Consulting full-time for nearly the past four years, I've worked with a variety of organizations in several capacities: as needed, on-retainer, and in an interim position. After wrapping up a nine-month contract as the Interim Director of Marketing and Communications for Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles last week, I'm ready to debrief the key points of selecting an interim consultant for organizations who find themselves with an important position to fill while they find the perfect hire.
What is important to look for in a consultant when you have less than ideal lead time to secure an interim? Let's talk about it.
A Working Understanding of the Organization and Industry
When an organization brings on an interim, they likely need them to begin and jump into daily activities immediately (more like yesterday). There are a number of reasons an organization may have a void to fill without rushing the hiring process, but quite often, they don't have the lead time to ease into onboarding and a smooth transition. When I was connected with Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles in November of 2020, their current Director of Marketing and Communications was transitioning to a new position heading up a new department immediately following an upcoming leave. The timing of this coincided with the busiest marketing season for the organization, so they needed someone in the seat who could jump in fast and guide the department through an intense several months of managing multiple high-priority campaigns.
Having previously worked on staff for Girl Scouts prior to consulting and working with various councils in consulting since 2016, I had a deep understanding of the organization, seasons of promotion and priority, terminology, and the organizational structure and priorities. There ended up being about a week and a half overlap between the previous Director and myself, so having this niche knowledge of the organization allowed me to jump into the future of campaigns, already knowing the individual components, deliverables, timing, and goals.
It may not always be possible to find an interim with previous knowledge of the organization, however, connecting with consultants used in the past and conferring with colleagues in the same industry can lead you to an individual with the niche experience needed for a smooth transition.
Comparable Projects and Work Samples
In marketing, especially in nonprofits, even the Director position has to roll up their sleeves and contribute to projects and deliverables. When selecting someone to lead a team, it's important that they have a working knowledge of what they're asking of that team and are willing and able to pitch in. Here are a few things to ask for that will help you get a strong sense of knowledge and experience in the related field:
Tell us about a campaign that you managed and be sure to answer the following in your description:
What defined success and failure?
Please include analytics and campaign results.
What was the planning process for this campaign?
Did you work with a team to create and execute this campaign? If so, please describe your role in the campaign.
Please include a writing and/or graphic design sample:
In your own words, please describe our brand and what we could do to strengthen our marketing?
Multiple and Recent References
To guide a team and help guide your organization through a period of transition, a history of positive working relationships is more important than ever. Asking for more than the usual two to three references can help determine work style, history, and performance.
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