At GroundFloor Media and CenterTable, a big part of our culture is giving back to our community. We volunteer and support local nonprofits, our Get Grounded Foundation provides grants to support at-risk youth, and we pay it forward by helping the next generation of marketing communications professionals. When we were approached by a teacher from Big Picture College and Career Academy in Thornton to see if we’d be willing to host some of her students, we enthusiastically accepted. While we get requests from colleges and universities to speak to students or visit our office, it’s unusual to hear from a high school.
Once the seven students arrived, mostly 9th graders, we toured the office and then we talked about what our jobs are like at GroundFloor Media and CenterTable. We also discussed some of the fundamental skills they’ll need should they choose to work in marketing communications. These same skills apply to anyone who is considering a career change to this field as well.
- Writing – Being a strong writer will always be important. And today, and in the future, marketing communications professionals need to know how to write for various media and target audiences (blogs, news releases, annual reports, social media content, digital ads, etc.).
- Storytelling – Understanding what makes a good story and how to tell it effectively is vital. The best stories include people, information and statistics that back up the story, are tied to a local trend or newsworthy topic, and are relatable to the reader, viewer or listener. And similar to writing, recognizing how to share a story using various platforms to reach your target audiences (social media, video, blogs, media relations, etc.) is equally important.
- Understanding business – It’s vital to have a basic understanding of how businesses and organizations run, how they make money, who their competitors are, what they contribute to society, etc. You need to understand the challenges your client faces before you can offer solutions to solve their pain points.
- Strategic thinking and problem solving – These are skills that are often learned through trial and error, and experience. For marketing communicators just starting out, you can learn to be strategic and be a problem-solver by being well-read. This includes following news that represents different points of view, reading industry and trade news, understanding the business or industry you’re serving, and being curious and inquisitive – completely unafraid to ask questions to learn from others.
- Working with and following the media – While the media landscape has certainly changed, and few high school students are watching news on television or reading a newspaper, the mass media is still a critical part of what we do in marketing communications (at least for the foreseeable future). Bloggers and other influencers are just as important as traditional media, and as I mentioned above, following those who represent different points of view is important to expanding how you think and learn.
Of course, there are other skills that are needed for working in marketing communications, but the aforementioned represent some of the foundational elements that can set one person apart from another candidate when vying for a job.
Once we wrapped up our overview to these high school students – sharing what we do in public relations, corporate social responsibility, crisis communication and reputation management, and social media and digital marketing – we were a little afraid that we overwhelmed them and scared the students off. We were pleasantly surprised when several asked about shadowing us in the future.