A Town Called Plzen

In 1995 I found myself spending three weeks in the City of Plzen (Pilsen) in the Czech Republic
as a member of a team sent to help the Czechs celebrate the 50th anniversary of their liberation
from the Nazis. This was only a few years removed from the fall of the Iron Curtain. Things were

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still in a bit of a flux with the transition from a communist planned economy to a free market one.

One person I talked with almost daily with was the man who worked as the ersatz concierge of
the hotel where we stayed. Although concierge wasn’t his official function, he was the go-to guy
if you needed something done in the hotel or you needed information about the city.

I remember one conversation I had with him where he mentioned how hard it was to get repair
work done in his apartment. He lived in one of the large housing blocks near the hotel. While
they looked great on the outside, with fresh coats of paint and newly-planted flowers and
bushes, the insides left a lot to be desired. They were livable, to be sure, but getting repairs
done was next to impossible at times.

As he reflected on the problem, I asked him why he could not appeal to the owners of the
building and complain about the maintenance staff. He replied that the building in which he lived
was still owned by the government, so there was really no one he could complain to. He sighed
and said something which has stuck to me to this day: “When something is owned by everyone,
it’s owned by no one.”

A Champion Is Needed

Every cause needs a champion; someone who is ready to own that cause and work to rally
people around to raise awareness, help fix the problem, solve the issue. Without someone
who’s willing to step up and speak up, an issue may be acknowledged, even acted upon to a
certain degree, but it will never get the full attention it deserves.

This is true for your company’s Web marketing efforts. If different departments “own” different

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parts of the Web activities and no one is willing to champion the total cause, it will be mediocre
at best and not get the results it could. Someone needs to own own the whole thing and make
sure all is coordinated properly: Website Look and Feel, Back-End Functionality, SEO, Social
Media, PPC, and Banner Campaigns. Certainly, one person probably can’t handle actually
doing all those jobs, but someone needs to make sure they all get done.

It takes a team to pull off a good Web marketing effort. It’s very rare in a corporate setting that a
bunch of marketers and IT people will be put together in a special “Web Department.” Because
of the many disciplines involved, a corporate Web marketing team will likely be made up of
people from different departments and outside vendors and consultants. And each of those
departments and outside agencies may or may not find their part of the Web marketing pie
important when compared with other responsibilities they have.

Without someone coordinating the many different pieces, the whole scheme ends up looking
like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle right out of the box. While there may be some random pieces
stuck together, the picture isn’t going to look quite right. It certainly won’t look as nice as when
someone takes the time to put the pieces together as they are meant to be.

It Takes A Linchpin

Seth Godin, in his book “Linchpin,” offers the
suggestion that anyone can be the one person in an organization who holds the whole thing
together. This is the person who thinks outside the normal parameters of their “job” and does
what is needed to advance the cause of the team. Like the small part of a machine which
holds different pieces together so they can work properly, the Linchpin person helps hold team
members together in order that they may work properly as part of the whole.

Here’s the thing: In many companies there is no one person designated to be “in charge” of the
organization’s Web marketing efforts. Someone may very well need to step up and just do it. No
asking, no getting permission, no official tasking – just do it.

To be sure, to take on such a task isn’t easy. You need to have a passion for it or you’ll burn
out. You need to be a bit thick-skinned, too, because some will give you a hard time about your
new, albeit, unofficial role. Your boss may give you a hard time, the folks in other departments
may also. But, the more you stick to your guns, explain why it’s important, and back up the
explanation with facts and data from authoritative sources, the more support you will gather and
the more your team will coalesce into a functioning unit.

Photo by Steve Snodgrass used under Creative Commons license.


Elmer Boutin is webmaster for Wilsonart International. Read Elmer Boutin’s full PubCon speaker biography here.