Budding role of IT communications director helps IT deliver its message

Beth Stackpole

A professional communications expert can also help the CIO tailor messages and strategies so that marketing campaigns resonate with different audiences, including people in various roles both inside of IT and throughout the organization. That's one of the primary roles for Patrick Cooley, senior manager of IT marketing and communications at EMC. "People are bombarded constantly with information, so the issue is how to cut through the noise," Cooley says. "In a company of 60,000 to 70,000 [employees], there are a lot of different people here and having a marketing background allows me to help IT better target people with the best communications vehicle."

Under Cooley's direction, EMC's IT group no longer peppers its user community with frequent emails about application outages or survey requests. Instead, it's micro-targeting its messages through vehicles like internal social communities and beta-testing certain services using social sharing for feedback. "We've dramatically reduced the kind of spam communications people have been bombarded with and [have] targeted messaging much more specifically," he explains. "We're definitely seeing results on a micro scale -- it's the macro scale we continue to work on with IT branding and marketing."

At HCA, Kearstin Patterson leads a team of 12 graphic designers and communications professionals who are dedicated to creating and delivering strategic messaging for the information technology and services group. One of their most important functions is to get CIO Marty Paslick's message out to the more than 4,300 internal IT employees and the approximately 220,000 people who work across the Nashville-based healthcare company's vast network.

Patterson's team has helped Paslick orchestrate a weekly Monday message, which outlines the top IT priorities for the week, provides updates on projects and praises individual employees for outstanding work. There's also a weekly podcast that's designed to be motivational to help facilitate team-building and nurture the IT culture.

"IT impacts nearly everything that goes on in this organization, so it's important to keep the business side connected and engaged with the IT side," Patterson explains. "With this many employees and the variety of different communications mechanisms, this helps keep people informed and aware of the CIO's top priorities to focus on for the week."

Not your father's marcom

The emerging role of IT marketing and communications specialist heavily favors professionals with backgrounds in those disciplines over people who are more IT-oriented, but you can't necessarily count out techies if they have the right chops, according to Lamoreaux. Candidates need to have business experience, but an understanding of the requirements-gathering process and the ability to talk to IT people in technical terms are just as important. "It's not your typical marketing/PR person," she explains. "You want someone with some technical background who can speak the vernacular of the rest of the team."

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