The marketing leader’s guide to unblocking creativity, eliminating silos, and driving meaningful impact — together
Tired of “good enough” marketing?
Does your marketing ever feel formulaic? Maybe even a little generic? More reactive than proactive? It gets the job done, but there’s just something missing.
You know that your team is capable of creating something remarkable, but it can be hard to break free from old ways of working that may be holding you back.
This is the curse of “good enough” marketing.
It doesn’t stem from a lack of effort, talent, or passion. The fact is, even the most creative and experienced Marketing teams are in a tough spot. They’re juggling competing priorities and ambitious goals while adapting to hybrid work.
We’ve been there too. In early 2020, Mural’s Marketing team could practically fit in an Uber Pool. Two years later, we have upwards of 50 full-time marketers on the team. We’ve grown — a lot — and we’ve experienced the opportunities and challenges that have come with that growth. With new team members joining all the time, and priorities shifting in these uncertain times, we’ve had to adapt. We knew we needed to improve the way we worked together, both as a Marketing team and as part of the larger company ecosystem.
Now, we’re excited to share what we’ve learned. In this guide, we’ll share tips and templates for:
Connection: Build trust and get everyone engaged
Communication: Break down silos and collaborate efficiently
Creativity: Encourage creative problem-solving
Strategy: Put your ideas into action
Marketing campaigns and programs are complex — but collaboration doesn't have to be
In this guide, we'll dive into the details of this template. We will also share more practical tips and templates for Marketing teams who want to break out of the "good enough" box.
Team building in a remote or hybrid environment
“When I joined Mural’s Marketing team in the early days of Covid, I was nervous. What would it be like to start a new job while working remotely? How would I get to know my teammates? Would I feel awkward speaking up in meetings?" – Shauna Ward, Sr. Content Marketing Manager, Mural
Many teams are working in a state of disconnection — from each other, from company goals, and from the collaborative flows that make innovation possible.
People are stuck in meetings. Teams are trapped in silos. Everyone is drowning in a sea of tools.
We felt this challenge acutely when we began to rapidly grow our team in 2020. New employees had to onboard and make connections through a screen, often without every meeting their teammates in person. Meanwhile, longtime employees had to adapt to new teammates, workflows, and processes. (And all of this in the midst of a global pandemic!)
In the absence of hallway chats, casual coffee breaks, and water cooler moments, we found ourselves struggling to truly connect. Through trial and error, however, our Marketing team found ways to connect and build trust in spite of the distance.
Building connection with icebreakers and warmups
Icebreakers tend to get a bad rap. After all, no one wants to be put on the spot to share a "fun fact" about themselves. But when done right, icebreakers and warmups are an excellent way to:
Introduce new team members
Get to know colleagues better
Reduce shyness and get people comfortable
Help participants familiarize themselves with digital tools
Keep participants focused and away from distractions
Encourage individual self-expression
Bond with coworkers on an emotional level
Develop empathy and strengthen your team dynamic
Improve and increase team-wide communication
Boost creative thinking
And they don't have to be complicated! For example, our Content Marketing team starts their weekly meetings with a simple check-in, in which they share a gif that represents their mood for the day.
Building a culture of psychological safety is a critical part of a leader's job. Team members need to feel safe, respected, and trusted in order to do their best work. This includes the ability to share bold ideas, take risks, ask hard questions, respectfully disagree with one another, and even make mistakes.
While psychological safety can grow naturally, it can also be designed and codified in a social contract. Our Marketing team held a workshop with a third-party facilitator who empowered us to have difficult conversations about what was working and what wasn't. We explored questions like:
What can we count on each other for?
What is our team's purpose?
What is the reputation we aspire to have?
What do we need to do differently to achieve that reputation and fulfill our purpose?
Social contracts then make answers to these questions explicit in a working agreement between members. Setting specific expectations matters more than you may think. Document your team’s best practices around when to meet, how members should prepare for meetings, rules around asynchronous work, general behavior guidelines, and more.
For instance, a simple list of general rules of engagement for a team to agree on might look like this:
Avoid meetings that are before or after hours for teammates in different time zones.
