From the Trenches: I’m Not Here to Make **it Pretty 

By Mercedez Thompson, MA, CP APMP, Shipley BDC

Note: This article is an adaptation of a piece originally written for the Zweig Letter 

In recent years, we’ve finally seen the efforts of national organizations like APMP—as well as the grassroots work of marketers inside their firms—pay off. Marketing professionals are being recognized for the important role they play in brand awareness and differentiation, business development, proposal management, and client satisfaction. Simply put, marketing is critical to profitability and people know it. 

Or do they? 

Just when I get to thinking that we’ve made some serious strides—increased awareness around women’s issues in the workplace, addressed the need for diverse and inclusive teams, implemented flexible work policies to meet working parents where they are, and proved, time and time again, the immense value marketers bring to proposal management—some (well-meaning?) coworker drops something on my desk in the 11th hour and asks me to make it pretty

They say this as if it 1) excuses the blatant disregard of my time, and 2) is somehow complimentary. As in, well sure it’s due today but I just need you to glam it up a bit. As in, I’ve seen what you all are capable of—really nice job on (insert recent deliverable) by the way— so I’m sure it will look great when you’re done

Make it pretty. Regardless of intention, this one never sits right. In fact, let’s just take it out of our vocabulary altogether folks. Typically, even entry-level marketing positions require a four-year degree. Lately, I’ve seen senior-level postings calling for an advanced degree and/or professional certification on top of 10+ years of experience. We want candidates who win billions of dollars’ worth of work, manage large teams of technical and marketing staff, communicate like the POTUS’s Public Relations Lead, sell like Amazon, write like a best-selling author, lay out a page like the New York Times, develop a complex visual like a graphic designer, coach interviews like it’s March Madness. We want the best of the best, a marketing team that will manifest all those lofty sales numbers we throw out in our quarterly business meetings. 

Then we get them, and managers undervalue their contribution and skillset by saying things like, “We will handle this, but we’ll need you to make it pretty.” This sentiment becomes even more problematic when directed toward women, who have been historically associated with synonymous phrases like doll up or glam up.  

A result of marketing should, in fact, be consistent, professional-looking, and aesthetically pleasing documents, proposals, collateral, and presentations, but that is neither the main goal of marketing nor where marketers add the most value. 

Marketers give you an edge over the competition and build business through market research, strategic planning, client development, proposal management, and brand recognition, among other activities. They help you think like your audience, develop clear messaging, and win work. It’s about time we modify our language and behaviors to reflect that contribution. 

About Mercedez: 

Mercedez Thompson finds and shares a firm’s unique stories to connect with clients and build business. As a Proposal Manager at Burns & McDonnell, Mercedez collaborates with business development and project management leadership to define distinctive value propositions and execute proposal win strategy within the Water practice. She has extensive experience in all phases of the proposal lifecycle including positioning, technical content development, proposal management, and shortlist interviewing.