What I learnt from guest lecturing

I shared marketing career tips and dissected different disciplines to MSc students — here’s what I got from it

by Anna Michna

Every day’s a school day. Even when you’re experts in smart organic marketing, like us, being able to embrace new ideas and techniques is crucial, but it’s also just as important to share your own knowledge. Last month, my colleague Simon and I both had the pleasure of guest lecturing at Edinburgh Napier University — here’s how we got on.

Simon Bennison — Creative Director

Simon Bennison, our Creative Director, was first up. Speaking to MSc Creative Advertising Students, Simon spoke about his career and dished out tips on how to break into the industry. I caught up with him to find out about it.

“I’ve got a background in product design, so that formed the basis of my lecture”, Simon says. “My transition to digital wasn’t directly related to my degree. In fact, my current role hadn’t really been invented when I graduated in 2004.”

I explained how a digital project works from start to finish — from harvesting data and SEO insight all the way through to fine tuning copy, design and technical elements.
Anna Michna (that’s me, by the way)

“As well as talking about my own individual career path, I gave some insight into what it’s like to work in a digital agency. I explained how a campaign works from start to finish — from harvesting data and SEO insight all the way through to fine tuning copy, design and technical elements.”

“The Q&A section then evolved into an impromptu brainstorming session on a travel marketing project the class had been working on. A lot of the work we do at Caliber is within that sector, so I really enjoyed getting stuck into a live brief when they put me on the spot with a few questions.”

I was next. My career was built off a series of placements and an unwavering policy of always putting myself out there. It all started at Napier, though, so I felt obliged to give something back with the lecture. I’d been given the opportunity to speak to the university’s MSc Marketing students, so I thought it’d be as good a chance as any to wax lyrical about life in Caliber and the skills I’ve picked up here over the years.

“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.” — Richard Branson

My lecturers at Napier were always pushing me to go out and network, rather than stay at home and study from workbooks. That was great — there’s only so much theoretical work that actually prepares you for the world of work.

From an agency perspective, it always helps to have fresh perspectives on projects both big and small.

Many young people don’t realise how many employment options there are within marketing, so this was something that I addressed from the get-go. I’ve got friends from university who became copywriters, while others tried their hand at digital design. Me? I delved into what was then the unknown realms of SEO. Since then, I’ve dipped my toes into the worlds of influencer marketing — only briefly, they can be pretty feisty — and social media.

One of the best things about the industry is that there are so many different paths you can take. One day you’ll be working on a social strategy, the next you’ll be collecting keywords and analysing link building techniques for an SEO project. You might even find yourself drowning beneath a plethora of data (those days aren’t so good) and trying to make sense of last week’s analytics. In marketing — especially in digital — you’re always learning something new.

Towards the end of my talk, I also spoke about hard and soft skills which help candidates to get a foot in the door. It pays dividends to learn the ropes in Word, PowerPoint and Excel — that’ll make those data-heavy days a touch easier. Behind all that, though, lies a need for patience, creativity and confidence. After all, those ideas are nothing without a little drive to push them forwards.

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” — Benjamin Franklin

Agencies should keep close links with universities. Here at Caliber, we’re pretty good for that. We’ve taken on interns (and ensured they get paid for their efforts, but that’s another story), shared our skills and helped the next generation of marketers get to grips with the industry. Jobs are tricky to come by, so it feels good to help someone make that vital first step onto the career ladder.

This is a two-way thing, though. From an agency perspective, it really helps to have fresh perspectives on projects both big and small. Both Simon and I returned from our lectures feeling inspired and ready to put into practice what we’d preached once again.

Thanks for having us, Napier!