Hire the best
Hire the best. No. Not just the best. Hire better than you. Hire the skills you don't have.
Maybe not better at everything – I’m hoping you have some talents of your own (luck not counted). But better in an important dimension.
We all might mock when Dominic Cummings said he wanted to “hire an unusual set of people with different skills and backgrounds,” but he didn’t just ask for ‘weirdos’. The actual list included data scientists and software developers; economists; policy experts; project managers; and communication experts. You should have your own list and fill it with people who can give you answers you don’t immediately understand; people who know more about their specialisms than you do.
You need to know something – that’s why I just did an excellent UC Davis course in content marketing recommended by the legendary Bob Jones – but the CMO is there to have the strategy. You don’t need to master every detail so long as you know what mastery looks like.
And once you have hired those people, the best, you must keep developing them. Let them try new things, not just what you hired them for, let them learn and grow and get better still.
The best internal comms person I’ve worked with came from an events background. She was instrumental in delivering what I thought was a vital strategic change – owning and running events we could control, rather than doing 3rd party ones. She aced it, but after a few years was restless and we agreed to move her to internal comms where she proved to have a fire for ensuring best practice, coupled to the ability to innovate that comes with fresh thinking.
One of the best PR people I’ve had was an engineer first, and while in the comms team was instrumental in creating a new product line that was born out of a marketing programme. He very rarely considered his job title a limit on what he did each day.
But any story that goes on long enough has a sad part; you have to be ready to accept when you have to let them go. That internal comms person who started in events went off to become an independent consultant and entrepreneur before taking further senior internal roles. That engineer is with one of the biggest Chinese games companies, after a spell at Meta. Each left a legacy in how I work that echoes long after they’ve gone.
If you don't hire for a team the principle still applies to how you fill out your core network, they people who you can go to to fill out your offerings, deliver your projects, sound ideas off. Find your people. The best.