The Challenges of the Marcom Profession
The Marketing Communications profession is one that employs a good quantity of people in Israel, with the huge majority of these roles requiring a high level of English. A large variety of tasks are grouped together to create the Marcom position.
Marketing Communications (short: Marcom) is a profession that is still being formed. The responsibilities that Marcom personnel have differ and depend on the specific requirements of their employers. As the Marcom person is a Jack (or rather a Jill) of all trades, this person is often faced with new challenges and new tasks. The rule of thumb is that the Marcom person is in charge of all the English content the company requires for its marketing efforts. This content can be used in many forms. This article will review these responsibilities, dividing them into the more traditional formats-old school, and the developing Marcom areas – new school.
Marketing communication is a title for the person who is in charge of all the English language content a business requires for marketing. In Israel this content must be especially generated by translating original ideas formed in Hebrew to English. The requirement of good English content has created a special niche in marketing that is usually filled by an immigrant from an English speaking country (there are many such expats in Israel). Whereas local marketing efforts are outsourced and performed by professionals from the advertising and public relations branches, marketing for international purposes in English is conducted by the Marcom person. Companies can outsource these Marcom services or employ a staff member to coordinate them and write the relevant English content.
Old School Marcom – Traditional Marketing Tools
The more traditional formats of marketing such as brochures, presentations and advertising, as well as the public relations related activity, such as press releases and articles all fall under the Marcom umbrella. Thus the Marcom person is not only challenged with creating good content, but also with distributing it. This means a Marcom person must learn a little about many professions. The Marcom person must not only speak and write excellent English, but also learn special formats for writing press releases and professional expert articles. Then one must also learn how contacts with magazines and websites are generated to have the materials published. Adverts need to be designed and created and then placed in relevant magazines. The Marcom people must continuously research new publications that can be relevant to their employer.
Another area of activity is creating brochures and presentations for the firm. Brochures usually involve the supervision of a graphic designer to create the visual for the brochure. Here the company brand and its correct look and feel must be maintained, supporting the message of the particular brochure. The challenge of creating a good brochure is in generating focused content and arranging it in a form that makes for easy reading. Printing it is yet another task that the Marcom person must supervise and learn to understand. Digital printing may be more “brilliant” in color but is also costly. Offset print only pays off with very large quantities. Getting the exact color in repeated print is a science in itself.
Presentations pose a different challenge. The Marcom person must think about the person who will present the material. How will the presenter be best supported by the PowerPoint slides, without the slides taking the main focus off the lecturer? One must also consider where the presentation will take place. A presentation for an exhibition needs to be eye catching and might not allow for sound at all (narration) because of the noise in the halls, a demonstration or training may include a lot of interactive parts with an audience participating, a sales pitch needs to be focused towards the most important decision maker who will hear it. The main company messages must once again be delivered in all these instances, in a different and relevant format for each case.
One of the greatest challenges of the Marcom manager is to refresh the same messages again and again, innovating and creating a feeling of initiative and change while maintaining the main selling points of the company, which may not change as fast as the marketing collateral material.
Exhibitions are another area that traditionally fall into the Marcom person’s scope of responsibilities. Content required for such events may contain brochures and presentations, but also posters, conference lectures and the coordination of the entire booth. Here the Marcom person must show some skills that are required by internal designers and architects. One must plan the arrangement of the booth, see and approve drawings that include lighting details, ordering the correct furniture and planning of relevant space and placement of items in the booth. Some booths can be very complex and will usually be outsourced to a professional designing and construction firm; still the Marcom person will usually supervise the work, representing the interests of his/her employer. Through this communication maze, the Marcom person must make expectations clear and ensure the requirements are being understood and fulfilled by both sides.
All these activities cost money and the Marcom person is expected to plan an annual budget and manage its execution. The Marcom person must be a skilled organizer, as the work of various suppliers (such as printers, graphic artists, booth constructors etc.) as well as the actual content writing all needs to be fit into a tight schedule.
Marcom people have always needed the ability to learn rules of many topics related to their work. With the Internet becoming a more and more important factor in everyday life, it has also taken its place in the world of marketing. As the World Wide Web is all about communicating content and distributing information (mostly in the English language) this new field has under the Marcom umbrella. Internet Marcom is the new Marcom challenge.
New School Marcom – Internet Website Promotion
The field of Internet website promotion includes today a variety of marketing tools. At first Internet marketing simply mirrored traditional marketing tools, mainly advertising, and worked according to the traditional rules. Today this is no longer the case. The Internet enables a very exact research of surfing behavior, and specific marketing tools exist to understand patterns and act upon them. Once again the Marcom person is called upon to learn the basic principles of a new field. Understanding the statistics of surfing behavior is the basis for creating efficient Internet marketing campaigns, using the various tools available.
A good Internet marketing campaign begins with a good website. The company message must come across the screen with a modern look that is fit for the world of cyberspace. Once again the Marcom person is required to supervise the work of suppliers who will design and program the website. The site needs to look good and content needs to be placed in it according to surfing behaviors (for example, the top left corner is the most important space in a web page in English – with China becoming more connected this may no longer be as important…). The website also needs to works smoothly, so there are no problems when it is loaded on a potential customer’s computer. The code needs to be properly prepared.
