I read an interesting article recently about the role company board directors can play in the marketing of an organisation.

InIn my dealings with company leaders, especially CEO’s, I have found that one of their real frustrations is based around defining the role of the Board? How can our Board add value to the company? How can the directors feel valued and engaged? It’s all about setting policy and staying away from the day to day operations of the business isn’t it?… leave all that to the hired help!

A two second Google search reveals the ‘wiki list’ on the role of the board. Typically the responsibility of a company board of directors is to govern the organisation by establishing:

• broad policies and objectives;
• selecting, appointing, supporting and reviewing the performance of the CEO,
• ensuring the availability of adequate financial resources;
• approving annual budgets;
• accounting to the stakeholders for the organisation’s performance; and
• setting the salaries and compensation of company management.

What wiki doesn’t add are the two Strategy1st maxims. Firstly that the purpose for each Board Director is to offer the three ‘Ws’ – Wealth, Wisdom and Work and the second ‘noses in’ and ‘fingers out’! Set policy and let the employees to their jobs.
And herein lays the reason why I liked the Coumau, Fletcher and French article “Engaging boards on the future of marketing.” It questions the benefits of having boards engage with the fast paced evolution of marketing, and raises some interesting thoughts and questions, about how they can add value to the big issues in a business that matters.

When CEO’s are looking to make some fundamental changes in the company’s growth goals and build enthusiasm for new ‘customer engagement’ ideas, the best way to transition this change starts with enthusing the board.
The articles cites an example of the CEO of an Asian Technology Company taking his directors on a tour to visit ‘innovators’ and ‘peer companies’ in the United States and (later) Europe to instil in the board members a shared sense on the need for change by understanding the new customer engagement marketing strategies necessary to keep pace with the changes within the sector.
This initiative created a sense of urgency about the companies needs to diversify its marketing to a wide range of channels.

The article goes further to explain how the board can play a valuable role in helping management to identify and initiate beneficial marketing strategy and organisational change, with initiatives which would have been difficult for managers to envision on their own.
“At a global luxury group, for example, a board member helped management to see the importance of dramatically increasing its online presence, which led to big changes including new functional skills, organisational capabilities and processes.” The company went further and created a ‘buddy’ system where a board member teamed with a ‘manager’ to investigate innovation. This included tours and team work and shared responsibility for the big picture. Great for the board member and their sense of value and also for the ‘manager’ who spends most of the time working ‘in the business rather than on it’ and misses the big picture topics.

Here are three tips on improving board engagement:

1. Include a strategy day in your calendar of meetings where the board workshop big picture topics
2. Get your board composition right in terms of the right skills, set against your company strategic priorities
3. Keep the board involvement strategic, but you can get board members with specialised expertise to work closely with manager heads ‘between meetings’ and therefore enhance the conduit of communication back to the board. In this instance both the board member and the manager would take this communication responsibility.

Grant O’Hara
Director Strategy1st