Posted By Tim Cifelli June 16, 2017

I recently had the honor to participate in a panel discussion as an ‘industry expert’ during a marketing summit sponsored by one of the country’s largest wealth and retirement advisors. The topic that emerged as the most engaging with the audience was the notion that Silos (ways that businesses and organizations often structure their projects or teams) are preventing truly collaborative and integrated communications campaigns.

In many companies, silos are necessary to maintain order and prevent scope creep; creating borders to better define roles and responsibilities; organizing complementary skills and capabilities; and to manage specific projects and/or service lines, which often come with their own specific budgets. Silos can be a simple and logical way to coordinate within large organizations with numerous goals and business objectives.

However, when those same silos create titanium borders that confine creativity and prevent collaboration across various marketing and communication teams – the very people responsible for pushing out a coordinated and integrated promotional campaign – then your process is getting in the way of success.

For example, how many times has the social media team been notified (often by being cc’ed on a companywide email) on a Friday afternoon that the marketing department is launching a major new initiative on Monday and needs their best ideas?


Communication Silos
After the immediate ‘Da’fuq?’ reaction, the social media’s team next questions are usually: “You want what when? How long have you guys been working on this? And why weren’t we brought into the loop sooner? What are the messages? The goals? Where are the creative assets?” Only a truly gifted and committed team of social media pros will be able to create something decent – and successful – under those conditions. But they will probably no longer trust the department or person who didn’t bother engaging with them sooner which creates even more metaphorical ‘walls’ for the next time.

Then there is the case where the legal team informs the PR and Corporate Communications department that a major business announcement is coming out today and that we need a ‘plan’ to manage reactions among the media, The Street, the industry, the clients, the employees, (you get the point). This is a major event that requires a thoughtful and strategic approach to either ensure the best results or to minimize  fallout (depending on the news). But Legal kept PR out of the loop because the news was ‘sensitive’ or would influence the stock price, or even create an internal shit storm among the staff. But that is EXACTLY the reason why the Legal and PR teams need to work together in advance of any breaking news. But the silos prevent a smart and tactful collaboration.

So what can you do?
There were number of solutions that the attendees of the mar/comm summit suggested to overcome ‘silo-ing’:

  • Identify the other teams/partners needed to build an integrated campaign and Communicate with them EARLY. Be clear about the goals and how success will be measured.
  • Share results – good and bad – so that the next team or department can emulate your success while avoiding similar mistakes.
  • Create inclusive project teams comprised of representatives from each discipline (regardless of where the budget  comes from).
  • Establish a process to enforce these various steps and win buy-in from leadership to help institutionalize collaboration.

Hopefully your organization isn’t hindered by the very infrastructure created to help manage tasks. But if you see silos turning into coffins, then make specific and dedicated efforts to tear down those walls.

As the President and COO of DDCworks, Tim puts his vast experience as a brand strategist to work every day, serving as an invaluable resource for our team, and for our clients.  Email Tim directly at