Are You A Marketer Or A Bureaucrat?

What concerns you more – that your team properly follows templates, formats and processes or they are passionate, express their creativity and results-driven? This is the difference between being a bureaucrat or a marketer. In digital marketing and PR – following templates, formats and processes is second tier to nurturing creativity and passion. Not sometimes, always.

In a world where no one has a monopoly on attention treating marketing as if it’s a factory is a mistake. Your end products will be generic and produce mediocre-at-best results while more creative competitors will dominate you. And yet, most marketers still focus on the wrong part of the equation. 

Of course there is a balance but by far the most important asset your marketing team has is creative talent. Without that, any sort of rules or processes you’re drawing up to help make things more efficient are irrelevant anyway. Good luck getting noticed with your ultra-efficient blog post or ad campaign which lacks any soul or humanity.

A quote from a 2008 post by David Armano still stands true today

There are actually few organizations that can support passionate employees—even if they say they want them. That’s because the original industrial revolution was designed to support productivity. Productivity means you produce. That’s how you’re measured.  Passion is difficult to quantify, and yet if you ever talk to teams who have produced break through products and innovative solutions—you know it was there. Passionate employees believe in something bigger than themselves. They’re not interested in punching the clock, and sometimes they bend the rules.


Unless your strategy revolves around being fast and cheap (this may work for some ad-driven media companies but not brands with actual products) you have to care about what you’re implementing and your team has to care too.  Those who obsess over things like process are putting pressure on the wrong areas. It’s the exact reason individuals are running circles around your brand.

If someone didn’t follow a process properly but still produced results, do you really care? If yes, you’re a bureaucrat, a sad excuse for a marketer and focused on the wrong things. Harping on adherence is silly and will only succeed in frustrating your passion-driven team members. That’s not why they work for you. They care about interesting projects, not coloring within the lines or taking orders from someone who sees them as a number, not a human. Smart marketers treat processes as something flexible enough to allow for team members to express themselves even if it’s in a slightly different way than you prefer.

It’s not just processes. If you are meeting or status-update obsessed, you’re a bureaucrat and don’t really trust your team. Your team can spend their time reporting and placating superiors or they can achieve results for your brand that move the needle. Time spent on one side impacts the other. If you have to micro-manage, you have the wrong team – focus on fixing that, but additional micro-management is not the solution.  In fact, executives at the right teams don’t manage at all in the traditional sense – they lead.

Some closing thoughts on this for the bureaucrats to keep in mind:

Quality work is what will set your digital marketing and PR metrics on fire

As I noted in my primer on content marketing, you’re wasting your time with cheap/fast content. No one cares and even if you can make it scale you’re not going to persuade anyone.  You need smart marketers capable of creating remarkable content if you hope to lead your category. Otherwise you’ll never organically attract a community.  No amount of optimization can fix this.

There’s a time and a place for automation

Bureaucratic and process-driven digital marketers love the notion of automation – which does have a place. But the creative aspects of digital marketing can’t be automated. Those who do might save costs but sacrifice and real returns. There are just some things you should never automate.

Cheap outsourcing sucks – you get what you pay for

Outsourcing things like content, link acquisition or other tactics to cheap vendors is poor business practice because even though it saves on cost, it has larger tolls. Someone internally is going to have to fix that mess of work being sent over, and not only is it frustrating it ends up taking more of your team’s time anyway.

Nurturing a creative team is more defensible than small efficiencies

Talent matters, and while no one is irreplaceable –  if you nurture a team of creative, passionate problem solvers they’re going to be able to adapt to changes in the market far better than process driven teams. Digital marketing rewards those who are improvisational and free to experiment vs. those stuck in rigid settings.  The one constant of the web is change – embrace that, get agile with your marketing and you’ll thrive where others falter.


Take a look at what the brands or individuals continually referenced are doing with their digital communications – notice it’s creative, personal and not easily duplicated. And that’s kind of the point. What will happen when the business digital divide bridges? The answer is simple:  we’ll look to the most creative minds in the space for consulting and leadership – aka real marketers, not bureaucrats.