There were five of us who agreed to co-host a bridal shower. We were brought together not by our organizational skills or experience in creating stunning, Martha Stewart affairs, but by our love for the bride’s mom.
The planning felt like the Keystone Cops at times. Who was in the lead? That was me because the mom asked me. Then the bride’s aunt wanted to do it. Who keeps track of the moving parts? That was the bride’s aunt. Then it was me because I saw the hole and decided to fill it. Who determines the menu — making sure there are no nuts or seeds that the bride is allergic to? That was another host and me. We had the same vision, so all was good there. What about hand-made favors? The aunt again. But she changed her mind multiple times mid-creation. (I’m glad I wasn’t involved in this one.) The invitations? Me. Nope, change that to the aunt’s daughter…aka bride’s cousin…who wanted a job to do. And got them out late.
If it sounds like I’m whining (I am), the bottom line is: Could the process have gone better? Yes. Could the outcome have been better? No. The place, food, decor, and weather couldn’t have been more perfect. The bride was beautiful and glowing with the prospect of a loving partner to travel with on life’s journeys. Her mom — my friend and the person who usually does this kind of thing truly “Martha Stewart style” for everyone else —was thrilled and appropriately emotional. The bride got a ton a great stuff to feather her nest. And the groom got the hot dog toaster he always wanted. (Who knew there was such a thing? And why would anyone want one?) This shower ended well, but committee work isn’t always successful.
While I don’t advocate “death to committees” as Speider Schneider does in his blog post for Smashingmagazine.com, he does make a few of good points that are appliciable to independent school marketing committees. One of the weaknesses about committees he points out is the “’Commidiot’” [who] is a committee member who has no idea what is going on in front of them but feels they have to say something of importance to justify their presence in the room.” (You know that person, right?) This kind of contributor only misdirects the committee’s focus and slows down the process.
I am pleased to say that I’ve worked with a number of truly excellent independent school marketing committees over the years. They were superior because their members were:
- Comprised of five individuals or less
- Committed for the long haul and made meetings a priority
- Focused on goals that were results-oriented
- Experienced in academic marketing or were open-minded and eager to learn
- Quick to appoint a committee decision-maker as well as a point person to communicate between the committee and our firm
- Clear on the role of the Head of School
- Skilled at running efficient meetings, summarizing action items after each gathering, and being decisive as a group
- Welcomed the opinion of others as well as the firm they hired for their expertise
I’ve also worked with a number of independent school marketing committees that generated marketing efforts, which confirmed, “A Camel is a Horse Designed by Committee.” These committees may have produced a viewbook that missed the branding mark, a campaign case statement that didn’t hit the emotional high notes needed to motivate givers, a solicitor manual so long that it was daunting and unused, and a graphic design that we never put in our portfolio because it assaulted the eyes. We can lead a horse (or is that a camel?) to water, but we can’t make him drink.
By keeping your marketing committee small, focused, with clear roles, and designated decision-makers, you will increase your chances of producing a gleaming stallion instead of a spitting dromedary. Or, put in bridal shower terms, a marketing effort that results in “Love, Laughter, and Happiness Everafter."
While we’re on the topic of committees, which by inference also means meetings, I like the Apple approach to them as chronicled by Ken Segall in his article for Fastco called “Meetings Are A Skill You Can Master, And Steve Jobs Taught Me How”. Here’s Segall’s 3-step system:
1. Throw out the least necessary person at the table.
2. Walk out of the meeting if it lasts more than 30 minutes.
3. Do something productive today to make up for the time you spent here.