5 Quick Tips to Smash Silos

Death by Silo by @gapingvoid

Breaking down silos remains a huge issue for communicators.

Either in the context of the current social business buzz or modern integrated marketing, breaking down barriers within a culture to create comprehensive stakeholder experiences only makes sense.

The question then becomes how to break down those silos? Marketing in the Round (co-authored with Gini Dietrich) discusses the topic in depth, but I wanted to provide some quick tips for change agents looking to evolve their organization. Here we go:

1) Convince your executive team. Without executive buy-in, it’s going to be very difficult to empower teams to work together for the larger cause. Use case studies (plenty in the book and online), and market research to demonstrate why this will impact your business.

2) Incentivize teams to succeed. This means changing the way performance is judged. Collective marketing success should be part of everyone’s job review. Even if you allocate just 25% of overall bonus and raise structures, people will become more inclined to work with their peers.

3) Seat people together. It’s easier to talk and work together when people are in each other’s physical presence. Obviously, you can’t do this if you’re a virtual organization, but having cross department functions sit near each other makes discourse and collaboration natural. Dell does a great job of this, and I see it work with Razoo in my own experience.

4) Train your team. Several criticism of Marketing in the Round include the fact that integrating is a base level strategy skill. Truth! But unfortunately, many communications professionals have not been trained, or if they went to school, it’s been years even decades since their last education. A lot has changed, including the rise of social and mobile media. Use training to improve team performance.

5) Rewrite procedures to facilitate integration. Finally, many rules and procedures in older organizations protect siloization. Work with HR to rewrite rules and procedures so that people can move nimbly without fear of reprisal, and communicate a holistic branded experience.

What tips would you offer to break down silos?

If you want more integrate resources beyond Marketing in the Round, please download my 2009 white paper on the Cultural Challenges to Integration.


  • Reorganize so these areas report up through the same senior executive — a single individual who holds all the marketing “balloons” in one hand to provide greater lift — and ensure all of these areas share common goals that come with incentives (i.e., the bonuses referenced), because team members will expend their best efforts wherever the money is.

    •  I agree. It’s the job of the C suite and VPs to make sure that people work to that common goal rather than fight to maintain turf. And incentives are critical to that.

  • I think silos offer some real advantages to the best people in an organization; they are allowed to shine, and their segments love it! But you’re right, it’s a real challenge for pr and marketing. The first hurdle is helping the stars understand that they’ll still be recognized and rewarded, even if the approach is integrated.

    •  Agreed. But unfortunately so many of the people running silos are not the best people, just decent people trying to keep their jobs. Therein lies the problem.  I also agree with you on stars, but believe preaching team is so important now.

  • Nice post here G… co-location is a great push towards bringing down the walls. Biggest challenge for companies is messaging it right and easing into the process and being willing to backtrack and do a do-over if it hinders progress or does not ease relationships.

    Change is always good, but scary at the same time. Forcing the issue could be just as damning as those walled corn holders. 

    •  Yeah, you really have to do a great job explaining why the change is occurring! Even then some folks will run for the hills.

  •  J’ai trouvé votre message d’une telle information instructive et utile sur ce poste, merci pour le partage de la poste.

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