Why An Executive Sponsor Matters
We've all worked on a project where progress slowed or stalled. Decisions are made, reversed, and work cycles lost. The resources necessary to move forward are not made available. Timelines slip, and the people involved become confused.
A lot of these issues can be headed off with strong Executive Sponsorship. A strong Executive Sponsor can remove roadblocks no one else can. Often we assume that no Executive is going to make time for our projects, but a little preparation (and some small, concrete asks) can go a long way in getting their help.
Selecting Your Sponsor
There are a few qualities you should look for in a potential Executive Sponsor:
Ability to influence other leaders and obtain their support
Authority to approve and assign resources
Some degree of direct control over your stakeholder groups and relevant systems (if applicable)
Bandwidth and desire to be at least somewhat active and visible during this launch (or at least send out a few e-mails on your behalf!)
In other words, the ideal Executive Sponsor is someone who is high enough up the management chain that people feel compelled to listen to what they say and to open their e-mails. You also want to find someone who stands to benefit- even if just in small ways- from the launch of CrowdTangle.
If you are have trouble finding an Executive Sponsor, ask yourself these questions:
Who decided to roll out CrowdTangle at your organization?
Who on your team can make a final decision when issues are escalated?
Who can remove roadblocks during the launch process?
Responsibilities of a Sponsor
How much- or little- a Sponsor does will depend on a lot of factors. Sometimes all we really need is for someone high up the food chain to send out our emails on our behalf or to approve a small budget request for some launch fliers. Other times we need them to help mediate disagreements between teams or to remove other institutional roadblocks.
Don't assume that just because you don't need much, that a Sponsor is a waste of time. If nothing else, they're an insurance policy in case unexpected hurdles appear.
Here are some of the potential responsibilities of a Sponsor:
Recruiting Your Sponsor
It's not easy to get an Executive's attention, but there are a few tips that can help make it an easier process:
Figure Out The Asks First
Before you approach a potential sponsor, make sure you know what the concrete asks are. Are there e-mails you want them to send? When do they need to send them? (Be sure to emphasize that you will write them yourself) Are there any upcoming meetings where you would like them to announce the launch? Be specific and keep it simple.
Make Sure Your Value Props Are Ready
Be sure you already know what the value proposition for CrowdTangle is: both for the organization as a whole and also the individual groups you'll be rolling it out to. You're going to need to sell your sponsor on the importance of CrowdTangle, and that means focusing on the impact it can make.
Talk to Their Executive Admin/Assistant First
It's not easy to get the attention of an Executive, but there is one person who ALWAYS has their attention: their Executive Admin/Assistant. Once you've determined what your asks are, set up time to talk to them to let them know what you're hoping their Exec will be able to do for the project. Come ready to show them what CrowdTangle does (if your sponsor ends up using CrowdTangle, their Admin/Assistant is the first person they're going to go to if they need to troubleshoot an issue anyway). They'll also be able to give you advice on how best to present the project to their Exec.