A Letter to Marketing Professors

Dear Business School Marketing Professors–

First of all, I want to thank you again for all the kids you keep sending my way. So don’t take my letter out of context — I appreciate our relationship, and your work and dedication to education is what keeps me going every day.

It’s probably been a little while since I’ve written. I apologize, I know candid feedback is something you need to educate your kids properly. And apparently, some important information hasn’t gotten back to you about what these kids need to succeed out here.

These marketing graduates you’ve sent recently — and communications and management grads too — really need some additional grooming in order to have what it takes to succeed. It seems like they’re lacking both tangible and intangible things that are important to success.

Now, let me be clear, it’s not all of them. There are some definite winners in the bunch. Yet ALOT of them would benefit from some additional schooling on the following points:

  • Please tell them that a career in marketing means a parallel career in sales. If you’re in marketing, you’re in sales. You need to sell things — that may include products, or your own ideas. In many cases, the latter is just as important to your career as the former. You need to be adept at dealing with all kinds of people, networking with people you’ve never met, and convincing people you don’t know.
  • Please help them focus on the different facets of time management. It’s important — and I don’t just mean being able to update Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Myspace all at once. Out here, you need to manage multiple projects, all with the same deadline: yesterday. You need to figure out how to prioritize and make progress on everything, all on the fly. Help them get ready to manage their day and their workflow.
  • Please help them focus on managing expectations. Don’t go into work thinking about what’s on tap for that day. Don’t wait for something to become a problem. Work with some perspective, work with strategic purpose — think how your boss thinks. See when something could be a problem, and manage it in advance so it doesn’t become one.
  • Please tell them that appearance matters. Yes, I partially mean you need to dress appropriately. But I also mean it’s important to appear like you’re giving your all, like you’re focused and motivated. Like you work with passion and purpose. Like you want to get ahead.
  • Anyway, I’m going to stop there for now. I need to get back to breaking in the latest batch of newbies you sent last quarter, and making business a little harder for everyone in general over the next few months. I’ll make sure I write again soon.

    Best Regards,

    The Real World

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    Marketing has a Role in the Future of Content

    This post is proof that a small spark can lead to a roaring flame.

    I began the day reading a column from former colleague Ray Schultz, one of the best marketing journalists of the last several decades. Hours later I’m on a plane, some thoughts still kindling from reading the column, and a raging blaze emerged. Cue up the iPhone with mobile WordPress, and here we go.

    The topic of Ray’s column is the future of publishing. To those who haven’t noticed, that particular future is not looking bright right now, with flagship entities like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, and countless magazines (both B2B and B2C) bleeding jobs and flat out disappearing. Not to mention advertisers slashing budgets unmercifully (for good reason). The column also speculates about the future of journalism — undoubtedly tied to the future of publishing with a heavy chain. Clearly jobs in journalism, especially in the print world, are not a good spot to be in right now.

    After thinking about this for a little while, this key thought became obvious: it’s not at all about the future of publishing, or the future of journalism. It’s about the future of content.

    Sure, as a business or industry or career field, you can speculate about publishing and journalism all day. Yet neither is necessarily connected at all to the future of content. People can get content in many ways without publishing or journalism involved. Many people don’t even want content from journalists at all. They want content from people just like themselves — or people not like them at all. They want content from people right in the moment — in the euphoria of victory, throes of defeat, fear of chaos, or other states of happiness or misfortune. They want dialogue, engagement and interaction — the hallmarks of social media — and not from an unreachable person behind a printed page. The future of content is give-take. It’s Twitter, it’s YouTube, it’s Facebook, it’s blogs, buzz and beyond. It’s still some printed media too. It’s whatever customers and consumers want, however they want it.

    And so presents the opportunity for marketers to take a good, long look at how and where we can fill a much-needed role in the future of content. We can build communities of people (or, if you read Seth Godin, tribes) arguably faster and better than any publisher can, because we know our customers well (or at least, we’re all supposed to, right?). And customers want content. They want to talk to other customers. Happy customers want to share their experiences. Angry customers want a voice, too — and brands want an opportunity to win them back. Many people, customers or not, just want objective information. And don’t give me that “marketers can’t be objective” schpiel — time and again that’s been proven wrong, especially when it’s the community driving the content.. And journalists can be just as biased as anyone, you have to apply the same filters you’d apply when evaluating any information source.

    So charge ahead and provide the types of content people want about your brands, or more importantly, about your market and about each other. Build communities of knowledge, and you’re building content. And your an active part of its future.