Katie Jane Parkes

AMA: Nexus Communications VP of Creative, Katie Jane Parkes on Stakeholder Management

October 3 @ 10:00AM PST
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Nexus Communications VP of Creative, Katie Jane Parkes on Stakeholder Management
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Katie Jane Parkes
Katie Jane Parkes
Nexus Communications VP of CreativeOctober 3
Yes, definitely. Different teams will have varying context about creative work, so it's important to understand their working knowledge of your craft and how much you will either need to explain or can move quickly on. There will also be stakeholders who literally have more of a stake in your project, and therefore they will likely need more communication and updates as the project progresses. It's helpful at the beginning of a project to set expectations with teams you've never worked with before so they can understand your process. And it will always be helpful for you to ask questions about what each of the teams you're working with expect from the project and what their definition of success is. This will help you tailor your communication style and cadence, and figure out what input you need from different teams early on. My teams have always leveraged the RASCI matrix/model when creating project briefs, and this helps us set the stage for who is involved, who provides what kind of feedback at what stage, and what kind of communication cadence they will need throughout the process. It's really important to get clear on the type of feedback you will be looking to get from different stakeholders so you're not getting feedback that's out of context or coming from people who do not specialize in the topics or discipline you need them to weigh in on. Being specific here also allows the project manager/lead to consolidate feedback much easier and decide which feedback to implement from which teams. I also setup project channels with the key RASCI group members only (responsible, accountable, supporting and consulted) to discuss projects in real time, share key updates or roadblocks, and prep specific team members for feedback sessions and discussions. And then I'd save communication between those who purely need to be informed for larger email updates or individual communications.
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Katie Jane Parkes
Katie Jane Parkes
Nexus Communications VP of CreativeOctober 3
In my experience, the RASCI matrix/model has been incredibly helpful for determining whose feedback to incorporate vs. ignore. The people who need to be consulted and informed are usually the most significant stakeholders and tend to be senior leaders in the organization attached to the project who will sign off on shipping it once it's done. It's integral in getting their feedback early on to help set the direction of the project. With that being said, it is not required to incorporate all of their feedback if it's not going to help the project reach its objective. This question is incredibly tricky to answer, as there are many nuances to incorporating feedback. Ultimately, I feel strongly it is the project leaders call to make on what feedback to incorporate or ignore, as they know the project goals, medium, and message best and should take ownership over the direction of the work. When it comes to timelines and a project is in its final stages, I would keep feedback to a minimum and between the most integral people on the project. Opening up a project for wider critique or further feedback from more teams/people towards the end is bound to cause delays and unnecessary roadblocks. The reality is that in order to do good, fast work, the number of people providing ownership and feedback on a project should be the bare minimum.
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Katie Jane Parkes
Katie Jane Parkes
Nexus Communications VP of CreativeOctober 3
I measure my own success in my role in two ways: 1. The impact I have on my internal team: culture, processes, stakeholder management, leadership, creativity, and team health. 2. The impact my teams work has on the bottom line of the business: how much revenue is our work contributing to, are we influencing repeat business, are we getting good feedback from clients/customers, are we pushing creative boundaries in our discipline, etc. These performance indicators/categories have stayed relatively the same throughout every role I've had. The only difference has been being an individual contributor vs. a lead as I grew in my career. I simply shifted the focus of how I calculated my impact from "I" to "my team" over the years as I've moved into positions of leadership.
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Katie Jane Parkes
Katie Jane Parkes
Nexus Communications VP of CreativeOctober 3
This question is very difficult to answer as it depends on the context and make up of each company and where they've chosen to invest resources depending on business needs. My high level answer is that key stakeholders from other departments will change as the company grows by typically being removed of their stakeholder duties. As companies scale, the hardest thing for people to do is "give away their Legos." But this is absolutely necessary as companies grow and teams and roles become more specialized within specific business units and disciplines. Oftentimes people who may have been involved in certain projects just don't need to weigh in anymore, which can be difficult to accept at first, but better long term, as it helps teams focus.
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Katie Jane Parkes
Katie Jane Parkes
Nexus Communications VP of CreativeOctober 3
I will answer this specific to my creative team, as it's not quite your traditional Demand Gen team. My current video team is about 8 creatives, plus myself. Here's the current makeup: * VP, Creative (me) * Executive Producer * Director of Post-Production * Post-Production Manager * Production Manager * Producer * Editor * Copywriter * Production Assistant I measure the teams impact in the same way I assess my own impact, which is 2 ways: 1. The impact they each have on our internal team: culture, processes, stakeholder management, leadership, and creativity. 2. The impact their work has on the bottom line of the business: how much revenue is their work contributing to, are they influencing repeat business, are they getting good feedback from clients/customers, are they pushing creative boundaries in our discipline, etc. I work with each team member to set individual KPIs/intended outcomes for personal performance each year. These can be fluid and adapt and change depending on the business needs or if they've reached their goals earlier than expected. I have 6 month 360 degree feedback checkins with each employee, consisting of peer feedback and feedback from myself. These help us track how they're working towards their goals and gives them (and me) insight into areas they can improve or grow, which also helps us have constructive conversations around career growth and professional development.
