Don’t Create Strategies or Tactics Without These Critical Insights

by Linda Pophal


So, you’re in the market for a strategic marketing professional. You’ve screened hundreds of applicants, and it’s down to the handful you’ve picked to invite in for interviews. But this is an inherently creative position, and cookie-cutter interview questions about an applicant’s past experience or about their evaluation of their own qualifications might not give you enough insight to pick the right man or woman for the job.

In my experience as head of communications for organizations in industries as diverse as healthcare, energy and education, I had a favorite question I would ask every applicant. A variation of that question is one I’d highly recommend to anyone interviewing for a marketing professional of any kind.

It would go something like this:

“We’d like to do a better job of engaging our target audience through Facebook. How would you do that?”

Asked this question, some applicants would jump right in, developing a generic strategy on the spot, utilizing everything they’d learned in every college marketing class and marketing meeting in previous jobs. Often, these candidates would demonstrate a fair understanding of some fundamental marketing concepts. But the answer I would want to get to that question would go something like this:

“Well, before I can answer that, I’d have a few questions for you—who, specifically, are you trying to reach and what, specifically, are you trying to achieve?”

I would use this type of question as a way of exploring whether the applicant takes a strategic or tactical approach to marketing decisions. Far too often, the responses I received were tactical. They’d describe what they would do on Facebook (or whatever channel or tool I presented them with), rather than taking the time to step back and consider the situation before jumping to a solution.

This may seem like a borderline “gotcha” question, but it exposes something important about the person answering it. Any marketing professional can come up with some basic marketing techniques and recite “best practices.” But when it comes to finding a truly strategic marketing professional, you want to find someone who thinks before they dive in and who has the wherewithal to evaluate where your organization is at before telling you where they think it should be going.

Strategy matters!

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