Why getting your message straight is good for your whole company.

Those of us who labor over the hot stoves of frontline communication get pretty tired of seeing “marketing” tacked onto the end of a product release cycle. The fact is, every element of the design and delivery of a service or product is part of an integrated whole. It’s a system whose parts are designed to work together. Like the old adage says, nothing will hurt a brand faster than good advertising for a bad product

Taking this understanding a step deeper, it’s also true that a company or organization’s mission is inextricably wrapped around its messaging. Mission and messaging are two strands of the same thread of a brand’s DNA. They are distinct from each other, but they can’t be separated. I think of them as yin and yang. There is a dot of each in the other, and you can’t move one without moving the other, but they are distinct.

One the manifestations of this truth is that a message that is clearly understood by everyone in the company has the catalytic effect of aligning everyone’s intentions and energies toward the same goal. It’s really simple cultural physics. And this leads to a story….

Every once in a while in your professional life you have a moment when you realize that you’re getting through. This story is about messaging alignment, and the joy of getting through.

We’ve had the good fortune of serving Sugarman, a Boston-based personal injury law firm. This small but influential firm prides themselves in a careful, scholarly approach to law, open and honest dialog with their clients and cooperative and supportive relationships between all of their lawyers.


If you’ve ever worked in a professional service office, you know that most are completely dependent on their senior administrator. The quietly unassuming title “Firm Administrator” could be replaced with the far more accurate “Firm Lynchpin.” At Sugarman this role is played with confidence and good- natured competence by Janice Hayes. I’ve never heard her bitch, even when her emails are time-stamped on a holiday weekend.


One afternoon we had the whole place torn up and turned into a photo set. The main conference room had been turned into a hair and makeup studio, a supply closet had been turned into a wardrobe depot, and a senior partner’s corner office was filled with lights, monitors and jeans-clad techs.

Between takes, as we rushed from one end of the suite to the other, and totally out of the blue, Janice stopped and said to me: “I think I get this, Mitch. This is really about organizational transformation, isn’t it?”

I was stopped in my tracks. I still am stopped in my tracks. Yes, Janice. This is about organizational transformation. It is only about organizational transformation. What you know and believe about your organization has everything to do with what others know and believe about your organization.

Marketing doesn’t exist in a vacuum. You can’t break marketing apart from the whole and hope that it will work like a magic wand. And if you’re not ready to transform and improve your whole organization, then you’re not ready for marketing.

It’s that simple. Ask Janice. She knows.

This article originally appeared on Here it is Tomorrow Again, a blog that I published between 2008 and 2011.

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