Sector Spotlight: Marketing, Advertising and PR

Guest BloggerAdvice, Postgraduate, Sarah Collins

Sarah Collins

This month, I’m going to focus on the Marketing, Advertising & PR Sector, giving you some general information, as well as some of my personal observations about the businesses we work with and the types of roles that come through. I’ll also talk a bit about the type of experience you can gain from different types of roles or businesses and the key skills I’m finding businesses are asking for – hopefully, this will give you some tips on areas to brush up on!

This blog is based on my experience of working with a variety of businesses, so there are some personal opinions in here. This is a collection of my observations and thoughts about the sector and the businesses I’ve worked with. I’ll also link to some external resources that you may find useful.

General info about the sector

Marketing, advertising and PR companies help clients to connect with their audiences, promoting brands, products and sending messages using a range of techniques. Marketing is the overall process, while advertising and PR are both individual sub-components.

The industry is broadly divided into those who work in-house for an organisation and those who work for an agency. The latter are appointed to provide specific services to paying clients. However, just under a quarter of marketing professionals work on a freelance basis. Those working in advertising will almost always work for agencies, while those working in PR are often employed by larger organisations.

As of 2019, there were 979 thousand sales, marketing and related associate professionals in employment in the United Kingdom, this was the highest number recorded during the nine-year period.[1]

It’s a sector that lends itself in many ways to remote working, and I’m sure you will have seen many ingenious ways that campaigns have adapted to the COVID-19 lockdown.

Things to consider when choosing roles to apply for

There are so many opportunities out there for you as marketing professionals, which means it’s important for you to think about what the pros and cons are to different roles in different sectors.

For example, if you want to focus on a key product type or service in-depth, working for a company in a different sector in-house will give you the opportunity to really focus on their business. If you like the idea of focussing on a key product type or service, and you want to get involved with all aspects of the marketing, an in-house team could still be a good option and you might want to look for a smaller team where you get the opportunity to work on lots of different aspects and pitch into areas you might not get involved within a larger team.

Maybe you like the idea of working on marketing lots of different types of products/services, less in-depth and for shorter periods of time, in which case an agency could be a great option if they have a variety of projects for you to get involved in. You may want the kudos of working for a well-established brand early on in your career (I’ve seen Apple mentioned a few times as your dream job), and there is a lot to be learned from organisations that already have a clear strong brand. Bear in mind that while you may learn a lot, you may be limited in terms of the influence you can have if the brand is already very well-established, so think about what is most important to you. If you’re unsure about this, book an appointment with your Careers Consultant to go over this in more detail.

We have an almost even split of small, medium and large companies within the Marketing, Advertising & PR sector currently registered on Aston Futures, so keep an eye out for roles coming through. We also get a lot of marketing roles through from other sectors, so throughout the year, there will be something that fits into all the scenarios I just mentioned.

What do I hear from Businesses?

Most businesses I speak to are not in the marketing sector, they’re in a different sector (like Engineering & Manufacturing, Charities & Non-Profits, Fast Moving Consumer Goods, and Consultancy etc.) and many of them have a need for marketing support. Whether it’s revamping their website (or creating one!), doing some market research to find out more about their customer demographic (or a new customer demographic for companies expanding), or helping with their social media strategy and content. Smaller businesses often need more support in these areas as they naturally focus on their products and services, without always planning how they are going to promote what they do and drive sales through their marketing activities. The key way that I consistently hear from businesses that you can add value to businesses of all sizes, is to really get to grips with the return on investment (ROI) of money spent, and crucially, time spent on various activities. What are the top things a business can do that are relatively low cost (money and time) to drive sales?

Part of this will be really understanding their product/service and customer demographic – using social media as an example, let’s face it, there’s no point focusing on Facebook and Twitter if your customers are all under 20 (unless you decide they are the consumers but your customers are actually their parents!). So do your research before talking to them, and if it’s not clear from their website – ask. They’ll appreciate your curiosity and I find most people love to talk about what they do.

If you’re talking about ROI, you’ll also need to be able to clearly communicate to the business what the ROI is, in which case it will be important to be able to demonstrate that you have strong analytical skills and you know how to use tools like Google Analytics. This is just as important for non-digital marketing, so if you’re planning an event, for instance, be really clear about how you will measure success and track outcomes. This might sound straight forward to those of you studying marketing, however, it isn’t straight forward to a lot of businesses so remember, if you can communicate it in a clear and simple to understand way, they will see the value that you can bring to their business.

The other reason many businesses approach Aston to promote their marketing opportunities is a perception that students and graduates have superior digital skills, especially social media. Personally I think it’s a generational thing to some extent, as each new generation become more digitally literate growing up. Whatever the reason (and whether it’s true in your case), it’s a perception you can definitely make the most of!

You might take for granted how easy you find it to set up profiles, create content that engages people and interact across multiple platforms, remember this is a skill that many smaller businesses (and sometimes the larger ones) don’t have and in reality, they don’t have the time or inclination to learn. Think about how you can showcase this in a short, easy to understand way and remember that ROI! I’ve spoken to lots of business owners who don’t know what a hashtag is and have never heard of scheduling tools like Hootsuite (that’s blown a couple of minds in conversation!), so keep your language simple to understand.

Most of the time for in-house marketing roles in other sectors, your C.V. or application will be initially looked at by someone who doesn’t have much marketing knowledge, so try to avoid too much jargon, while still remembering to hit those keywords from the Job Description! Many larger companies have a team of HR staff processing applications, and some recent feedback from a large organisation was that when they receive thousands of applications, they need to see really easily and clearly how and why you are a good fit for their business and the role – they won’t spend time reading between the lines or putting 2 and 2 together so spell it out for them, you’ll be doing them a favour as well as yourself.

Lastly, whether you’re interested in a role within the Marketing, Advertising & PR sector, or an in-house role in another sector, one of the key things I’ve heard from both sides is that speculative applications are often welcomed. I wonder if it’s because of the creative nature of the roles, that someone pro-actively reaching out in a creative way appeals and gives a good impression of how you can approach things in different ways instead of following the norm. No one wants a “normal” marketing campaign after all. It goes without saying, remember before you start doing speculative applications, to keep your social media relevant (or private!) and get that LinkedIn profile updated and ready to showcase you and your work.

So to summarise, here are the key skills/attributes I hear from businesses that it’s worth making sure you can prove you have:

  • Data Analysis – in particular, to show ROI.
  • Communication – the ability to convey complex information in an easy to understand way.
  • Digital Marketing – specific abilities with multiple platforms/channels and their related analytics and scheduling tools.
  • Commercial Awareness – this related to the ROI too, as you can show how you are taking the businesses operating costs into consideration.

Here are some links to articles and some free short courses you may find useful.

General info about the sector and roles: