I've been a lot of things in my career. A slightly-above-average copywriter. An assistant account executive (although technically, I was supposed to be promoted on the day I gave notice — so I feel like I deserve to say “account executive”). And most recently, a director of content marketing.
But when you throw away the titles and just consider yourself an ad person/marketing person/whatever — when you take a look at who/what it is you really are and what you really do — it’s interesting to think about the roles you play and the skills you need to make it in our business.
Here are the four things that (I think) today’s marketers have to be in order to stay relevant (and hopefully employed):
1 — A “Jack/Jill of all trades.”
Getting started as a copywriter way back when I did, most agencies and marketing departments had very specific roles based on each person’s skill set. Writers wrote, art directors arted, strategy people strategized, etc.
Of course, there were a few “hybrid” folks out there who actually did more than one of those things. But in general, people “stayed in their lane.”
And yes, the more successful people were actually able to think outside of their role. Writers who thought visually. Art directors who could put headlines together. Strategy people who could think creatively.
These kids today? (And you folks like me who are trying to keep up with these kids today?) You need to be able to write for all media, do attractive layouts, shoot photography and video, develop strategic plans, present your work effectively, be up-to-date and relevant on all the social networks, have expert skills in all available software, and even fit into something called “skinny jeans.”
(If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get on the elliptical. My skinny jeans need a skinnier occupant.)
2 — A quarterback/point guard.
I remember taking a coaching class in college and being fascinated by the concept of “field of vision.” In the sports world, it basically means being able to see the whole playing field, read the defense, and anticipate what’s going to happen next — while making split-second decisions about what you’re going to do next.
This ability is good to have for any athlete — but it’s especially important for a quarterback or a point guard, positions where you’re leading your team and initiating the play.
And while you’re not throwing a tightly spiraled 50-yard pass to a speedy wide receiver zig-zagging across the field to escape his defender, today’s marketer needs to be thinking strategically at all times, anticipating any possible negative reactions to an idea or campaign — all while keeping an eye on the ultimate goal(s) of the work.
Let’s say you’re running social media for a major soda client, and you have a big summer promotion to handle. You take a look at the “field.” Facebook is abuzz with your competitor’s expensive new spokesperson, and Twitter is screaming at your brand because the last guy to have your job accidentally posted something offensive. So how do you start this promotion? What’s your first move?
(If you want to know the play that I’d run, you can hire me and find out.)
3 — A salesperson.
As much as we like to differentiate ourselves from sales folks, it’s sales that are the very heart and soul of what we do. Maybe we use clever words and attractive layouts and all kinds of other creative tactics, but we’re still basically salespeople trying to move products/services.
And if you think about it, a creative ad person is always selling.
Example: You’re a copywriter with a new campaign concept.
Of course, if it goes badly, then you have a whole different sales process to go through — getting a new job:
- You sell the idea to your art director partner, who makes it shine.
- Then you both sell it to your creative director.
- Then the creative team sells it to your account director.
- Then to the client, and possibly several different higher-ups at the client.
- And then, of course, to your target audience.
So hit the streets and Always Be Closing, you sales expert you.
- You sell yourself to the recruiter or HR person.
- You sell yourself to the new creative director and any other folks at the new company.
- If you get hired, you then have to sell yourself to all these new co-workers.
- And all your new clients.
4 — A networker.
Ya gotta network, any which way you can. (And Every Which Way But Loose, too. #clinteastwoodrules) This is pretty much Careering 101, and I won’t belabor this one by going into great detail about how you should network yourself — especially when you’re a marketer.
I’ll bullet-point it, though:
You’ve got your homework assignments. Get out there and be the ultimate marketer for the 21st Century!
- At work, get to know anyone and everyone. You never know when you’ll need to call on them for help, or be ready to help them. You’re all on the same team, so act like it.
- Keep in touch with former colleagues. Again, you never know.
- Use your social networks. Obviously, LinkedIn is the best for pros. But if you’ve become friends at the Facebook level, that’s great too. And on Twitter, you can follow people (unless they block you) and start up conversations whenever you like.
- Always be on the lookout for networking opportunities. Could be when you’re taking your kid to a birthday party, or at the supermarket, or at your house of worship. (OK, might want to keep that to a minimum — or at least continue the conversation elsewhere.)
I’m sure I missed something. Anything you’d like to add? Share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below!
With 20+ years of experience — both at agencies and "on the client side" — Harley David Rubin has enjoyed many challenges and opportunities in his career. He's currently freelancing, with an eye toward starting his own creative communications company. And he loves to share the stories and "wisdom" he's accumulated over the years. (Because what writer doesn't love talking about himself?) He's truly thankful for the opportunity to write for TalentZoo.com, and he's happy to connect via LinkedIn or even on Twitter at @hdrubin.
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