If you have to schedule a meeting for an early or late slot due to time zones, ask those who are inconvenienced if that’s acceptable.
Meetings are for discussion and decision-making. For most status updates and info shares, create a video recording to be watched prior to gathering as a group.
Come prepared. If there's pre-work to do, like watching a video or reviewing the agenda, complete it before the meeting.
Reserve judgement of others’ ideas and ask for clarification before challenging them.
It’s ok to disagree so long as you do so respectfully.
Implement an explicit turn-taking technique to ensure everyone has had a chance to speak — e.g., popcorning or passing the ball.
“As our go-to-market team grew, it got harder to keep everyone in the loop about product updates, messaging, and activations. Now, we host twice-monthly marketing update sessions using Mural and Zoom. We give each session a theme, and my team does an incredible job of making them fun and informative.” – Sean Lauer, Sr. Director, Product Marketing, Mural
As our Marketing team matured, roles became more specialized and our output increased exponentially. It became much harder to stay aligned, and we unintentionally created silos where none had been before. Meanwhile, the status update meetings we were accustomed to became unmanageable and unproductive. With so much going on, we also struggled to communicate our strategy and plans to the larger organization.
We needed a communication overhaul.
Asynchronous communication: To meet or not to meet?
Ever feel like you're drowning in meetings?
According to Harvard Business Review, 71% of senior managers across a range of industries said meetings are unproductive and inefficient. That’s probably because most of the topics covered in those meetings could’ve been covered asynchronously.
Asynchronous communication (also called async) is any type of communication where the involved parties contribute at different times.
At Mural, we have team members across multiple continents and countless timezones, so it's not always feasible for us to collaborate in real time. Fortunately, we can get a lot of our work done asynchronously — but that doesn't mean people are working in silos.
There are a few things to consider when evaluating what should be done asynchronously vs. synchronously.
Simple vs. complex: How difficult is it to explain? Can you provide clarity easily without a discussion?
Low-stakes vs. high-stakes decisions: How important are these decisions? Who will they impact?
Few vs. many people involved: Who needs to be involved? Is it a cross-functional task?
Time-sensitive: Is this urgent? Is it a bottleneck for other tasks?
"How should we talk to customers about this new product feature?"
These are all common questions we used to hear from other teams at Mural, including our Sales and Customer Success counterparts. We used to share updates via Slack, but that wasn't enough to make the information stick. Besides, how many times have you ignored a notification because you're in the middle of something?
We needed a better way to keep everyone at Mural informed about what the Marketing team was working on.
While we typically encourage teams to share updates asynchronously to maximize everyone's time, that's not always the right solution. At Mural, we've found that live, interactive sessions are a fun and effective way to keep everyone informed.
The key word here is interactive. One-way presentations should be avoided at all costs. Meanwhile, interactive sessions are a great way to get everyone involved and invested. They allow folks to ask questions in real time and share their own insights from the field. We also record our live sessions for people to review later.
We still share information via other channels too, like Slack and our company wiki — but alignment has increased since we implemented these biweekly sessions.
In the past, it wasn't always easy for Marketing team members to find the information they needed. Ideas, strategies, and plans were scattered across different tools and not always kept up-to-date. (On the opposite end of the spectrum is something just as sinister: information overload.)
This is where the Marketing Campaign Planning Process template comes in. We created this template to serve as our single source of truth for any marketing campaign or program — much like a campaign brief and a collaborative workspace rolled into one. One member of our Integrated Marketing team leads each marketing initiative, and that person is responsible for completing and updating the template. That doesn't mean they do it alone — they get support from every Marketing function, from Product Marketing to Marketing Operations and beyond.
The goal is to include all the details that team members and stakeholders will need throughout the process in a thorough but easy-to-understand format. As our team goes through the planning and execution process, we continually update this resource.
The template includes sections for:
Creative & content concepting
Production & launch plans
Team meeting notes
Output & outcomes
At any point, anyone in the organization can review this resource and find any information they need about the initiative or campaign.
