A Case of Poor Execution: Falling Through the Cracks
When poor communication and lackluster effort overshadow good ideas
Collaborations are most often born of innovative ideas and worthy intentions. These ideas bring together disparate groups presumably unified by a common goal. With thorough planning and the appointment of responsible leaders, these ideas can then serve as the foundation for an effective collaboration. Unfortunately, though, that foundation is not enough to ensure the success of a collaboration. In order for a collaboration to thrive, there also needs to be constant, open communication and a commitment to hard work.
A global public relations firm with a branch in the Northeastern United States armed a team of publicists with the task of improving the public’s perception of one of their clients: an area pharmaceutical company. A study conducted by the team revealed that the majority of city residents surveyed viewed the pharmaceutical company as more invested in making a profit than in developing medical treatments that would cure diseases and alleviate ailments. The pharmaceutical company was hoping to expand in the next few years, and in order to do that, they would need the support of the surrounding businesses and residents. And so, the company was committed to rebranding for the purpose of improving the public’s perception.
A series of meetings between the team of publicists from the public relations firm and a group of marketing executives from the pharmaceutical company established a mission for the rebranding: to convince the public that the firm, as an institution, was committed to improving the lives of others. With a clear goal in mind, the publicists offered to draft a plan of action and then present their ideas to the pharmaceutical executives.
After much deliberation, one of the team members suggested bringing a third party into the collaboration. The publicist suggested a world-renowned non-profit focused on raising awareness and funds in the fight against heart disease. As one of the pharmaceutical company’s biggest divisions was dedicated to developing drugs for heart disease, this seemed like a match made in heaven.
The publicity firm subsequently orchestrated a conference in which representatives from the non-profit met with representatives from the pharmaceutical company. During this conference, the publicity firm pitched the idea for the first stage of the rebranding campaign: the two organizations co-hosting a 5k fundraiser run followed by a charity ball for the participants and their friends and families. The events would raise funds in the fight against heart disease while simultaneously improving the public’s perception of the pharmaceutical corporation. All three parties were excited by the prospect, and the conference ended on a positive note, with everyone eager to move forward with the plan.
A lot of big ideas were thrown around in that initial meeting, such as hosting the 5k run in the neighborhood near the pharmaceutical headquarters, inviting area businesses to set up booths at the ball, and awarding trophies not only to the top runners but also to the top fundraisers. Each team was charged with a task, with the financial burden of hosting these events placed on the pharmaceutical corporation. Notably, little infrastructure was put into place to ensure constant and open communication between all parties. Unfortunately, there had also been a lack of communication between the marketing representatives of the pharmaceutical company and the company’s board of directors.
Initially the board of directors had given the marketing team free reign, promising almost unlimited funds for the purpose of rebranding the company. Unbeknownst to the marketing team, however, a large proportion of those funds had since been reallocated. And so, when the marketing team presented the already agreed-upon plan of action to the board of directors, they were aghast to discover there was no longer enough money to host both events. Instead of persevering, and putting in the time and effort necessary to come up with potential solutions, the marketing team immediately reached out to the public relations firm in a panic.
There was still enough money to host the 5k fundraiser run, so the public relations firm urged the pharmaceutical company to move forward with the event. The marketing team, however, was disheartened by the sudden lack of support from the board of directors. Likewise, the non-profit team, learning second-hand about the change in events, was wary of continuing with the collaboration. Thus, neither group invested the time and effort required to orchestrate a successful fundraiser. And so, while the run did eventually happen, attendance was poor, little money was raised, and the pharmaceutical company made little headway in improving the public’s perception.
Regardless of how innovative an idea is or how unifying a mission is, without constant communication and a dedication to hard work, a collaboration will have little chance of thriving. Even though this situation involves two for-profit groups (one of them for hire), a breakdown of communication hindered the outcome of the joint work. In this case, each firm needed to establish clear lines of communication internally, as well as externally, with each other. Neither happened, leading to less than desirable outcome. Any collaborative endeavor will inevitably be faced with obstacles, such as a sudden change in funding, but it is in those situations that perseverance and diligence are essential.