I once did ‘dry January’. I discovered that January is a very long month and that I didn’t feel any better having been on the wagon for its entirety. I shan’t be doing it again. But this is the time of year when one can take stock, reflect on behaviours (professional and personal) and decide to change things.
I don’t mean deciding that you have to lose 15kg by Easter, do an Iron Man, climb K2 or walk the Inca Trail in bare feet. I am talking about achievable things, things that will make a real difference to you, others, your work, your family.
Here are my top seven recommendations for 2018 (when, by the way, did lists stop being divisible by five?).
1. The data detox
The GDPR train is coming down the track. It will be here in May and you had better be ready.
So cleanse your data – if you don’t know the provenance of your mailing list, bin it. Use this as the perfect opportunity to get to know more about your consumer, the people who are actually buying or are likely to buy your products – not the poor souls that once ticked a box and are now deleting your emails as soon as they see them. Pursuing them is a waste of money, time and reputation.
I know there are lots of people waiting for further guidance from the Information Commissioner and I am sure some more will come, eventually. But you need to remember that GDPR affects all aspects of data protection, not just those which relate to marketing, so whatever she publishes will inevitably be relatively generic.
She has made it clear that she is looking to us, the industry, to develop guidance that is relevant to our work. I know that the likes of the DMA, ISBA and IPA are working on it but I would urge you to get on top of what has been produced by the ICO and these venerable trade bodies already.
The main take-away I have from existing guidance is to keep a clear audit trail of the decisions and the rationale for taking them. As I see it, it will help should you be scrutinised in the future. It is a bit like a maths exam: you may have got the answer wrong but if you can show your working was right, they might not fail you.
2. Play the numbers game
Focus on insight and impact. OK, I am stating the bleeding obvious, but I am still struck by the number of campaigns that don’t. Interrogate that data, ask the right questions. Know your consumer, understand her/him and connect with them appropriately.
3. Bash stereotypes
We are working in marketing, so of course we use stereotypes all the time – they are useful shorthand when based on a truth. But too often I see harmful use of stereotypes. The little girls sitting quietly in pretty dresses while boys get to charge around in the garden getting dirty; the useless dad who doesn’t know one end of a saucepan from another; the disabled person who sits passively in a wheelchair; the old Asian woman who can’t speak English.
These are damaging. They don’t reflect today’s society. They aren’t creative. They are plain lazy. It is time for a change. We saw some great work last year, let’s make 2018 when it becomes the norm.
4. Shout about someone
Specifically someone from a group that is under-represented in our industry – women, ethnic minorities, disabled people, people from less affluent backgrounds.
Lots of us mentor people, which is a good thing. But it is essentially a private relationship. What is said between the mentor and mentee necessarily stays between them. Keep doing that but also find someone you can shout about – someone whom you can champion publicly – and tell people in your organisation or the wider industry how very good they are.
I know it already happens but in my experience the shouting tends to be about affluent, young, white men: “Jeremy is a top bloke, super bright, heading places” – that kind of thing. Time to start shouting about all kinds of talent.
A career self-assessment rather than the stomach-churning HMRC one. When was the last time you asked yourself if you were happy with what you are doing? Not just at the end of a bad day but a proper reflection. Are you content? What is your next step? Is it necessarily up? Not everyone wants to be the CEO, which is just as well because we can’t all be.
What is going to make you feel fulfilled? A better work-life balance? A new project? A new job? Singing classes? How can you get it? Make a plan and enlist the people you need to make it happen.
6. Scare yourself
Commit to doing something new or scary at least once a month. It is fun – I promise.
7. Enjoy life
The only thing we know for sure is that we are here now; let’s try to enjoy life as much as possible. Not at the expense of others. Do good things for yourself, for your family, for your friends, for complete strangers. Pay it forward.
Tanya Joseph is a consultant, chair of The Pool, and was architect of the ‘This Girl Can’ campaign at Sport England