Methods to unlock everyone’s best ideas
“Our team is very intentional about creating space for everyone — including our Sales and Customer Success teams — to contribute and get creative, especially when it comes to cross-functional campaign planning and enablement.” – Mariza Melendez, Manager, Enterprise Demand Generation, Mural
The most impactful marketing campaigns aren't always complex, expensive, or flashy — but they are creative. They solve a business problem in a clever way. As advertising mogul David Ogilvy put it, "If it doesn't sell, it isn't creative."
It's easy for Marketing teams to fall back on the same old tactics, channels, and messaging because they're "good enough." We certainly faced this challenge as we scaled our Marketing team. We were moving quickly to achieve our goals, and sometimes that came at the expense of creativity. After all, we didn't have time to wait around for inspiration to strike.
But not only does that mentality stunt your ability to be remarkable, it's also inherently flawed. Great ideas don't just happen; they're created.
So, what is the secret to unlocking your team's best ideas and elevating your marketing?
Great ideas can come from anywhere (and anyone)
Creative ideas can come from anyone, not just creatives, and people are greater together than apart.Marketing teams should always seek to include a diverse range of voices when kicking off a new project or campaign.
This may sound risky — we've all experienced the challenge of having too many cooks in the kitchen — but don't worry. We're not advocating for marketing anarchy. We've found success in including cross-functional team members in the brainstorming and ideation phases of a project. Then, the core team can take those ideas, develop them into a strategy, and execute accordingly.
Methods for unlocking creativity
When you make creativity intentional, you can bake that elusive "aha" moment into your process. Let's take a look at three tried-and-true methods Marketing teams can use to spark new ideas and solve hard problems together.
Bring order to the chaos with mind maps, the simplest way to organize disparate ideas and uncover how they're connected. When you're not sure where to start, mind mapping can help.
Sometimes, the best ideas come from unusual places. Alternative Worlds is a brainstorming method from LUMA that encourages participants to ask "What would ____ do?" It pushes everyone to adopt a completely different mindset during the brainstorming and problem solving process. Get started (and maybe get a little weird!) with this template.
Turn ideas into action, and action into impact
“Over the past year, we've completely transformed the way we plan and execute marketing campaigns. We designed a repeatable process that works for everyone, and we created a Mural template that we use for every new program and campaign. Now, our process is predictable — but our strategies and campaigns are not." – Jessica Zech, Sr. , Integrated Campaigns, Mural
You've built a strong team, created effective communication channels, and unlocked creative solutions to tough marketing problems. Now, it's time to take your ideas and put them into action.
For a lot of Marketing teams, this is where things fall apart. Standardizing processes, producing content, hitting deadlines — and above all, producing real, measurable results. With so many moving pieces, it can be tough to collaborate and stay aligned.
Executing on your ideas
How did our Marketing team approach this challenge? You guessed it — the Marketing Campaign Planning Process template comes to the rescue again. We created this template to help us stay on track and keep everything in one place. It's much more than a checklist or even a project plan. It serves as a flexible space for everything from brainstorming to tracking our progress toward our goals.
🗺 Campaign planning
Positioning and research
🎨 Creative & content concepting
📋 Campaign briefs
🤝 Team meetings
Planning kickoff meeting
Strategy refinement meeting
Campaign overview meeting
Production kickoff meeting
🚀 Production & launch
Links to drafts of content & creative
📈 Output & outcomes
Links to final assets
It's a lot, we know! Your approach to campaign planning may be less (or more) complex. The important thing is that team members have a centralized workspace that visualizes your process and aggregates key information about the campaign. Then, everyone has what they need to collaborate — in meetings and asynchronously — and execute on a shared vision.
Mural for Marketing teams
Mural is a collaborative intelligence company. We create cultures of effective collaboration and increase the innovation capacity of the enterprise — connecting and empowering everyone to deliver business-driving outcomes.
With Mural, you can collaborate with your Marketing team in a shared digital workspace. Choose from hundreds of templates to jumpstart collaboration, or start with a blank whiteboard and let your creativity run wild.
Shauna Ward is a senior content marketing manager at MURAL. As a former remote work skeptic, she enjoys creating resources that help hybrid and distributed teams make collaboration fun, easy, and effective.