What’s inside really counts

When writing this week’s cover feature on strategies to ensure that marketers are able to progress their careers even when times are tough, I looked at the news headlines to see whether marketers really had much to fear from the recession.

Joe Fernandez

Alas, the news provided little promise. While Germany, France and Hong Kong were emerging from the economy, the UK jobless total was climbing and the Bank of England was warning there was some way to go before a recovery. A number of British-based companies are still reporting plummeting profits and further job cuts.

For people of my generation, this recession is a first and it’s been difficult to digest. As well as having to report on miserable results and redundancies across all the sectors, many close friends in marketing have lost work in the uncertain times.

I spoke to friends who work for a variety of agencies to get a grip of the issues affecting the industry on a more personal level. These people aren’t senior – they are in there twenties and looking for the glamorous creative lifestyle that is so often portrayed in the worlds of advertising, consultancy and marketing.

Are my peers seeing the clever internal marketing strategies we lay out in our cover story? Or are the businesses where they work leaving them feeling vunerable about both their short and long-term career options?

For obvious reasons, they have to stay anonymous, but here’s a taster of what they think. One reports: “The reward before was that you did really exciting work day to day. Now because of the recession, companies are understaffed and you are trying to do the work of 3 people. You are working crazy hours and not being rewarded for it -resulting in lots of people turning around and questioning why they entered into the first place.”

Another says: “Agencies and companies are becoming increasingly bureaucratic – so are restricted by people at the top putting pay freezes on – so if someone is an amazing well performing grad, the agency are completely stuck as to how to reward them. The best perks are social events – but these have all ceased due to not wanting to look publicly like we’re throwing away money and also choosing to spend it elsewhere.”

As is highlighted in the cover story, there are many ways to help avoid these issues of isolation. Ian Millner, chief executive of Iris, tells of how the independent agency struggled to reach out to its employees when the recession first hit, but turned things round as soon as it realised that morale was low, using an array of internal marketing methods to keep creativity levels high.

Surely any chief executive who wants to create high morale amongst their workforce will apply some basic principles into place to keep their most talented marketers feeling positive? After all, who else is going to help keep clients/customers when the economy recovers and budgets are re-evaluated?

Here at Marketing Week, we too are looking for ways to implement such strategies, even when we’re under deadline pressures. We’re also beginning an array of development procedures to help develop us as journalists. The pressure on finances at the moment doesn’t need to mean careers are halted.

One well placed source tells me that the recession will separate the elite from the wise in marketing. They claim: “Marketing graduates think they’re the elite, having gone through the grad application process and training – which is all completely unrelated to the job.

“Thus, there is a grim reality when they realise what they actually have to do day to day. They also struggle to be at the bottom end of the food chain and on the receiving end of orders. Working under tighter circumstances and remaining creative will separate those who love the job from those who love the money and will ultimately be the most-respected by their respective clients.”

Reading the cover story will help you identify five key areas for internal marketing to come out of the recession a much better employee and it aims to help you with further endeavours too. I encourage you to take note of its contents and ensure that your staff are as motivated as they can be at all times – not only in doom and gloom but also even successful times.

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