As many college seniors graduate this month and next, the marketing communications industry will be flooded with new blood. That, I believe, is a good thing. New minds bring new ideas, fresh perspectives and a hunger to succeed. With 12 years of marketing communications experience under my belt I’d like to pass on some advice to these new members of our industry. These aren’t things I’ve “learned over the years” but rather what I see as critical skills necessary to survive and succeed in today’s business environment:
1. Getting the job
Before we talk about what to do at work, you’ve first got to get the job. Two pieces of advice:
First, if you haven’t done so already, start building a brand. Note, I didn’t say start building your brand, I said start building a brand. Read my The Brand You is Dead post here. What do I mean by that? I’m not that impressed by the number of followers you have on Twitter, or how many Facebook friends you have. Those things are pretty easy to artificially manipulate. I’m talking about building something bigger than yourself. Show me the work you did in college to help a friend launch her website. Tell me about the weekly get-togethers you organize for your tribe of American Idol fans. It can be anything, just show me that you understand what it takes to engage people and pursuade them to follow your lead.
You’ll learn more creating and building your own brand than you will taking a class on media theory.
Something else you must decide: Do you want to be a marketing communications professional, or do you want to be a publicist? What’s the difference? A MarComm pro provides strategic counsel, based on research and consumer insights, to companies who appreciate what such a person can do to advance the goals of the brand. A publicist runs around cleaning up messes from ungrateful clients who don’t respect you. Your choice.
Once you’ve identified a job opportunity the next step is usually to send in a resume. Resumes are a dime a dozen and don’t really do a great job of distinguishing you from other candidates. Make your resume the equivalent of typing in your name on Google – it should just be a launching point for the real content. Make sure you provide, right at the top, links to your Twitter feed, Facebook and LinkedIn pages and blog. You do have those things right? If not, I’m already putting you in the B pile from the start. If you have those things, but don’t list them, you may still be in the A pile, but you’re an A minus. If you do have other experience, internships at agencies or brands perhaps, provide appropriate links to things you worked on.
2. On the job
Congratulations, you got the job. Now what do you do? Show your value. Yes, do whatever you are asked, but instead of going out after work for drinks every night, go home early (or stay late at the office) once in a while and gain some knowledge. Real specific knowledge. For instance if the agency does a lot in telecommunications, become an expert in mobile marketing. Healthcare-focused shop? Learn WebMD like little girls learn Jonas Bros. songs. You get the idea, become the absolute expert in a super-relevant niche. Know more than your supervisor. Know more than the boss. Then, if/when things get tough and your company has to let people go, be nice to your former colleagues as you see them clean out their desks, you’re not going anywhere.
You’ve made the choice to be MarComm professional so don’t think like a publicist. Understand event marketing and direct mail; advertising and investor relations and most certainly Social Media (actually, I prefer the term, ‘Shared Media’). All these things matter because clients aren’t looking for an “ad” idea or a “PR” idea, they’re looking for a great idea and they don’t care where it comes from. You’re not in the PR business, you’re in the great idea business.
Ok, now the lightning round:
- Free your supervisor up to do higher level work and you can have her job someday
- You don’t have to speak up all the time to show how smart you are, wait until you really have something to add
- Remember, your supervisor is dealing with a ton of stuff you don’t even know about, cut him some slack
- Take every opportunity to learn something from all your colleagues
- Remember you need to pay your dues. I spent plenty of time making lists, pasting clips and doing research, you can too
- Take a reporter to lunch/drinks when you can and find out what they need, rather than trying to jam your message points in their face
- Whatever you do, don’t end up here
So, good luck and please feel free to get in touch with me here or on Twitter.