks to your everyday working habits. Who knows, you may even conceive fresh ideas from working better with all of your stakeholders.

Listen, listen, listen

Think you know what your company needs? Think again. It’s all too easy to keep heads down within our own teams and beaver away, keeping the brand’s most top-level objectives in mind whilst accommodating our most outspoken colleague(s)’s requirements, too. Yes, we’ve all worked with that person.

But truly understanding expectations means taking a proactive step outside of your team. Set up time to talk with other departments about their goals and challenges. Adapt questions and talking points accordingly, and go in with an open mind; are their objectives ones that a marketing or communications team can truly help with? Perhaps your big-picture visions are aligned, but resources and buy-in need some thought. 

Go to these meetings armed with open-ended questions and the willingness to hear their pain points – make it a quarterly occurrence and watch as your work gradually becomes increasingly collaborative, better-rounded and more tailored to a range of needs.

Know the outcomes you want – and the likelihood of achieving them

It’s not just about knowing the outcomes, either. Communicating the results that you want from the very start is key. How realistic are they? Set yourself up for success by evaluating and answering this question, alongside colleagues, early on.

Kick-off or ‘onboarding’ sessions for all stakeholders will allow for clear communication of your project’s key messages, tone-of-voice, audiences, channels, formats, goals and success metrics. Utilise this time to set out your scope of work and timeline, establish key points-of-contact within the business and diarise future brief-in dates to keep channels open and communications flowing.

Stay quantitative

You know the feeling; reasoning with the founder who saw one post blow up, and now wants every published piece to replicate this “success”.

But communications and marketing initiatives that make a tangible difference are ones that remain consistent over a longer period, steadily attracting the right customers for valid reasons. Such strategies are subject to consistent evaluation and flexibility, as sometimes seemingly small tweaks can make a world of difference. 

For the likes-hungry exec who’s interested only in those viral posts, encourage a longer-term view on engagement and sales analytics that help ensure all comms efforts have some focus on bottom-line goals. Equally, for a data-driven director who wants to tie every content piece back to a cost-per-acquisition target, assure them that brand awareness and social media-focused comms have a big part to play in the overall perception of your business, despite being notoriously difficult to measure. Staying quantitative and improving your efficiency is a game of moderation and balance – set this expectation early on, and your work will feel easier – and better appreciated.

Overcommunication is optimal

Remember those brief-in touchpoints we mentioned earlier? Stick to them.

Stuck for ideas or next steps? Talk about it. Other teams might offer a renewed perspective. .

Changing campaign direction, even slightly? Keep everyone in the loop. Get people onside, don’t blindside!

Run your engagement reporting on the regular? Broadcast the wins and the losses, even when it feels repetitive.

You get the idea. By keeping everyone up-to-date, you avoid surprises, catch potential problems early, and minimise misaligned expectations.

Get your postmortem process prepped

Sometimes, even the most meticulously-planned campaigns don’t go to plan. And that’s okay. Treat these as a learning opportunity, from which you can draw on company-wide expertise and viewpoints. Gather the facts, get the team together and be prepared to dissect the good, the bad and the ugly of your project. 


Note, though – it’s only worth doing this if you take the learnings and apply them to future endeavours. Happy managing!

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