After graduating college, I left my home state of Iowa and traveled halfway across the country in search of something out West. What exactly – I wasn’t sure. The idea of “just finding a job” didn’t interest me, nor did the idea of saving money (rent is much cheaper in Iowa than California). Therefore, without having a specific job or industry in mind, I decided to base my job search around fulfilling what is most important to me: creativity and innovation. Luckily, I found Circa Interactive, a digital marketing company whose passion is to provide creative and analytical solutions for higher education. Upon joining the team, I have had the unbelievable privilege of collaborating with some of the most innovative, brilliant minds, and through these collaborations, I have made note of four essentials for maintaining innovation within higher education digital marketing.
1. What’s Your Angle?
Our Creative Director, Joe Lapin, is always providing tips on how to write clear and concise pitches for media outreach, particularly by constantly asking, “What’s your angle?” Through his questioning, Joe is illustrating that content–in and of itself–has no inherent meaning; therefore, the job of a writer is to make meaning by positioning content at a unique, engaging angle, especially when you’re asking high quality publications to publish your infographics or other creative content.
In higher education digital marketing, especially on the digital PR and content marketing side, Joe’s question “What’s your angle” is crucial to success. Some of us often forget that our brains are constantly taking angles when they process data or content. And because of this forgetfulness, we sometimes lose sight of our inherent creativity: the ability to choose our angle and shape messaging to highlight certain areas. For example, during my first month with Circa, I was assigned an infographic on bioinformatics. Naturally, I thought the graphic would be great for computer science or bioinformatics blogs. Yet after two rounds of distribution, the graphic had landed only two links. Obviously, I realized that my angle wasn’t working, so our team worked together to come up with a pitch based around STEM education. Through this new angle, the infographic found immediate success.
2. Shape Your Project to Fit Your Goals
Every project, no matter how big or small, has its own requirements. Personally, I like to think of each project as its own unique cookie cutter: each have their various shapes and styles, some of which can be extremely detailed and ornate. For example, as a digital marketer, some projects may require a massive amount of writing (e.g. pitches, press releases, communication with clients, etc.), while others consist more of innovative brainstorming or data analysis.
Sometimes even different stages of the same project can demand distinctly different skill sets. For instance, I’ve observed that the body of outreaches requires a vastly different style of writing than subject line pitches, and in order to maintain innovation, a digital marketer will need to stay as pliable as dough so they can quickly configure their skill set to not only fit but exceed any project’s requirements.
3. Drop the Bricks
Digital marketers can easily find themselves in a funk, especially during extensive outreach for a piece of content that had only a handful of responses. Our team has a phenomenal insight on how to handle these tough situations, as we often tell each other, “Don’t be afraid to throw spaghetti at the wall. If it sticks, great! If not, regroup and throw a new handful.” What we mean here is that you can’t be afraid to try something new (i.e. send new pitches, take a different angle), even if your ideas might not have worked out in the past. You have to drop the heavy bricks of doubt, stress or worry and refresh with something new.
This drop-the-brick concept was an old saying of my former basketball coach. He always told us players that if we made a mistake, just drop the brick and keep playing. If we carried around all our mistakes, then we wouldn’t be free to play at our best because we would be too worried about making another mistake. I’ve notice this same concept transfers quite well into the digital marketing world. Therefore, if an idea doesn’t stick, don’t take it personally. Let it go. Drop the bricks of the past and focus on creating something great, right here and now.
4. Share Your Vision
As digital marketers, a shared team vision is essential to productivity. If team members are unsure why they are doing something, they are far more likely to be uninspired or apathetic. Considering this: Team leaders should establish and share short and long term goals so team members can be confident as to why they are doing even the most menial tasks. Having a shared team vision is also extremely beneficial when it comes to staying focused and finding new ways to solve problems. There may, at times, be opportunities that appear enticing, but if they are outside of the overall vision, they are nothing but distractions that take up time and resources.
The digital marketing field will continue to be governed by the companies that strive to push the boundaries of creativity, innovation and productivity. Therefore, in order to elevate to this level, be confident and flexible. Stay aware of what angle your brain is taking when it is processing information, always try to configure your skills to fit each project and ensure you are communicating with your team to maintain a shared vision. Most importantly, don’t lose your confidence or start doubting. If there are times that you lose focus and doubt your abilities, just drop the bricks, lighten up, and progress forward.
Tyler Putz is a retired division two college basketball player and a recent graduate from the University of Iowa. His creativity, as well as passion for entrepreneurship and the expansion of technology and communication, helps Circa to continue to stay on the cusp of new technologies and trends influencing future generations of students.