Evolving marketing into a business partner

Posted on 03 November 2009

Perspectives: Christine Rixen McGee, Weatherford International Ltd

By Linda Hsieh, assistant managing editor

Build a better mousetrap and the market will beat a path to your door, so goes the saying. But as many good inventors know, that’s rarely the case.

Especially in the world of drilling – where “better mousetraps” can run hundreds of thousands of dollars and affect projects costing hundreds of millions of dollars – it often requires more effort to get innovative technologies noticed and into the field. That’s where marketing could make the difference between the success or failure of new technologies and even companies.

Christine McGee Weatherford InternationalMarketing isn’t just logos and brochures. It touches
all parts of an organization, said Christine McGee,
Weatherford’s VP of marketing services.

“A lot of people, when they hear the term marketing, they have quite a narrow view of it. They tend to think of it being all about the logo or brochure,” said Christine McGee, vice president of marketing services for Weatherford International. “But it really has much broader tentacles than that. It touches all parts of the organization.”

In 1998, Ms McGee was recruited as a PR/corporate communications manager to create a unified public relations effort for Weatherford, which was growing rapidly at the time through various acquisitions. Among her efforts was the launch of a company magazine to serve as a “vehicle where we could talk about the whole scope of the company and … to communicate to key audiences how much we were changing.”

She later took on marketing as well, being named director of marketing and public relations in 2000. By 2003, she had been promoted to vice president of marketing services and began forming strategies to remold the role of the marketing team.

That’s been a successful effort, she said. Rather than being an “order taker,” they are now able to have dialogues with internal clients about how marketing services can help them improve business. “The counseling role (we play) is much more prevalent now.”

Another focus area has been making sure the team serves both global and local marketing needs. Weatherford currently has approximately 800 locations around the world, and “how you’re going to market in Russia is different than how you’re going to market in the Middle East,” she said. “A lot of our revenues in the future are going to come from the Eastern Hemisphere markets. Our role is to make sure that we’re supporting these efforts … and continuing to find ways to make local marketing organizations as strong as possible.”

In 2007, Weatherford was named Marketer of the Year by the American Marketing Association Houston Chapter, beating finalists from other industries like Continental Airlines and the Houston Astros. “It was a good validation-slash-reality check that a lot of the things we were doing made sense,” she said.

IN THE BEGINNING
You could say that Ms McGee got her start in the business when a University of London fellowship program waylaid her plans for going to law school. The six-month stint gave her a taste of public relations/marketing when the fellowship put her to work for a British member of Parliament, doing everything from press releases to constituent relations to legislation research. The experience was so enjoyable that, after graduating from Baylor University with degrees in English and political science, she ended up accepting a job writing for a small trade journal based in Waco, Texas.

A couple of years later, she moved to Houston looking for a change and soon came in contact with the energy industry. Through jobs with Lyondell Chemical Company and Churchill Group, a local PR firm, she began doing community-based relations, helping the public to understand the downstream oil business and the critical role that petroleum plays in everyday lives. When she moved into the upstream segment when she joined Weatherford, “it became even more apparent that what we’re doing is basically providing the building blocks for modern life,” she said.

IN THE FUTURE
With new drilling and completion technologies continually being invented and innovative applications happening all the time, the job is never finished for Ms McGee and her marketing services team. “It’s not like I ever come to work and say … everything’s done. I tend to be the opposite, which is, there’s still so much we could be doing.”

“You’re only as good as your last project. Every project is like a new day,” she added. “You’ve got to prove yourself over and over again all the time.”

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