Dirty IT job No. 4: Marketing hag
Wanted: Dynamic go-getter who speaks (or can, at least, fake) fluent geek with the ability to transform interesting concepts into salable products. Expertise in personal grooming and a working B.S. detector are required.
Relations between IT and marketing departments have never been exactly toasty. Geeks think marketers are too stupid to understand technology -- which is, of course, the only thing that matters. Mar-com types would like them to change their shirts more often and learn to speak in English, not Acronymish.
[ InfoWorld dishes the inside scoop on the devious tricks vendors use to get their hands in your pockets in "Dirty vendor tricks" ]
Beyond the stereotypes, though, most technology companies would not survive without somebody out there crafting the right message.
"Someone has to slap some lipstick on this pig to get it sold and that is the marketing hag," says Robin Bectel, vice president of New Venture Communications. "The tech team may build a product they think is really cool, but it might not be what the market wants. It could do a million things, but there may be only a few functions that make it something people actually want to buy. We help bring their dreams into reality."
The dirty part? Techies often play a little fast and loose with the truth. But it's the marketing hag who catches hell for it.
"You have no idea how many times a client or boss has looked me in the eye and sworn a product was ready for prime time when it was barely into alpha," she says. "The features and benefits you tout as ground-breaking you find out later haven't even been built yet. You usually get the full story only when you ask for a review version to send for a tech shoot-out. By then, your reputation is shot and you have to salvage whatever brand you have left."
It gets worse, says Brenda Christensen, principal at Stellar Public Relations.
"You're asked to write a fictional press releases about 'expansion' into 'new offices,' but when you dial the number it's some knitting group in Brazil," she says. "Or you're asked to throw a 'TM' after a product name, only to find out later it's not really trademarked. Or you have a unit put through testing, only to find out from the review editor that someone Krazy Glued the power button back on. I had to cry to get out of that one. I could go on and on."
Then there are the little things not included in the job description, says Christensen -- like having to persuade the programmer/CEO to change his sweat-stained shirt before a big photo shoot or teaching him how to tie a tie in the back of cab on the way to a meeting. And, of course, handling their disappointment when their whizzy new product fails to make the front page of the Wall Street Journal or TechCrunch.
"The geek personality is very different," says Bectel. "I've worked in a lot of different markets, and techies have much higher expectations for coverage than virtually any one else. It's because they're so passionate about what they do, and they expect everyone else to be equally passionate about it."