The Top 4 Qualities of a Digital Marketer in Higher Education

In the Summer of 2011, I left my home state of Missouri and moved to San Diego, California, to pursue my Bachelor in Business Administration from San Diego State University. During my time at SDSU, I recognized my passion for marketing and entrepreneurship, which led me to seek a digital marketing internship in my final year of school. Luckily, I found Circa Interactive, a local digital marketing company started by millennial entrepreneurs and fueled by creative passion. The lessons learned from these leaders in higher education have been invaluable to my professional and personal development. From this experience, I learned about the characteristics and qualities needed to succeed in the digital marketing industry. I have narrowed down a large list of characteristics to the top four qualities that build the successful infrastructure of a digital marketer.

1. Creativity

Today more content is being produced than ever before. The last problem any marketing team needs is to fall into “group think” — or the concept that everyone agrees to one unified idea. If your team is not creating a constant stream of innovative strategies to get in front of the media, then the relationships will dwindle and the links will be nonexistent. That is one reason why creativity is the most important quality of a digital marketer. It is the starting point for content creation. Whether you’re pitching an editor or trying to create a story through a vivid infographic, you need to differentiate yourself and find ways to keep your content fresh in order to catch the interest of incredibly busy editors and bloggers.

This is why I learned to look creatively for stronger time pegs that are essential for a pitch. In higher education marketing, we create content around the university, their programs and professors. As we sift through news, we use our creative instinct to find relevant time pegs that connect with the uniqueness of each professor and university’s brand. For instance, one of our clients has a professor that is an expert in athletic psychology and injury prevention. As many know, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) — a neurodegenerative brain disease — has been a growing topic over the past couple years, especially in the NFL. When we see trends develop around a subject, in this case brain injuries, that is the time to take immediate action and leverage the expertise of our professor. Mastery of time pegs isn’t easy but it can be the difference between a published article.

2. Confidence

After sending out thousands of pitches to publications and bloggers, the likelihood of getting shot down is absolute. Don’t let these rejections deflate your energy. My biggest lesson of confidence happened after I sent a pitch to Newsweek and received immediate interest in a potential publication of an infographic for a  criminal justice program. After long hard discussions between the client and Newsweek, the publication fell through. I was a bit down, but our Creative Director Joseph Lapin said: “Pitches and outreaches are like throwing spaghetti at a wall.” What he means is that you never know what will stick with the reporters, and you have to send out many pitches and ideas until you find one that sticks. This helped me understand this so called “failure” wasn’t a failure at all. It’s just a part of being a digital marketer.

3. Organization

Without structure life is chaotic. Though it may come to a surprise, this was one of the biggest eye-openers during my internship. I never understood the importance of organization until I entered digital marketing. Before, I was saving everything in my head, whether it was a business meetings or a grocery list. After joining Circa Interactive, this habit had to change. As the work, school and life tasks continued to grow, I now had more responsibility than ever before. My brain couldn’t organize all the tasks, so our Chief Operating Officer Clayton Dean and Joe Lapin recommended a few tools to keep me on track. Here is short list on my favorite organizational tools below.

  • Trello – This is an amazing project management and organizational tool. Trello is great for tracking progress on team projects, creating checklist by due dates and structuring to-dos by niche.
  • Cal – A free and easy Calendar application for your phone. Cal can connect with your Google Calendar and can instantly send emails from the app.
  • Google Applications – Most businesses and students use this organizational tool on a daily basis. While browsing the web you can save pictures and pdfs directly into your drive. Plus, you have the ability to structure everything into folders, spreadsheets or documents.

4. Adaptability

As many already know, the search engine optimization industry changes constantly. According to SEOMoz, while most of these updates are minor, Google changes its algorithm around 500-600 times a year. For instance, ten years ago digital marketers were more focused on building sites with a lot of targeted keywords. Don’t get me wrong, keywords are important but are much lower on the totem pole than content marketing and white-hat link building. This major change shifted the focus from keyword-rich pages to creating relationships with editors and webmasters. The biggest lessons about adaptability came from the observations of CEO Robert Lee and COO Clayton Dean. They taught me how to properly see the difference between each client and how we have to adapt our services to their motives. Using teamwork and adaptability to stay ahead of the pack is one of the biggest ways we can help our clients. As the digital marketing industry revolutionizes, I believe creativity and adaptability will need to be the strongest attributes of any teams’ philosophy.

