5 things an engineer learned about PR and marketing

The author has a background in industrial engineering, but he’s spent the last eight months in the marketing department. Here are his observations.

With a background in industrial engineering and technical project management, I had never dreamed I would become part of a marketing team.

Eight months ago, my company opened the door to a new career path in the marketing and PR field and encouraged me to pursue it. I’ve always had a passion for understanding what makes people tick, and I relish the opportunity to learn about marketing and PR from my team.

But I quickly realized I had a lot to learn. Here are five observations thus far:

1. It ain’t just lollipops and rainbows

For outsiders, it seems that marketing is all about sunshine and happiness. “How hard can it be to make a video or rebrand a company?” Folks just see the creative element and believe that marketers do some of the “fluff” work. After being in this role, I can tell you that it ain’t all lollipops and rainbows.

A great deal of thoughtful analysis goes into campaigns, including detailed analysis of the people who may interact with campaigns; consideration of the ways consumers will interact with landing pages; A/B testing for very minor tweaks to messaging; and thoughtful creation of content to reach a very specific audience.

Possessing a background of math and science, I’m impressed by how much attention is paid to the numbers; marketing is every bit as focused on analytics as some engineering projects upon which I have worked.

2. Every interaction you have with a brand is intentional

Messaging and brand placement is extremely intentional—a notion that might seem obvious to you, but one that came as a complete surprise me.

Consumers are constantly bombarded with messages. This includes the morning news, billboards on the way to work, banners on websites, the emails they receive from companies, and blog posts on the corporate website. Messaging is everywhere, and it is not by accident.

It’s eye-opening to realize how thoughtful this messaging is, and the extent to which the effectiveness of this messaging can be measured. That clever beer coaster or company profiled during a newscast was not placed there by accident—now I know that.

3. Content does not appear by magic

While magicians might be able to pull a rabbit out, I think they would be hard pressed to create a whitepaper on the spot. I had no idea how difficult it was to create content.

While content marketers are on the hook to create it, often they are not the ones who have the expertise required to be the source of the content. For this, they need the right people in the company to provide their insights and experiences or they may need to go outside of the company for the right subject matter expert.

Good content takes time. I no longer see the world through the amount of blog posts, infographics, whitepapers or videos created, but rather the amount of time that it takes to source, create, approve, and finalize each of these items. When I engage with other marketers’ content, I now wonder how long it took them to actually get it created as much as I analyze the message.

4. Everyone is a critic

By nature, the work that marketers do is some of the most visible in an organization. Of course, the product and the experience around it are what consumers will ultimately be remember. However, the messaging to get consumers interested in that product is going to be the first impression that many people both inside and outside of the company see. And most will have an opinion on your work.

Moving to marketing, my work is far more visible to a much larger audience. While it is nice to get feedback from people when they think something I did was awesome, it can be tough to hear the “boo birds” come out and tell me how much something I did sucks. This can be difficult for a guy whose previous work with spreadsheet analysis and time and motion studies was only viewed by a handful of folks.

5. Creativity happens, and it is amazing

Every so often a lightning bolt of creativity hits and something special is made. In this moment, the marketer moves beyond a product pusher and into the realm of storyteller. I have witnessed this several times in the past eight months as a marketer, and capturing this lightning in a bottle is what draws people to the discipline and what keeps them passionate about their work and keeps them pressing on.

Who would have thought an engineer could learn so much from marketing?

Garrett Heath blogs for Rackspace and has experience as a technical project manager in the cloud. He enjoys writing about how the cloud is spurring innovation for startups, small businesses, and enterprises. Follow him on Twitter @pinojo.

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