Communications, PR, public affairs, and media relations experts from the Forbes Communications Council shared their firsthand experiences.
Young professionals just entering the job market often need a concise guide to the most crucial aspects of working in their industry. This is especially true for marketing and communications professionals, given the rapid changes in their fields due to new technologies and market trends.
While it’s challenging to compile a comprehensive guide for beginners in marketing and communications due to the ever-evolving nature of these industries, valuable insights can be gained from personal experiences and connecting with colleagues in the same field. To assist them, 15 members of the Forbes Communications Council analyzed what they wish they had known when they started working in their fields and what they would have done differently with that knowledge.
These members shared the most important things that beginners should understand about communications and marketing.
- Marketing is constantly changing: When I studied marketing in school, it was very static: “This is what works, and this is what mostly doesn’t work.” Since then, I’ve learned that marketing is ever-evolving, which is why I love it. What works today may not work tomorrow, and that’s okay! I’ve found that webinars, conferences, or simply connecting with peers in my field are ways to stay on top.Amanda Dalrymple, Amanda Dalrymple Design
- Clients are important, but so are boundaries: Marketing and communications are very dynamic. When working with clients in the field of communications, be prepared to receive calls even during vacations. You’ll get messages while you’re at your daughter’s event, and it’s just part of the job. I wish I had known 20 years ago that it’s necessary to set professional boundaries because rushing at full speed and receiving messages at all hours is not sustainable in the long term.Liz Weir, LevLane Advertising
- Most marketing tactics do not create value: I took a somewhat unconventional path and spent a lot of time with marketers before entering the industry. One thing I learned early on is that the focus should be on creating value for people. Most marketing tools or messages have very little impact on value creation. Learning how to infuse that human element into your approach helps your strategy and final solution pass the “so what” test.Tyler Sharp, Lendio
- Communications is all about ROI (return on investment): Through working directly with the company’s executive director, I gained insights into the business. I went on to earn a master’s degree and defended my thesis on the subject of ROI in marketing. Communications and marketing are all about measurable results: fundraising, sales, behavior change, reputation improvement, etc. Just because you enjoy words or diagrams doesn’t mean you’ll excel in marketing and communications, as these are business disciplines.Amanda Ponzar, Community Health Charities
- It all comes down to business networking and relationship building: When I arrived in the US with only two suitcases, I had no business connections. I sent my CV to numerous addresses, hoping someone would hire me. Eventually, someone did. I learned a valuable lesson – it all boils down to building relationships with potential hiring managers, reporters, and so on. Since my first unpaid internship, most of my referrals have come from people I know or have been referred to. So, focus your efforts on business networking.Parna Sarkar-Basu, Brand and Buzz Marketing, LLC
- You can’t be an expert in everything: Before the internet, there was a belief that you could become an expert in any marketing channel. However, due to the explosion of digital marketing, it soon became impossible to become a true expert in every marketing field. Not because you can’t understand most of the marketing channels, but because you realize that you may have to choose between breadth and depth of expertise in today’s market.Tom Wozniak, OPTIZMO Technologies, LLC
- It all comes down to numbers: Marketing isn’t just about charts, brand standards, and reaching the right audience. Ultimately, it all comes down to numbers, just like in any other sector of a company. Understanding how to analyze and draw conclusions based on large amounts of data has been critical to my success in marketing. If I had known from the beginning what I know now, I think I would have progressed more rapidly.Alicia Haugen, Front Desk
- Fixed Practice Is Never the Same as Creativity: It’s easy for a communications novice eager to make their way in the world of branded content to run into trouble when their superiors say, “Let’s use what we wrote last year.” It may sound like a solution, but in reality, it’s an anesthetic that causes audience apathy or, worse, alienation. Every word you write is an opportunity to communicate better. Creativity has the quality of novelty, which the old advertising message cannot satisfy.Melissa Kandel, little word studio
- The Measure of Great Communication Is Simplicity: We, as marketers by nature, want to make things sound “big” and “impressive.” In this aspiration to launch something “powerful,” we often lose the most important element of communication – understanding. Our life’s work in communications should be to ensure that people can access and understand our message. This will make our communication more reliable and effective with our audience.Yoni Solomon, G2 (formerly G2 Crowd)
- The “T” Concept of Marketers Is Key: The “T” concept of marketers has gained more attention in recent years. In the past, being a “specialist in everything” was not always well received. Nowadays, it’s celebrated and rewarded, and it’s a skill I look for in new hires. Both new and seasoned marketers should establish their knowledge base and build their marketing foundation before choosing an area of expertise.Maria Juan, Peerfit
- It Is Important to Sell Internally: When you’re young, you’re focused on learning as much as possible about your industry, the latest techniques, strategies, and software tools. These things are important, but if you want to become a key person in your organization, you need to sell internally as much as you sell externally. Learn how to work across multiple sectors of a company, communicate concisely, gain stakeholder validation, and demonstrate results.Dana Córdova, Globalization Partners
- Marketing Is an Art, Not a Science: The way marketing is taught implies that there is a defined way to achieve success in this industry. Initially, I followed these “methods” as gospel, but I soon discovered that the key was experimentation. There is no “right or wrong way” to do marketing. Instead, find a way that works, where your messages resonate positively with your audience. If I could, I would experiment from day one.Patrick Ward, High-Speed Experts
- It’s Okay to Say No: Having started my career as a publicist, I wanted to secure any form of author coverage, even to the point of lowering my expectations just to cross a publication off my target list. I quickly learned that knowing your own value is key to getting the right results that drive your business. It is our responsibility to select only the right opportunities that will deliver the desired return on investment and bring progress.Dana Baasiri, AIC Hotel Group
- Penetration Skills Can Help You Become a Better Marketer: I wish I had received sales training before I started marketing. The best salespeople have the ability to ask questions that uncover a potential customer’s real pain points. Marketers often rely on tools that make them prone to jump to conclusions based on their research. While their data may be accurate, it doesn’t always uncover the client’s primary problems.Lavall Chichester, JumpCrew
- Communication Is Fearlessness: There are many “soft” skills that are not directly related to our work but can help you communicate better. I wish I had understood the importance of persistence earlier. You must not be afraid of hearing “no” or of the media not returning your calls. You must accept rejection and change your approach when necessary. Fearlessness can sometimes lead to incredible opportunities.G’Nai Blakemore, Mattress Firm