I am thankful to have an internship opportunity that has helped me expand my creative critical thinking skills, believe in my ideas, think structurally and efficiently, and learn to adapt to client needs and industry trends. Everything I learned in this internship will help me in any future profession. Whether I seek a career in the marketing industry or pursue the life of an entrepreneur, these traits will be anchored within me forever. One more realization I had while working here is not to take a day for granted. If you’re hungry, then there will always be something to learn, and everyone here wants to help you get there and succeed.

Don’t forget: be creative, stay confident, get organized, and adapt quickly or be left behind.

If you want to find out more about Circa Interactive please reach out to us on our contact form or find us on Twitter @CircaSEO.


theandersonidea
Austin Anderson
is a senior at San Diego State University majoring in marketing. He is passionate about entrepreneurship, personal development and the future of big data. Connect with Austin on LinkedIn.

 

Four Lessons from my Internship in Digital Marketing

At Circa Interactive, we pride ourselves on building a team of leaders and placing individuals in the best position for success. There is no greater example of this goal than our internship program. We not only work in higher education as marketers, but consider ourselves teachers for future digital marketing professionals. Through partnerships with local universities and organizations, Circa Interactive brings young professionals into our company with the hope of teaching them practical skills in SEO, digital PR, social media, design, copywriting, and PPC in order to build the foundation for their future professional careers. Below you will see an article from one of our first interns, Sarah Song, an exceptional young woman who took the changes in the SEO industry by the horns and learned about the crossroads of traditional PR with SEO. Learn more in her article below.

As the digital strategy and public relations intern at Circa Interactive, my experience has taught me aspects I could have never learned at a typical PR agency. Here are four lessons I learned that were essential in understanding the future of SEO and PR.

4. The Convergence of Public Relations and SEO

Public relations has become an integral aspect of any successful SEO campaign. While at Circa Interactive, I learned that through traditional PR practices, such as pitching and list building, SEO can also benefit from relationships with journalists and editors. By reaching out to the media, I was able to offer journalists quality experts from credible and cutting-edge university programs to provide commentary on trending topics. In turn, the journalists supplied our clients with a link to our targeted landing page within their story.

3. Don’t Have Content? Make Content.

Online degree programs have a plethora of resources for PR and content marketing professionals, which can be repurposed and pitched to the media. Often times it may seem like online programs do not have as much fodder compared to other campus-based programs; however, with online programs, it is quite the opposite. With an audience and program completely online, “pitchable” content is virtually everywhere. From online resources, to videos and research studies, the possibilities are endless. The content you create depends on your creativity and insight.

2. Find a Way to Stay Creative

Creativity is king. Often times Circa Interactive would work with a program that specialized in a topic which didn’t initially appear media friendly, and it would be difficult to gain traction with the media without creativity and innovation. As a higher education marketer, it’s important to dig deep into the programs through analyzing their syllabi, research concentrations, and faculty members in order to create publishable and relevant content that is brand specific. During this process, newer, more unique ideas surfaced. With that, we were able to provide journalists and media gatekeepers with fresh ideas.

1. It’s All About the Links

One of the main differences between a typical PR department and an SEO firm is that SEO professionals focus on attaining backlinks to their main landing page. This is another area where traditional PR and SEO are coming together. PR could have a much more digital focus if they took lessons from SEO professionals. I’m fascinated to watch how these two industries continue to converge.

Overall, throughout my time at Circa Interactive, I have learned invaluable lessons on SEO and public relations best practices. The specific nuances and insights I have gleaned here will still be relevant and beneficial to me regardless of the field or emphasis I am in moving forward.

Sarah Song is a senior at Biola University, majoring in Public Relations, and she hopes to attain either an internship or job at a PR firm or department.
She loves to use her creativity and passion for technology to help companies effectively and personally connect with their audiences. She is currently the brand and social media intern at BCBGMAXAZRIAGROUP.