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How to succeed as a project manager with marketing teams

How do project managers (PMs) gain buy-in from marketing teams? Sometimes marketing teams perceive project managers as a time drain – and vice-versa.

This disconnect, however, is unnecessary.

Over the years I worked with some fantastic project managers in marketing and comms teams. Here’s what I’ve learned to be five key ways for project managers to gain support and contribute strongly to a marketing project’s success.

1. Develop a clear value proposition

The best project managers have clear in their minds what their value proposition is, and they communicate this at the start of their engagement with others.

A project manager I worked with explained her value in terms of preventing clashes. The organisation had grown such that there were various silos who had an uncanny ability to all schedule their biggest activities of the quarter in the same week. By acting as glue between teams, she made our lives easier by spreading the work out.

(This project manager was also very good at project managing by walking around. She would stop by people’s desks for a few minutes and check that the project plan still made sense.)

2. Combine ‘connecting’ and ‘doing’

Great project managers combine “connecting” with “doing”. A qualified PM, otherwise known as my sister, tells me that you have to be seen to roll your sleeves up. Otherwise you don’t gain credibility.

That means being seen to save time of your colleagues by completing project reports and timelines, taking on some of the organisational actions or, if you combine marketing skills with project management ones, spending some of your time devising marketing ideas or even writing copy.

3. Study principles not just frameworks

Great project managers also know that frameworks, such as Prince2, only get you so far.

In fact, in marketing teams, the dominant methodologies are tick lists and the occasional Gantt chart, plus two Agile methodologies: Kanban boards and, for web development, Scrum. Prince2 just isn’t used and would not be appropriate for the type of projects being undertaken, although of course you can apply some of the ideas from it.

Zooming out from just one framework at looking at the principles of project management as a subject is useful, as is developing influencing and people skills. That’s why I believe those thinking of developing skill in project management would do well to look at courses and apprenticeships taught by the Association of Project Managers.

4. Learn the subtlety of a project

Understanding the subtlety of what the team is trying to achieve is also a key attribute. There can be hundreds of items on a project plan, three-quarters of which are pretty unimportant.

Being great isn’t just about having a risk log, it’s having a strong feel about what’s important in a project. Likewise, if you’re trying to allocate people to particular project deliverables, you need to avoid thinking of people as a commodity and understand the individuals.

5. Be relentlessly solutions focused

Finally, great project managers are solutions focused. A core skill is being able to cut through silo mentality and any personal animosities and help people get the end product delivered.