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Your business may be struggling because you aren’t clear what your business is

When companies complain about outcomes, many times, their real complaint is about their company’s lack of industry knowledge or dismal focus in their HR departments.

I’ve had this bone to pick with select businesses for quite some time, and I think it’s time I get it off of my chest.

I’m sick of seeing businesses struggle with delivery and personnel retention because they can’t differentiate between industries, related tasks, and the implications of those tasks. I’ve actually reached my limit with it.

I’ve been a communications and marketing professional for over ten years now. In general, my work has revolved around leading strategy and program implementation at multiple nonprofits and corporate agencies, in addition to working as an independent consultant. During this time, I’ve observed quite a few awkward situations because companies I’ve engaged simply weren’t educated about the true definitions and implications of the roles they were looking to fill. The good news is that many of these companies have only exemplified confusion around the creative industry and what tasks belong to which. (e.g. determining whether writing a press release was a duty for a media relations specialist or social media manager --- and yes, this has happened before) But for many companies, they take their confusion to a much more dangerous place. Allow me to provide a few examples I’ve found specifically in the communications and marketing industries.

1. Posting a job requisition for a Communications Manager but exclusively outlining clerical and administrative tasks

Let’s be real. Some companies do this to make the position more attractive because – hey – who doesn’t love a good “manager” in their title? And “Communications Manager” sounds much better than "Administrative Assistant." However, companies must realize that while you may be able to entice, or even fool, someone into applying and interviewing, that your chances of hiring and/or retaining that talent will always be slim to none with this type of HR strategy. On the flip side, some companies actually confuse administrative duties with that of a seasoned communications professional. Do communications professionals perform administrative duties within their line of work? Yes. Do administrative support professionals perform the work of a communications professional? Absolutely not. Educate your HR department on industry roles and tasks associated with those roles. It will make for a much more seamless hiring process and allow your company to properly identify and retain talent, thus, increasing the effectiveness of the entire team while positively affecting your “bottom line.”

2. Combining communications/marketing responsibilities with development/fundraising responsibilities to make one role

The ever-dreadful “let’s combine these two positions to save money” technique.

[insert sarcastic tone of delivery paired with intense side-eye]

How clever. And dangerous. This is a technique that's popular among nonprofits who are known for having small budgets and pinching pennies because of it. They are also known for placing communications positions in development departments instead of allowing them to live where they should – a communications or marketing department. But, any company that employs these practices should know one very critical fact:

You are not saving money or maximizing resources. You’re costing your company major dollars – perhaps even six-figure dollars – while combining oil and water.

For starters, communications/marketing professionals and development/fundraising professionals work from very different toolkits. VERY DIFFERENT.

Example: Development professionals often have backgrounds in sales, which have helped them develop customer service skills and key demographic references that allow them to profile potential donors and secure their support. As a development professional, it is rare that you’ll be well-versed in developing digital strategy, constructing public relations campaigns, or providing crisis management – all areas in which one needs extensive knowledge in order to lead a communications program. The same is true in the reverse. Now, do these roles feed into one another? Of course they do. Development professionals need the written pieces, media kits, and web analytics that communications/marketing professionals provide in order to construct and apply for grants; to engage donors and corporate sponsors; and to measure the impact of the organization at large. Equally important is the need for communications/marketing professionals to obtain the data collected by development departments to compose targeted and impactful messages to the public. As one can gather, both of these positions are extremely important separately, and the two sides will collaborate often. However, joining the two is a recipe for disaster due to the fact that strategy for each side requires varying skillsets. My recommendation is to hire a development professional – since it directly effects the financial health of the company – and utilize volunteers, interns, or part-time staff/consultants to carry out the communications work until the company can handle hiring someone full-time. You’d be surprised at how many talented undergraduates, graduate students, and entry-level professionals there are who can provide good communications and marketing strategy.

3. Combining ALL of #2 with graphic and web design responsibilities to make ONE role (Major. side. EYE!)

If you read #2, then I don’t need to explain this. And yes this happens. Take a look at and They’re crawling with this type of crap from #1 and #2.

I could keep going, but I think you get my point now.

All I’m offering is this:

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or an 80-hour work week to do a little research. The next time you find yourself in a staff meeting or a one-on-one review with an employee complaining about how you are not meeting goals, and questioning why you can’t retain or attract the right hire, ask yourself if your leadership is mirroring some of these dreaded HR techniques.


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