Author: Steven Roberts is head of marketing at Griffith College. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, non-executive director of the Discovery Programme and a certified data protection officer. His book ‘Data Protection for Marketers: A Practical Guide’ is due for publication by Orpen Press in 2021.

Knowing the rules of work

The workplace can be difficult to navigate, no matter what level of experience we have, especially in these unprecedented times when so many of our interactions have moved online. It is a particular challenge for those starting out in the profession or seeking to make early progress in their careers. Looking back over two decades working in marketing, there are a number of unofficial ‘rules’ I wish I had known at the outset. Most are learned over time on the job. In this article, we will consider four of them.

Getting the job done

Many of us will work with demanding people during our careers. They could be a client, a shareholder or another member of staff. Office politics will always exist at some level. However, what the business ultimately wishes to see is that a particular job gets done. Not who caused a problem or delay, or who should have done what. What senior management really want are solutions. Marketers who build a reputation for getting the job done will progress swiftly in their careers. We are all in the results business.

Avoiding jargon

Perhaps it is the mix of art and science within marketing. Whatever the reason, our industry uses its fair share of jargon. From CTRs, PPC and SEO to funnels, reach and equity, we can quickly bamboozle colleagues in other sectors or professions. This is often to our detriment. The true sign of expertise is to be able to explain complicated concepts in simple language. It can be too easy to hide behind esoteric words in a bid to display one’s marketing prowess. More likely, the result will be to alienate stakeholders we need to bring with us on a project or initiative. Aim to avoid using jargon wherever possible. Remember, colleagues in finance, HR and law can easily mirror this approach, leaving us equally baffled.

Effectiveness versus efficiency

Many of us are familiar with the debate between marketing effectiveness and efficiency, lead by the work of Les Binet and Peter Field. It could be argued that there is a similar issue with regard to technology more broadly within businesses. As marketers, we have never had more ways in which to communicate with colleagues, clients and peers whilst at work. From instant messaging to text, email and virtual conferencing, there are a myriad digital options available. There is a danger in becoming too reliant on one communication method. Some technologies, whilst efficient, are often not as effective as others. As with so much in life, context is key. Take email, for example. It can be a wonderfully productive tool when used correctly. However, it lacks emotional flexibility and nuance. One person’s to-the-point writing style can be perceived by another as cold or off-hand. There are times when you need to speak with someone directly. Either in person or, in our current lockdown-state, by phone or Zoom. This is particularly important where the subject matter is sensitive, requires a nuanced approach, or is likely to be misunderstood without clear communication. As you transition to a managerial role and move up the hierarchy, technical competency increasingly takes a back seat. What matters is to be able to effectively work with and lead people. Knowing the most effective communication channel is key.

You are your own boss

It is vital to take charge of your career at an early stage, especially in these uncertain times. Some companies plot a roadmap for their staff, but these are few and far between. Marketers can easily become stuck in a role for too long, waiting for the next position to be presented to them. The author Brian Tracy advises that each one of us is our own CEO. It is a useful mental model. Taking the time to consider where you wish to be in your career in five or ten years, and setting goals and objectives that move you in that direction, help provide a sense of autonomy and control. Look to set aside some time on a daily or weekly basis to invest in your own learning. By committing to focused, continual improvement, you can develop a set of skills that compound over time and set you apart from your peers.


As marketers, we need to develop not just our technical skills, but also those broader competencies that allow for steady progress in one’s career. Getting the job done, knowing how to communicate effectively rather than efficiently, avoiding jargon and committing to continuous development will give today’s marketers more opportunities and control as they progress through their working lives.