- Always keep your level of taste higher than your level of ability
I’ve heard that the reason most artists hate their own work is because their artistic tastes are higher than what they themselves are capable of making, so they’re constantly striving to increase their abilities. Whatever part of marketing you’re in, make sure you’re doing something to increase your level of taste. Go visit an art museum, read case studies, read interviews with masters of your craft.
- You don’t need to be able to do, but you need to be able to tell good from bad quality
For example, you don’t need to be able to use Adobe InDesign. But if you have a freelancer, colleague, or project collaborator handing in design work, you need to be able to tell if what they’ve produced is good or not.
- Learn why something is good
To increase your eye for quality, find someone who specialises in whatever area of marketing it is and regularly send them pieces of work, ask them if it’s good or bad, but more importantly why. What makes it good? What makes it bad? Ask enough times and you’ll start being able to pick it out yourself.
- Learn the vocabulary
You don’t necessarily need to know the details of the vocabulary, but you do need to know that “rendering” is time consuming and often means you have to sit there and wait for it to happen. You need to know that “social listening” looks an awful lot like bludging but isn’t.
You need to know the vocabulary to be a good collaborator.
Agency vs in-house will sometimes have different vocabulary (agencies like to make stuff sound fancy). Try learning both if you can.
- Create something you don’t know how to do weekly
Don’t know how to design? Download an Adobe trial and watch some YouTube tutorials. Don’t know branding? Try making an alternative brand persona for a well-known brand. Don’t know social media? Make a side account for a niche topic and manage it for a month. UX? Design something on squarespace (you don’t need to pay if you don’t launch it). Email marketing? Set up a personal newsletter to send to family and friends.
Do it just to learn and appreciate the skill it takes to do those things well.
- Offer yourself up for menial work in exchange for being in the room
If you’re still at uni, use the social clubs on campus. If you’re not at uni, these groups are still available, just search for Facebook groups in your city.
Offer to do menial admin tasks for a local band’s home made music video to learn pre- and post-production. Offer to help organise a local event and treat it as a brand activation. Sitting in on the planning conversations, even if you don’t contribute, will teach you vocab, work flows, and how to estimate the scale of future projects.
This is actually something I’m doing right now. I’m helping on a webseries called CHIKAS because I want to learn more about the filmmaking industry.
- Ask experts to take you through a 101 of their job
Use your network (and the network of your network) to take people out for lunch/coffee and quizz them about what they do in their area of marketing, what they consider good work, where they go for inspiration, and how to learn the basics of what they do.
- Utilise your professors* (if you studied at uni)
They can be great for introducing you to students from other cohorts who are working on projects and could use your help (see #6), for introducing you to experts (#7), and you can send them your mini-projects (#5) for critique.
*If you didn’t study at uni, find a mentor who’s willing to do this for you.
- Watch and read^
Specifically watch The Futur on YouTube. It’s incredibly good.
Read interviews, case studies, marketing publications. Support good journalism if you can afford to.
^I am yet to find a marketing podcast that I’ve actually learned something from. If you have recommendations let me know.
- Network your ass off
So much of getting clients in agencyland, or getting freelancers and outsourcing when you’re in-hour is reliant on your network. Learn to be a good listener — it’s the easiest way to build a relationship if you’re awkward at small talk. Learn how to send a cuddle email to maintain relationships that need them. Get social.
PR in particular is all network based. Don’t burn bridges by sending good journalists press releases that are not newsworthy. Good PR is like good design. Less is more.