Don Draper Needed Corporate Communications Help


Note: Out of respect for the DVR-ers of the world, the spoilers inside this blog post don’t involve this week’s episode.

At FLIRT, we’re no stranger to the politics, intrigue, infighting, seduction, lying, infidelities and betrayal on display on any given episode of Mad Men (and that’s just the office side of the show). For all of this season, the staff seems… listless, at loose ends, walking on, around, and through each other. That Bob guy never seems to have anywhere to be, but he’s still all over the place. Half the secretaries aren’t where they’re supposed to be. Processes don’t seem to be defined or get defined on the spot by people who may or may not have the power to actually make them.

And the merger with rival firm CGC has only served to exacerbate that problem. People are sharing offices, the conference table is short chairs for all the partners, and no one knows who’s allowed to hire and fire whom. If you had to work in an office where you didn’t know your position, your role, your responsibilities, or even what office you were in, how long would you stay?

On top of all of this complexity and undefined structure, you have Don Draper and Ted Chaough. For a little backstory – two seasons ago, Ted was proclaiming that his was the up and coming firm, taking Don and his team on at every turn. Don was so threatened by Ted that while both vying over Honda, Don out-foxed Ted into over-spending on a pitch.

Now here they are, nominal partners with a long history of being adversaries. They are expected to co-captain this new big ship through choppy waters. Getting Chevy is only the beginning, as the two sets of teams need to work together to achieve the true capabilities of the combined team. Currently, alignment hasn’t changed post merger: they both talk in terms of “us” and “them.” So it doesn’t take long for things to come to a head.

But it didn’t have to be like this. Weaving two teams together into one cohesive unit is something a corporate communication company could have made easy. This weaving is less about trimming redunant staff and more about getting a disparate group of people to come together, build trust in each other, and grow thier company.

So what could a corporate communication company have done for Sterling Cooper Draper Price Culter Gleason and Chaough?

Align everyone to a single, shared vision

Ultimately, getting ten, a hundred, or a thousand employees to work as a team without a shared vision is near impossible. First things first, define that vision. Is theirs a firm that will chase every new lead or grow slowly, hand-picking new brands to add to its client list? Are they upstarts who do whatever it takes to land the client? Or are they an established firm who wouldn’t stoop to paying two ladies to fight over a ham in the grocery store? Who are they? Where are they going? What do they expect to find when they get there? Understanding, shaping and defining such a vision doesn’t come naturally, even to a firm who does it for their clients. They could have really used some help.

Define communiation processes


As two seperate account teams pitch to two different beverage companies (a no-no: it’s a conflict of interests to have two competing companies under an agency’s purview), it becomes clear that communication has broken down. Ted communicates in memo form. Sadly, no one on Don’s team likes to read memos. They’re used to having a single accounts leader to manage prospects between accounts staff members. Ted prefers structure and Don prefers the chaos. One isn’t necessarily better than the other, but together, it keeps the walls between the two teams up. A corporate communications firm would be able to identify the different styles of communication and suggest a merging strategy.

Shape roles and responsibilities

Take Harry Crane’s secretary, Scarlett. Who does she report to, Harry or Joan? Who gets to decide if she gets fired? What happens when those people make unilateral decisions? Who has to play referee? Those kinds of questions can be considered by a corporate communications firm well before thinsg play out in real life.

And again, what exactly does Bob Benson do?! Even Roger Sterling does some work now and then.

Merging teams, in both fictional and real-world situations is not easy. Sometimes companies need the assistance of someone from the outside: providing expertise and perspective that just isn’t possible internally. Even the great Don Draper could have used a lot of help navigating these shark-infested and rock-strewn waters. And if Don and Peggy have trouble doing it, what chance do the rest of us have?

If you’re looking for some professional help with your internal corporate communications, reach out to us. We’d love to help.

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