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Katie Jane Parkes
Katie Jane Parkes
Nexus Communications VP of CreativeOctober 3
I love following the typical feedback patterns and cadence in creative work: * V1: get a rough idea, skeleton, "first draft" together and get as much feedback as possible from the highest impact stakeholders * This should happen early in the project timeline so you can use this feedback to help set the direction of the project and shape it into a good working version * There may be several key stakeholders in this stage in order to set the project in motion and answer any outstanding questions and address any major concerns * V2: get a solid version together that feels close to the real thing and only stick to the absolute key stakeholders when reviewing this version * This should happen 1-2 weeks out from launch depending on the type of project and what kind of work is involved * V3: this version should be as close to final as possible and you will usually only want to run this by the person/people who will sign off on the project * This should happen a few days out from launch depending on the type of project and what kind of work is involved * Final delivery: ship it! No more internal feedback, now it's time to get it in the wild and get feedback from your customers/clients/audience in order to make something even better next time
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Katie Jane Parkes
Katie Jane Parkes
Nexus Communications VP of CreativeOctober 3
Make a business case as to why the Demand Gen team should own the decision. This means making an argument based on the positive business impact or outcomes that will occur if the Demand Gen team makes this decision. This argument could include specifics like what skillsets/experience you have on the team, what information or tools you're armed with that other teams aren't, what kind of insights you have about your customers/clients, or what other work is connected to this decision that will benefit from the Demand Gen team's ownership and guidance. It needs to be about what's best for the business and your customers/clients. That is how you move forward without making it political internally. If it's always about what is best for the customer/client/business, then teams should be able to remove their ego from the task and move forward together.
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Katie Jane Parkes
Katie Jane Parkes
Nexus Communications VP of CreativeOctober 3
Here's some steps I would take: * Acknowledge the current state of the relationship, don't shy away from that * Create a team charter for your own discipline/function and share it with the team you have a tense relationship with to reset expectations around how your team works and how you will engage with and work with other teams * Try to plan something fun together that will enhance cultural dynamics and ease tension * Set goals for that quarter/next projects together so you're both approaching upcoming work from a state of collective achievement If these things don't work, then potentially having some mediated conversations with key stakeholders that are causing the tension might be an option in moving forward. Sometimes people need to get things off their chest in a safe space in order to really move on and rebuild trust.
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Katie Jane Parkes
Katie Jane Parkes
Nexus Communications VP of CreativeOctober 3
Here's some actions I might take: * Ask the team members if they feel comfortable addressing the conflict themselves first and highly encourage this (after all, we are all adults in the workplace and responsible for our own actions and behaviours) * If they do not feel comfortable with this, then I would offer to meet with each of them individually to understand the context from each side * I would then ask them to each prepare 3-5 questions they would like to have addressed/answered regarding feedback on their behaviour and the conflict * I would then offer to share this feedback in writing or to host a mediated/facilitated session where we can discuss the conflict via the questions they prepared and give each person space to answer
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Katie Jane Parkes
Katie Jane Parkes
Nexus Communications VP of CreativeOctober 3
I'm not sure I fully understand this question but I will attempt an answer. When working with others without authority, I found the greatest sense of accomplishment came from being the person who involved them, heard them, listened to them, and helped amplify and execute their good ideas. When working with others, coming from that empathic place will always serve you well and will make other people want to help you and work with you to reach your goals. Doing this certainly makes it easier when I need buy-in on other projects, and will just help you generally in your career.
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Katie Jane Parkes
Katie Jane Parkes
Nexus Communications VP of CreativeOctober 3
Not sure I fully understand the question but here are some thoughts on the types of insights I look for from internal stakeholders: * What data and information they have access to/would be helpful for the project * What industry knowledge or competitive analysis do they have/know * What skillsets and experience on their team compliment or enhance the project we're working on * What tools do they use/leverage and can they help us in this project * What are their team's goals/objectives and what does their definition of success look like
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Katie Jane Parkes
Katie Jane Parkes
Nexus Communications VP of CreativeOctober 3
I always do the following in every project: * Meet with internal stakeholders individually to build relationships (if you don't have one) and provide context on your role, your role in the project, and what success looks like to you * Also ask them the same questions to get the same answers for context * Turn the problem/project/business opportunity into a project brief and share that in advance of an internal kickoff meeting for people to review on their own time * This should include a RASCI and acknowledge who will be giving feedback, when, why, and how * Hold/host a kickoff meeting to walk everyone through the project goals, deliverables, and timelines * Create a project chat to keep everyone aligned with updates, roadblocks, etc. * Hold/host regular project standups/meetings for everyone to stay aligned (depending on the size of the project these might need to be frequent or might not be needed) * Stick to your planned feedback loops and stakeholders to avoid feedback ballooning and increasing project scope and timelines * Leverage tools like Asana, Notion, Monday.com, etc. to organize the project, setup workback schedules, and automate processes
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Katie Jane Parkes
Katie Jane Parkes
Nexus Communications VP of CreativeOctober 3
If you're not using a project brief and implementing the RASCI matrix/model then start doing both of these things now. Make sure the project owner is someone who can walk everyone through the brief, is comfortable with being firm about deadlines, keeps feedback loops tight, and sets both clear expectations and boundaries within project roles and responsibilities. Having regular checkins, using project chats for frequent updates, and using tools like Asana, Notion, Monday.com, etc. to keep everyone accountable and on time is also very helpful.
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