Marketing is a broad term for the way organizations interact with their customers and prospective customers. In most cases, the focus is on generating a demand for a product or service. And most of what I do – with the exception of certain corporate communications activities, which focus on audiences beyond the customer – falls into this overarching category.
Some will argue that there is a distinct difference between marketing and marketing communications, claiming that the former involves the strategy while the latter focuses on the execution. But that distinction loses its meaning the higher up the ladder you climb.
When I was an Account Executive at a marketing communications firm, I was focused on the tactics and delivering results. By the time I became the Director of Marketing of an agency, I was also responsible for the strategy: market research, positioning, messaging, brand identity, target audiences, etc. Of course, given my hands-on nature, I always like to remain actively involved in the execution to some degree, which has been a source of occasional frustration to both my bosses and staff but always a source of comfort for my clients.
It is worth noting that I began my career at a marketing communications agency, developing and implementing integrated communications plans that included a variety of the marketing disciplines: advertising, collateral development, direct mail, and public relations. And as part of that public relations work, I often employed elements of corporate communications, targeting employees and other stakeholders on behalf of my clients. As you can see, I have always been less concerned about institutional silos and more interested in effectively delivering the results my clients need.
I went on to develop an expertise in public relations, as I worked my way up through the ranks of a national public relations agency. I provided marketing and corporate communications support, often including both internal and external communications, for a variety of clients in the business-to-business, consumer, corporate, and technology sectors. Again, I occasionally went outside the traditional boundaries of public relations and tapped the other marketing disciplines to better serve my clients’ needs.
Eventually, I officially returned to my marketing roots, becoming the in-house Director of Marketing for that agency and helping transform it into a new integrated marketing firm (adding a number of communications disciplines in addition to public relations), where I continued my role. After working as a freelancer for several years, I went on to serve as the Marketing Director of a nonprofit destination, where I was able to expand and strengthen my experience in several marketing disciplines. And I have since returned to freelancing, where I employ whatever communications tools are most appropriate for my clients.
As a result, I have gained hands-on experience in nearly every marketing discipline imaginable over the years. Naturally, I am stronger in some areas (content marketing and public relations, for example) than I am in others (such as media buying and SEM, for which I have never had a sufficient budget to develop any real expertise). But I am at least familiar with all the tools in the marketing toolkit. And this has shaped the way I view communications, in terms of both the challenges faced and the potential solutions that can be employed to address them. It has also helped me develop a more strategic understanding of the role and importance of communications in an organization.