The Internet itself is a great source of information on such themes. This way when the Marcom manager must choose a professional site programming provider, s/he can first get informed by reading about it online. Today there is also free open source software for building websites, so there is also the option of remaining independent, if one is willing to spend the time learning how to build a site. Time vs. money – it’s always a balance between the two.
Site content is also an important factor of Internet marketing. The content of the site must be designed to capture the attention of the reader fast! Surfing statistics show that a reader remains only a few seconds on a page. In this short time span, one must make a positive impression or lose the attention of surfer. Once the surfer has stayed to read the web page, the content must be interesting to pull him deeper into exploring the website further and in a course that will generate a “conversion” – i.e. the activity that the site owner wishes to achieve from the surfer (usually an item purchase or a request for contact). The content and site structure must not only be optimized for the reader, but also for the search engines.
Search engines rule the web. 85%-95% (depends upon the country) of Internet users begin their Internet surf with a search engine. The most popular engine by far is Google (75%-85%). The search engine scans the Internet for content and categorizes it. The site structure must be “Google friendly” so that the crawlers/scanners of the search engine can read it well, and its content must help the search engine categorize the site according to themes the potential customer looking for it will use to try and find it. In other words, one must understand what key phrases and key words surfers use to search for the kind of business activity or product the company/website offers.
As marketer’s try to improve the search results by manipulating content, Google and other search engines try to improve their algorithms and maintain their neutrality. The field of search engine optimization (SEO) is a constant battle of wits and is ever changing. The Marcom person cannot be expected to keep up if s/he has many other “old school” Marcom activities to conduct. Yet, employers mistake Marcom personnel with Internet marketing personnel very often. Since the content of the website is part of Marcom's responsibilities, the Marcom person is expected to at least know the basics of SEO, and keep updated on them, even if not to be truly savvy in it.
Distribution of your message on the web is an important tool of website promotion. Thus the Marcom manager is not only expected to create content for their employer’s website alone, but to create content that can be used in other sites, such as professional directories and online magazines. Links from such websites are important to promoting one’s website and establishing a good and professional reputation on the web, such site inter-connections are also important for improving search engine results.
As part of the distribution efforts, the Internet marketing campaign also includes traditional-like tool such as online articles and adverts. Here the skill is to learn the visual components that will work on a screen (as opposed to a printed advert), and creating articles that present focused and interesting content. The patience to read material on screen is even lower than in print. The content needs to pull the reader to continue to surf and click on the advert or to finish reading an article that will eventually lead them to your website (with a link – another SEO important factor). Another challenge is to understand the new payment models of Internet advertising. Being able to follow surfing patterns mean that one can pay only for advertising that has been efficient. There are many measuring factors to define advertising efficiency, but “Pay Per Click” (PPC), in which one pays only if the advert has been clicked upon, is the most popular payment model today. There are many options of affiliate marketing – web models in which “bringing a friend” through your site to purchase something online (even on another site) can be profitable (Amazon has such a strong model) which also contribute to distribution and will only cost you if the link has turned out to be effective.
Google also runs paid adverts in its search results in a separate “sponsored” area. Using this advertising tool is a science in itself. One must find and promote key words that are relevant to ones activity but that are not used too heavily by competitors. One can use this tool to educate the surfers to use certain terminology. This tool does not work alone and must be supported by other efforts such as listings in relevant indexes and sponsoring relevant websites. This entire effort is usually referred to as search engine marketing, or SEM.
The cost of the various Internet marketing efforts is a fraction of traditional advertising but have the potential of exposing your message to many more users. The trick is to learn to use the various tools efficiently in order to generate high quality traffic to one’s website. Which effort to outsource and which ones to conduct independently with 100% control is a complex decision that depends very much on the combination of the employer’s requirements, the budget as well as the existing skills and learning ability of the Marcom person.
As smart cell phones and social networks emerge, new Internet marketing tools are created for these new fields. The retailers are always the first to use these new media options for marketing purposes. Creating a cellular version of your website that offers a great surfing atmosphere is becoming more and more important. Distributing your message by being present and active on social networks is becoming vital to the “cool” and “modern” image one has to generate in order to attract young customers. As potential customers become more Internet savvy, so must the companies that want to attract them; Marcom personnel usually find themselves as leaders in this innovation process. The Marcom challenges just keep on coming.
About the Author
Ofra Kleinberger is a graduate of the Shenkar Institute in textile design and after five years of making a living from designing bras and panties, she decided to look for a new professional direction. She studied for an MBA at the Technion (majored in strategics and marketing) and did a technical writing course. During this time, she discovered the market hole in the field of web content writers and started working as a freelancer writer/translator about almost everything in 2004. In 2007, she started working full time as a Marcom manager for a company that produces portable X-ray inspection systems for security and industrial NDT. She also advises people regarding styling and their wardrobe, and writes a regular advice blog about wedding preparations in Hebrew on the site http://www.smalotkala.co.il/.