Sunday, July 15, 2012

How to build a successful career in marketing communications

The following is a reprint of a guest blog post, from me, which appeared last week on the website of the Kansas City chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators.


I was a bright-eyed, headstrong journalism school graduate when I drove to central Kansas to interview for a sports editor position at a small newspaper many moons ago.  It had been my dream to cover sports and the prospect of an entry-level job, on a small newspaper, was simply the beginning of a career that would end up at Sports Illustrated or The Sporting News—or so I thought.
I was offered the job on the spot, accepted immediately, and then just as quickly had second thoughts as I drove three hours back to Kansas City.  I’m not sure what exactly caused my hesitance, but looking back, the decision to renege on my commitment was the first step on a fulfilling journey which has offered me stops along every discipline that marketing communications has to offer. 
My advice, when asked by those entering or new to our profession, is to encourage young professionals to find a company or opportunity where they can experience a wide swath of communications responsibilities.  The ability to one day work on a news release and the next to tackle a web assignment, not only exposes you to different tactics, but also helps one understand the importance of strategic message integration and linkage across communications tools.
My first job was with a publishing company that provided me exposure to news writing, print advertising copywriting and layout, and advertising sales.  Later, during my advertising agency days, I was on the management team of a small shop that integrated traditional advertising with public relations as well as event marketing.
Donna Schwartze, KC/IABC’s VP of Finance, told me a story of her early career when she worked at Six Flags/St. Louis in the marketing department.  The staff was small allowing Donna the chance to do a bit of everything and, along the way, determine that public relations was what she liked most.  The opportunity to sample various disciplines also gave Donna important experience across all marketing communications, now serving her well as the owner of her own business who can provide most any marketing service for her clients.
Working across various communications disciplines isn’t just confined, though, to small companies and/or departments.  While at Sprint, I utilized the size of the company to craft a career path which included advertising, digital communications, corporate communications, sponsorship and entertainment marketing, direct marketing, and retail communications.
My advice to you is to be open to the possibilities of jobs that provide a wide range of responsibility.  Make sure that you are making it clear that you want to help out across various areas of marketing communications.  Sample the possibilities.  Who knows?  Maybe your aspiration will change, like mine, and a whole new world of opportunity will greet you.

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