Content Dissemination

Subject: Content Dissemination
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: techwr-l digest recipients <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 08 Sep 2000 14:34:16 -0700

<anonfwd -at- raycomm -dot- com> wrote:

>How do you all handle other departments reusing or re-purposing the
>content that you put together.


>Here's the situation:
>1. Marketing materials that are inaccurate and actually have miss-truths
>included in them.
>2. No control over what information marketing/sales re-purposes.
>3. Developers circulating information to marketing or sales. (I say
>information because that's basically what the documents are, there is no
>formatting or stylistic constraints and the information is left up to
>marketing/sales to 'interpret').
>4. Big Fat lies about functionality in our license agreements. Which now
>means we have to bust butt to magically develop these things for delivery.
>Additionally, we have included significant amounts of our source code in
>the agreements.

The first thing you need to do is focus on the real problem. The
problem is not that other departments are reusing material for
purposes that it wasn't originally intended for. They have every
right to do so, and making you the gatekeeper for R&D material
won't really address the problems of this situation. Nor is the
formatting for marketing material really an issue for you unless
you're involved in it.

The problem is that the material is being mis-used. As a result,
people in the company are being put to more trouble, and the
company faces major PR problems, if not actual lawsuits, if it
doesn't deliver on the promises that the marketing department is

Another issue: what is marketing doing creating licensing
agreements? That should be done by a lawyer, possibly with input
from marketing, but, more importantly, with input from a product
manager or development leader who understands the issues
involved. A licensing agreement is not PR. It's a legal document
that could seriously affect the future of the company.

I also have to ask: are you sure that marketing is actually
lying? In most of the cases in which I've seen marketing
over-promise, it's not because of deliberate lies. Usually, it's
the case that marketers are professional optimists, and trying to
promote something that they don't really understand. This can be
very embarrassing (personally, I still have nightmares about a
marketer who told a major partner that its beta demo was too hard
to install because he didn't know how to uncompress a file).
However, if you start assuming that the marketers are lying,
you're well on your way to demonizing them. That may be
emotionally satisfying, but it does't lead to any solution.

If they're not lying, then education may be all that is
necessary. Although marketing techniques can be transferred to
many different products, effective marketing - let alone ethical
marketing - simply cannot be done without a knowledge of the
product. Consultation, seminars, and an insistence that the
marketers all use the product as often as possible (assuming that
that's possible) could all be useful.

If they are deliberately misleading clients, then maybe the
simplest solution is to implement a technical review of all
marketing material. Such a review may slow down the release of
material, but, if insisted upon, it can save the company
considerable trouble later on.

Another possiblity may be a small marketing manual of maybe 30
pages, outlining what can be said, and, possibly what can't be
said about the product line.

Whatever you decide, you need to get the bosses on line. Get the
company lawyer to be concerned; if the situation is as you
suggest, the lawyer will be a strong ally. After all, the
lawyer's the one who will have to clean up if there's any
fallout. The heads of the company or its owners might be enlisted
for the same reason. And, of course, you'll need to enlist the
marketing lead to have any chance of implementing changes.

In other words, if you are intent on improving the situation, you
need to muster all your diplomatic skills. Don't be quick to
assume deceit, and keep focused on the problem. Some people might
say that it's not your concern, but the consequences of the
situation you describe could affect the entire company.

Bruce Byfield, Outlaw Communications
Contributing Editor, Maximum Linux
bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com | Tel: 604.421.7189

"There's a bully in the alley: he'll do his worst,
There's a bully in the alley: he won't fear your curse,
There's a bully in the alley: get your boot in first,
That's what they tell us."
- Oyster Band, "Bully in the Alley"

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