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What I Wish I’d Known Before … Working in Public Relations or Marketing

June 9, 2018 What I Wish I'd Known Before 2 Comments

Management would want entire marketing plans in 5-point type on one slide.

The number of PowerPoints you will create. My daughter thinks that is what I do for a living — make and edit decks.

That sales won’t partner with you (not everywhere, but it’s common) and you will be viewed as a source of tchotchkes and money for golf outings, or be expected to be a savior when the numbers are bad.

Trade shows are a LOT of work!

How little people *actually* read.

How little time and energy I’d have to dedicate to my personal brand while I was busy helping build someone else’s.

How the work lives in “never-done” limbo. There is always another improvement that could be made to content, always another distribution channel to explore, always another deadline looming. Silver lining: job security?

How contentious the space between sales and marketing can be and how beautiful it is when you can effectively bridge the gap between the two.

How critical having a provider that’s willing to publically vouch for a vendor company would be to gain traction with and attention from healthcare editors.

How difficult it would be juggling multiple PR and marketing initiatives on behalf of multiple accounts. I managed marketing efforts end to end for a single vendor in my past life. While my to-do list often pulled me in multiple directions on any given day, it utterly pales in comparison to how it feels to project-hop across multiple accounts with very different content needs serving distinctly different healthcare niches. The scatterbrained effects of that kind of multi-tasking can be overwhelming.

What I learned while working in technology strategic marketing and product management: “The best strategy is one that the competition can’t respond to.”

I wish I’d known how quickly relevancy dies out. Even if the content / context is good, your sales team won’t absorb it and they’ll want the next best thing you haven’t created yet.

I wish I’d known marketing would grow so expansive. The company recognizes “marketing” and thinks you can do it all.. but today, there’s all the traditional stuff, plus Content Marketing, Digital Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Influencer Marketing, Email Marketing, PPC/SEO, Video, Graphics, Website / HTML. Once person can’t do it all, and you now need both creative and technical elements in order to be successful.

Your budget will never be what you need it to be.

Everyone believes we have to do marketing and PR, but no one outside of marketing believes it can deliver measurable results.

Telepathy is at least equally important—probably more—than any other skill you bring to the table.

Everyone – I mean everyone – has an opinion. I spent hours debating the color scheme of some billboard or brochure with clinicians, even finance people. I would never tell them how to do their job, but everyone felt very comfortable telling me how to do mine.

How great of a part of any org that marketing is! As a corporate events director I am usually involved in the rally cry of the company,  so exciting and ever-changing I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am constantly educating my niece and her friends on what marketing is and the opportunities that it offers. I feel not enough of us take the time to do this.

That I would be regularly and stridently asked to make mediocre or bad products sound amazing by people with full knowledge of their mediocrity.

That I would be able to measure the impact of marketing initiatives in actual dollars. Before I had a marketing role, I looked at marketing as fluff. Once I was in a marketing role, I learned there were ways to measure the impact not only of programs, but of individual messages (split testing) in actual orders taken and dollars booked. It was a real eye-opener, and I gained more respect for the profession as a result.

People often think that since they are consumers of products and services that doing marketing is easy and that anyone and everyone is an expert. As a lifelong marketing professional, that is very irritating. Also, the field of marketing and PR is ever changing and is far more software an metrics-driven, which is good, but because of that, far too many analytical people are drawn to the field. What they lack is clear and concise writing ability and creative aptitude – which will ultimately hurt this profession.

It can be gratifying to know that you’re providing information in a useful way; information that will help people do their job better. It can be disheartening when you can’t get layperson-understandable information out of the technical and other operations teams – or when the news is bad and you have to make it sound better because otherwise senior leadership will complain.

How difficult it would be to get a happy customer to sign off on publishing a story about the successes they’ve had with your product.

How hard it is to buck the general mindset that marketing is parties and pretty designs. Great marketing is as strategic as any other business discipline and can be tied directly to business outcomes (although that takes a lot of effort). Because it does have a creative aspect to it, it often misunderstood, resulting in less respect.

I’ve worked in both. I changed careers from publishing / editorial to PR, then to health IT Marketing. I knew that it would not be glamorous, but I would learn a lot and meet great people. I didn’t know that the work would include a lot of internal paperwork, getting stalled by processes, regulations, internal tools that don’t work, and fighting internal stakeholders. The hours are long and you can lose a week at a time due to travel in the blink of an eye. Integrating IT systems with partners takes much longer than expected and the projects often don’t make it to completion. I’ve spend countless months working on integration V-teams only to have a partner or management abandon the projects with nothing to show for it. Very frustrating.

Turnover at C-level and upper management levels bog down projects, your messaging direction and priorities, partner execution, and overall direction for most projects far more than you would expect. I’ve been in health IT marketing since the mid-90s. It is never boring! I didn’t expect to meet so many customers doing great things to help patients and hospital systems. I didn’t expect to be in IT marketing for so long, or like it as much as I do. That said, I want to quit just about every month due to all of the above. The pace of change in our industry leads to burn out. But I’m not going anywhere soon!

Two things:

(1) I thought I was “settling” for marketing (long story), but I wish I had known what a rewarding but challenging career it would be. When I started, I had no idea how many different aspects of marketing there are to learn (lead gen, brand, events, PR, writing, content management, marketing technology, graphic design, web analytics, customer experience, graphics, product marketing) and how I could keep learning new things over many years. It turns out I didn’t settle after all, but have been very blessed with this career.

(2) You can be in marketing and have integrity, honesty, and compassion. In other words, it has a bad rep, but there are many of us who are working diligently to just find the right solution to our customer’s problems. Yes, really.

One thing I hadn’t expected when I first started working in marketing is the dynamics between marketing and the sales organization. In reality, there are two sets of customers: your end-user customers who purchase your company’s products or services, and your sales team. If sales isn’t on board with your offering and the support you provide them, you won’t get anywhere. Also, they are often your best eyes and ears into the marketplace. Nurture those relationships and you will be not only more successful but more happy and satisfied in your work.

You must work for a market-focused organization to have an impact. Creating shiny object messaging is not a product strategy. Working with third-party lead generation companies can be akin to used car sales”men.” Wordsmithing for the sake of a press release is like eating confetti

How uninformed, arrogant, and self-important executives are in determining the importance of company updates and events. Not everything deserves a press release, case study, or blog post. I know the content I’m putting out is chock full of buzzwords, fluff, nonsensical phrases and, more often than I’d like to admit, outright lies, but I also know my job depends on cranking out that drivel.

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Currently there are "2 comments" on this Article:

  1. This perfectly captures my experience as well. Please share this as an article on LI!
    I and a large number of talented marketing people were RIFd yesterday from a leading healthcare technology company. Marketing is always expendable when it’s crunch time. They didn’t inform the sales team I work with. I was receiving requests from the sales team, and I had to tell them the news that my role had been eliminated. Their response: “WTF? So who’s going to do your work?”

  2. This might be my favorite HISTalk article ever!!! I could not agree more with everything written. I love my 20+ year marketing career, but there are definitely “special internal challenges” faced by marketing teams that other teams like finance and development would never have to deal with, i.e. everyone knows how to do marketing. Carry on, brave marketeers!!!

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