Give Your CS Project Sponsors the Royal Treatment

Melissa Rach

Tonight, I’m headed to my first official “slumber party” in quite some time. My daughter and I are bunking with all the aunties, cousins, and grannies in anticipation of the royal wedding coverage—which starts at a painfully early 3:00 a.m. for us.

I know. It’s wrong on so many levels—there’s the anti-monarchy angle, the feminist issues, and it’s at 3-freakin’-a.m. But, my preschool daughter loves princesses and brides, and I’m a sucker for feel-good pageantry. So, we’ll be there, bleary-eyed in our jammies, celebrating Wills and Kate with toasts of the multigrain-with-butter variety.

Kate: “What? I’m on the BT blog? Now I’m really famous.” The official portrait photographs for the engagement of Prince William and Miss Catherine Middleton. (Copyright 2010 Mario Testino). 

SAVING the monarchy, sponsoring a content strategy project … It’s all the same

However, unlike watching Charles and Diana’s wedding when I was a kid, this time I understand that it’s not all fun and fairytales. I can almost feel the pressure on Kate Middleton from Minnesota. No doubt she’s getting exactly what she wants, but STILL. As if getting married wasn’t stressful enough, she’s a “commoner” expected to save the British monarchy (in fashionable, but not too extravagant, frocks). 

Odd as it may seem, sponsors of corporate content strategy projects are often under a similar type of pressure. Obviously, they don’t have 130 billion people commenting on their fashion choices, but, like Kate, many are knowingly:

  • Committing themselves to a new role with increased responsibility and prominence
  • Tackling a huge, “mission critical” initiative, where related past efforts have had marginal success (if any)
  • Working in a fast-paced, technically-enhanced environment that their predecessors never knew and contemporaries don’t always understand    
  • Facing political minefields and public scrutiny  

With all that stress, why do they do it? I’d guess both Kate and the project sponsors would say it’s because there’s an exciting opportunity, there’s something they love about it, and they believe they can do it. Additionally, if it all goes well, the benefits for their organizations (not to mention themselves) will be great.

Help your project sponsors be royally successful

As content strategists, we have to be content experts, but we also need to be strategists. Part of the role of a strategist is to help each project sponsor navigate his or her environment. It’s a nice thing to do, and it’ll make the strategy a lot more successful.

So, take a cue from the royal couple’s advisors. When appropriate, don’t be afraid to help your project sponsor:   

  • Be prepared and confident. The future Princess of Wales has a lot to learn, fast. She’s apparently taking lessons in a variety of topics: royal etiquette, dealing with the press, and even the Welsh language. Pob lwc! (That’s “good luck” in Welsh. She’ll need it.)Good strategists ensure project sponsors are similarly prepared. Be sure your project sponsor is armed with knowledge about content strategy best practices, processes, and theories. That way, they can participate fully in project work and talk confidently about content strategy to other stakeholders when necessary.
  • Earn trust from organization leadership. Just last week the Queen gave her official, written consent to the wedding of Prince William and “our trusty and well-beloved Catherine Elizabeth Middleton.” Trusty? Nice work, Kate. I’m guessing the Queen never said that about Fergie. Helping your sponsor earn the trust of the CEO, CMO, or similar stakeholders is critical to strategy buy-in and implementation. Whether it’s creating talking points for your sponsor, giving a presentation, or facilitating a workshop, do what it takes to get leadership on board.
  • Keep stakeholders informed, and interested. The PR wizards from Clarence House have done an excellent job of releasing information about the royal wedding at regular intervals. These timely updates throughout out the wedding preparations have kept everyone apprised of progress and kept them interested.Once the project is underway, make sure your sponsor has regular progress updates to keep stakeholders interested and involved.
  • Get alignment before action. Kate and William were engaged for several weeks before it was announced to the public. That time gave the families and royal advisors a chance to get on the same page, coordinate activities, and come across as a unified, believable front.There’s nothing worse than 11th-hour political controversy—it derails the project and makes your sponsor’s job a nightmare. So, when it’s time to make big announcements around your strategy (introducing the strategic plan, launching strategy implementation, etc.), plan a few days in your schedule to ensure all of the key members of the project and leadership teams are aligned in advance.

And then they lived happily ever after

Take some time to understand each project sponsor’s stress points and alleviate what you can. When project sponsors (and their teams) have a positive project experience, there’s a significantly better chance that strategic recommendations will be approved and implemented. And that’s a happy ending for everybody.

As for William and Kate, I hope they have a happy ending, too. I wish them “longyfarchiadau” (that’s “congratulations” in Welsh). I’d also like to tell them: mae fy hofrenfad yn llawn llyswennod (“my hovercraft is full of eels”). Apparently, it’s a common Welsh phrase.