This month I’ve had the privilege of speaking with two college classes about marketing, PR, business ownership and entrepreneurship. The first two subjects were the plan, but the last two were natural extensions of the students’ questions.
Last week I spoke to undergraduates at Curry College, who were considering a career in PR or marketing and of joining the college’s PRSA chapter. I shared insights on both the positives and negatives of the 20 year career I’ve experienced, although in such a rapidly-changing world, I’m sure it will be very different for them, even as they graduate in the next few years.
This week I spoke to graduate students studying for their MS in Organizational and Professional Communication at Regis College. This group was comprised of both younger and older students, including those considering a second career as business owners, interested in learning how to market and promote their future companies.
What I found interesting about the experiences of speaking to these students was the questions that came from them during the Q&A. This is of course, the reason I enjoy speaking to college classes – there’s no denying the energy and hunger that comes from someone just beginning their career (or hungry enough to be changing it), wide-eyed and excited; sometimes a little nervous. In both cases I was asked to come speak about my career in marketing, although the questions naturally evolved to my experiences as a business owner, a working mother and an entrepreneur. Here are some of the insights I shared – I thought they might also be helpful to you, readers.
- Take a public speaking class. I wish I had done more of this as a college student. I hated public speaking back then – but the truth is that in marketing, especially today, a great deal of what you do is speaking in front of groups. Whether it’s the Boardroom, a client’s executive team, VCs or the media, persuasive and entertaining speaking skills are a must.
- You are in sales. Everything we do in marketing is selling something – our ideas, our skills, our stories. You are always selling. Study the psychological fundamentals of what makes a great salesperson.
- Personal brand matters. A lot of older people want to avoid this topic – they struggle with the idea of a personal brand – but I get constant questions from younger executives on the topic of how I marry my personal and professional self. Your personal brand matters because – since we’re all in sales – it’s important to remember that at the end of the day, people still buy from people. It’s emotional. Even when someone says, “It’s just business” – purchases and decisions are emotionally-based. So building a personal brand that people like, engage with and listen to is crucial for success in today’s social world. (It’s hard to be social and impersonal.)
- Work/life balance will always be an issue. Another hot topic from crowds I speak to – “How do you do it all?” “Do you ever sleep?” – are questions I’m often asked. The funny thing is that I constantly feel I’m not doing enough, so part of the reason I don’t [seem to] stop is simply personality-driven. But work/life balance is always a challenge – for men and women. The good news is that there is unprecedented opportunity today to create a flexible career – to establish your own company, work virtually or on “off” hours, and find companies who build entire cultures around the issue of work/life balance. Find one from the beginning, and enjoy your life and your career.
- Everything is Everything. Everything you do matters. Everything you say, write, post, share, do and choose is marketing of some kind in the social media world in which we all now live. Everyone is a marketer (not all good at it), and everything reflects you, your brand, or your company – even if you have that little disclaimer that your thoughts are your own. In other words, you either help attract customers, or push them away. (Supporting the whole people buy from people theory.) Everything is connected – brands can no longer make outlandish claims in advertising or marketing without very public backlash. PR can’t promote exaggerated stories and brands can’t make false promises only to have customer service fail to keep them. Consumers and customers have the inside track now – so everything you do is everything to your company.
Thank you to both Regis College and Curry College for hosting me. It was a pleasure to meet the students, an honor to be able to share my experiences, and a breath of fresh air to hear their enthusiasm for the future of marketing and beyond.