To many outside of the IT department, the service desk is there for when things go wrong. Here is a plan to make sure those within your organization know the value of the service desk, and think to loop IT stakeholders on key decisions.

by Melanie Karunaratne
Date Published March 10, 2021 - Last Updated December 16, 2021

Everyone knows the service desk when things go wrong, but do they know the things that you've accomplished? Wouldn't it be great to get recognized for your achievements and given consideration for strategic projects?

Here's the catch: others see the service management team as solely incident or "order takers." Do your end users turn to you for guidance or make software purchases without consultation that you still must support?

Furthermore, are your end users and leaders aware of your strategic ITSM capabilities? Do you sit at the tail end of projects, grappling with a major incident, a fallout of a business transformation project? Battle upticks in unplanned changes due to an acquisition?

I know it's happening. Over the years, service desks have requested marketing advice from me about launching a new service desk, asked how to drive self-service adoption, and put business cases together for strategic initiatives, among other requests.

So, what can you do?

Successful leaders articulate the value their department contributes to the business in a way that their audiences understand and respect. These business-savvy leaders have grasped the idea of using marketing techniques to promote their cause.

To raise awareness, build confidence and trust in the service desk, you must fundamentally adjust the way you communicate. Like the consumer brands you love, you need to define your purpose.

Then, you need to market your service desk. Build your department profile into one that is recognized for its outstanding IT Service Management work, is known for providing great experiences, and is trusted.

The repeated exposure will raise the service desk profile and mostly forgotten IT staff's morale. Turn your team into a powerful set of influencers that everyone wants to "follow."

Here’s how to do it:

Chart Your Course

First of all, approaching your service desk marketing without a defined plan and purpose will likely result in limited success.

This is not a one-time exercise. Even a short-term communication about a service disruption should form part of a long-term marketing plan. Do not settle for making small changes around the edges.

Before you dive in and develop your plan, it's best to get a handle on current perceptions. Meet with other departments and mine your satisfaction surveys for nuggets of data to establish a baseline. Use your data to chart a course for your marketing journey. Include ways to measure and continually optimize your plan's performance as you would for a service desk initiative.

How granular you want to get is your choice. Nonetheless, certain foundational elements will help you make your plan easy to execute and scale with precision.

Creating Your Foundation

Ask yourself what are you trying to achieve with your marketing plan? Develop a timeline for each objective with milestones and key results expected. The outcomes you want to achieve guide what you measure and assess your plan's effectiveness. Stay focused on the areas you own and control that have a material impact. A useful way to help you plan is to write a future press release about your department. It's a visualization exercise used by Amazon and adopted by many companies.

Dividing and Conquering

A fundamental of your marketing plan is to identify your audiences. Knowing the different constituents will assist you in creating the material that resonates. It will also help pinpoint the most effective way to deliver those messages. Let me explain further.

To keep service desk staff on track, you communicate metrics, such as incidents closed on wallboards and in ITSM tools. The issue is that your leadership team likely uses a different lexicon of goals: financials. It’s business impact rather than activity metrics that excites them.

Each audience needs special consideration. When communicating initiative results to executives, for example, focus on the value in business outcome terms, such as long-term savings or increased business productivity. Establish who your audiences are and step into their shoes. Think "what's in it for me" for each communication.

Getting Familiar with Tactics

There are many excellent communication tactics you can utilize. Here are a few:

  • Determine the tone of voice you use to communicate that's most likely to engage with your audiences. Then select the language and images you will use that reflect the tone of voice. For example, for a friendly style, use conversational, non-IT-specific language with non-IT audiences.
  • Decide on the frequency of communication. A constant drip of consistent and timely communications that reinforce your objectives is most effective. Merely sending out one email about a newly implemented service that was months in the making isn't enough to spur adoption.
  • To create consistent material, set clear content standards and templates.
  • You may have plotted a calendar for knowledge base articles. Similarly, it's a good idea to create an editorial calendar for your marketing communication to help you to stay on course.
  • I recommend that you create a pilot group to test your communications and establish what works well.

Creating Killer Material

Your messages should line up with your objectives. To aid clarity, consistency, and fidelity in your materials, invest time fleshing out top-level messages you want to convey.

Your marketing materials are the jewels you use to promote all the good things about your service desk using the tone and language you defined. To stay in control of your message and scale quickly, plan out key pieces for each audience.
Craft material with a specific message and outcome in mind. Do you want to convert them into advocates and champions for future projects or encourage them to try a service? Depending on your audience, expand beyond describing the technical details or a physical service. How has what you have done helped staff save time in their roles, have confidence in the service desk, feel better about the service desk?

Also, carefully choose the optimal content type to drive home a message. Remember, attention spans are low these days, and strong visuals bring messages to life. Think eye-catching infographics to promote milestones, short, snappy videos, and image-rich PowerPoints. Sound good?

Manage your material as you would a configuration item. Track its lifecycle and add version control. And like a knowledge article, you'll need to monitor and measure your content's effectiveness so that you can adjust, promote, or archive it.

Choosing Your Channel

Your audience and, to some extent, your content determine the communication channels to use. For example, hospital clinicians log in and out of several devices in a day as they traverse stations, so your communications must be easily accessible without jumping through hoops.

Predictably email will be the most prevalent communication channel in your organization. But when it is used for every communication, inboxes become cluttered and ignored. Think beyond email to other digital and even physical channels.


  • Think about utilizing your service desk portal, for example, and if the rest of your organization uses SharePoint to share their good news, consider marrying the two for your marketing communications. Go where your audience hangs out.
  • Or there are some smart examples of engaging communication by college and university service desks connecting with their student body on social media. Is this a possibility for your college?
  • If you have an employee communication team, collaborate to speak at company meetings. Approach department heads to present at their meetings and highlight the services and achievements that benefit a specific department.

Assessing for Success

Rigorously assess performance against your plan. Assessment uncovers trends or plateaus early so you can repeat what works and drop what doesn't.

When measuring success, take a leaf out of external-facing customer organizations. If your objectives include raising awareness, then quantify exposure and collect engagement data from your portal, intranet pages, and email clicks. If your objectives include improving credibility, consider reviewing voice recordings and on-camera recordings. The rise in remote working means on-screen and on-camera skills can make or break your team's credibility. These last two will reveal training opportunities for less experienced members of staff.

Let's Recap

To sum up, determine key objectives related to your baseline data. Treat your audience like you would your service catalog end-users and segment them. Align messages, materials, and channels to your audience. Measure, rinse, and repeat. The good news is marketing is a skill you can learn, and you now have the basics.

Melanie Karunaratne   is a global marketing leader with decades of marketing experience in software and technology companies. She has over fifteen years of experience, specifically at market-leading service management and customer relationship management vendors. As a former Vice President for Ivanti, Melanie has led marketing campaigns, product launches, and corporate communications worldwide.

Tag(s): supportworld, communications skills, focus, service desk, service desk technology


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