Building a Powerhouse MarComm Team

Simple Steps for Building a Powerhouse MarComm Team from the Ground Up


Building a powerhouse marketing communications team is no easy feat. It takes a lot of planning and strategy, but what Christine Hutchins, Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Mount Holyoke College, found was that setting expectations, using the right processes and employing a heavy dose of EQ helped make the experience less complicated.

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Christine transformed the Office of Communications and Marketing at Mount Holyoke from silo-centric units into a truly integrated marketing and communications powerhouse. She applied more than 20 years of marketing, communications, sales and development experience to lead the charge for change on campus. From Deutsche Bank to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to marketing for Stanford athletics, Christine leveraged the best practices she picked up along the way to develop a high performing team of marketers.

To elevate the brand equity and reputation of Mount Holyoke College, the oldest women’s college in the United States located 90 miles west of Boston, Christine set out to deliver measurable results through fact-based, data-driven business practice. While doing that, initiatives that started with her team transformed not only the department, but the entire campus. The process began by setting expectations, using the right processes and finally, tapping into her EQ.

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Setting Expectations and Partnership Promises

Christine opened her Converge 2017 keynote with a simple, but profound thought for the audience to consider: “You assume that people know what your expectations are…they don’t.”

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Whether you are dealing with your team, a client or another constituent like the VP of Academic Affairs, it is important to write out and share your expectations. Being transparent with roles and responsibilities and fully discloses expectations and what they should expect from you as a supervisor creates an open-door policy.

When it comes to campus leadership, like the VP of Academic Affairs, Christine will approach the individual and say: “Do you mind if I share with you what I expect of myself when I work with you?” When they say yes, she may say, “I want to hold regularly scheduled meetings. I want us be able to challenge each other. I want to be held accountable to decisions that are made.” She has found that this builds bridges and helps with achieving buy-in. This full-disclosure approach was critical and fundamental to building a strong team with trusting relationships throughout campus and with vendors.

Relationships +Trust = Critical Success Factor

Using the Right Processes

It all started with a gap analysis. Christine assessed what wasn’t working in her new department and what would need to be implemented to make sure that her department’s goals could be achieved. It became apparent that there needed to be a process. Mount Holyoke implemented a job request form that was the basis for a service agreement with the MarComm team’s internal clients.


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Once submitted, this form feeds into a tool called Podio, a cloud-based collaboration tool that keeps track of all of the jobs submitted, who is responsible for them and key dates for the project. Podio shows who is accountable for a specific part of a project and helps illustrate what the workflow looks like from inception to delivery. This brought sanity to the process and continued to win buy-in from her team and across campus.

EQ: The Glue that Holds It All Together

Emotional Quotient (EQ) is the ability to sense, understand and apply the power of emotions to facilitate high levels of collaboration and productivity. This was an especially important part of the journey and helped Christine understand the specific approach she should take to make progress with individuals and groups across campus. She quickly realized that educating her stakeholders, which included administration, faculty and students was necessary. Developing a common understanding of the Office of Marketing and Communications’ role and the integrated communications and marketing model was imperative to the ongoing success of campus initiatives. Empathy and social skills helped Christine and her team understand how to approach interact with stakeholders on a regular basis. Without embracing her EQ and understanding what drove specific behaviors that Christine and her team had to undo, the team’s goals would have been much more difficult to achieve.

Making It a Reality on Your Campus

While there is not any rocket science involved (her words) with any of these three steps, this approach allowed Mount Holyoke to systematically implement their objectives and make building a powerhouse Marketing and Communications team a reality.

What do you think? Have you leveraged any of these strategies on your own teams? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Josh Irons
Josh Irons
April 11, 2017