Elevate Your Marketing Career: 5 Ways to Invest in You

Editor’s note: With so many things requiring your attention, it’s tough to know how to spend your time. This update of a previously published post shares one suggestion of how you should invest your time. 


That’s the topic of my post today. You.

Last year, I participated in a panel for the Detroit Content Strategy Meetup, and one of the questions posed by our moderator, Chris Moritz, was this:

Considering all of the changes in the industry, what is one thing that all content professionals need to be focused on?

Perhaps surprisingly, the three panelists all had similar answers: We all need to focus on how we can elevate our roles in our organizations.

And this is just as important today as it was one year ago.

We all need to focus on how we can elevate our roles in our organizations via @michelelinn #contentmarketing
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When I answered, I was channeling our very own Robert Rose whose Intelligent Content Conference keynote talk continually creeps into my mind:

Look up. Your future does not lie in changing content to fit the business. The future of content will be your ability to change the business … You are the future of business.

The future of #content will be your ability to change the business. YOU = future of business via @robert_rose
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But, I was surprised that the other panelists said the same thing as well.

I’m such a big proponent of each of us taking the reins of our careers and making them what we want them to be (it’s why each of us needs a point of view). Those of us who have worked in marketing for a long time have likely been in situations where we have simply taken direction from others to “create that brochure” or “make it pretty.”

But, our value is far greater than that. And, yes, we likely know that intrinsically, but how do we show others? How do we elevate ourselves – and, by proxy, our peers – so people know the value of content professionals?

New Era of Marketing Requires New Skills

Consider the people you work with as their own persona

As marketers, we are (hopefully) always keeping our prospects and customers front and center in everything we do. But are you doing this with people you work with? Are you considering what your coworkers care about?

You’ll be perceived as valuable if you are valuable to that person.

Consider the key people you work with. This includes everyone from management where you need to get buy-in and support to the tech team who can help you implement and the team members you need to work with.

TRY THIS: People like to communicate in different ways. The more you can learn about people and customize your approach, the more receptive they will be to your ideas – and the more valuable you’ll be perceived.

Can you answer these questions for these key individuals?

  • How are they challenged – and how can you alleviate some of the pain?
  • How do they define success – and how can you contribute to this?
  • Do they prefer details or high-level info?
  • Do they prefer information via email, phone call, or meeting?
  • How often do they like to hear from you – regularly or as changes and challenges arise?

Have a quick explanation for what you do

Have you ever gotten that quizzical look when you try to explain what you do every day? Or do people think they know what you do but really have no idea?

I work for CMI so my coworkers “get” editorial and content marketing, but I still get that quizzical look from family and friends when I try to explain what I do.

You may think it doesn’t really matter if people know what you do, but if they don’t understand what you do, they certainly aren’t going to value you. Or, worse yet, they may think they know what you do but are wrong – and they really underestimate your value.

TRY THIS: Create an elevator pitch to explain to people what you do – and how you help the organization and its customers. Andy Crestodina has a great chart to help you prep your pitch.

As Andy explains:

Practice a short five-sentence / 10-second version and a longer version of about a minute. Try it in front of a mirror. Smile.

Rethink how you present info

Chances are, you are collecting a lot of data (a lot), and if you are like many people I know, you love spreadsheets. While one instinct is to share all of these charts and metrics to prove your value, you may be doing more harm than good (cue eye rolls from your team).

Consider Jeannine Rossignol’s distinction between meaningful and useful metrics:

  • Useful metrics are used by marketing to know if programs are on track. Examples include open rates and click-through rates.
  • Meaningful metrics are those that are reported to the business. Examples include leads in the pipeline, qualified leads, or whatever is important to the business leaders.

TRY THIS: Think about what data you present to which groups in the organization – and how you present it. Ashok Sharma, one of my fellow panelists at the meetup and vice president associate director, content strategy, at MRM/McCann, explained that his team now uses a visualizer to prepare all of the data they show to their clients. Not only do their clients better understand the results, but they actually enjoy sitting in on these meetings.

Become a more confident speaker

Along the same lines of considering what data you present and the format you use, you also should think about how you present yourself. Are you comfortable speaking to people from all parts of the organization?

I love watching seasoned speakers who have this way of explaining information in an entertaining and straightforward way (TED speakers are a great place to look for inspiration). But what about actively putting yourself out there and honing a new side of yourself?

Even if you aren’t delivering formal speeches, spending time reflecting on how you present yourself and challenging yourself to be better will only make you more confident in any situation.

TRY THIS: One thing I am considering this year is joining a local Toastmasters group. I attended a Toastmasters event with my dad, and I was quite surprised at how much I learned from not only watching people deliver speeches but – even more so – hearing the evaluators critique the speakers.

Embrace what you do well – but understand all parts of the business

A few years ago, Joe Pulizzi shared his theory that we all have the same amount of talents and skills. However, how that talent is divvied up varies dramatically from one person to another. Some people are jacks of all trades and have surface knowledge in a bunch of things. Others have exceptional talents in one area but struggle in others. For instance, someone may be a natural at relating to people but have little talent for math. Or someone may be really athletic but struggle with getting through a daily to-do list.

In short: Each and every one of us has one or a set of talents that we need to embrace. What is that thing that comes naturally to you that makes you feel exhilarated? Be the go-to person for that.

But, at the same time, don’t be so focused that you forget about other aspects of the business and how your skills fit into the bigger picture.

TRY THIS: If you are feeling pigeonholed into your expertise, become a “buttinsky” and insert yourself into meetings and conversations. Don’t just jump into how you can help or spray people with your ideas, but remember your role is to learn as much as you can.

Continue to refine your personal brand

Whether we like it or not, each of us has a personal brand that exists online. While branding may not feel important unless you are actively looking for your next career move, remember that you never know when your next move may be and what opportunity awaits.

TRY THIS: Search for your name online and see what others see. Is this how you want to be perceived? If you don’t like how your personal brand appears, consider what you can change so your presence feels more like “you.” If you are struggling with this exercise (and many of us do), pair up with a friend or coworker and provide suggestions for each other.

60+ LinkedIn Profile Tips for Marketers

A happy side benefit

Don’t wait for change to happen in your organization. Each and every one of you – no matter your role – can start to make that change. Regardless of what happens in your career, you’ll be happier and will be perceived as more valuable to the organization.

Not only will rethinking how you approach your career help you be seen as more valuable to the business, but constantly learning and challenging yourself naturally leads to happiness. And learning doesn’t need to be relegated to your work, either. Maybe you are trying a new hobby or are learning a new sport.

I leave you with this quote from Chris Dionigi:

At every stage of life, you should be a rookie at something.

“At every stage of life, you should be a rookie at something” says Chris Dionigi via @cmicontent
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What are you going to challenge yourself to learn? How are you going to become a better version of you?

If you are serious about discovering ways to become a better content marketer, you won’t want to miss Michele Linn’s talk at Content Marketing World September 5 -8 in Cleveland, Ohio. Early-bird rates fly away on March 3, 2017, so register today.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute


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