Each month we have been reaching out to notable communications professionals to ask them a few questions about their experiences and interests, with the goal of providing some insights to others in the industry. For our latest edition of ‘Questions for the PR Industry’ we took a look at a different facet of the industry and spoke with Josh Steimle, CEO of digital marketing agency MWI.
Why do you work in marketing/communications?
I got into marketing as a kid. I was always drawing, creating logos, thinking about starting companies, and as a teenager I did start a company and learned a lot trying to market it. When I was in college I picked up some web design skills and decided to start an agency. This was in 1999.
I’ve stuck with marketing because it’s about making connections and forming relationships, and that seems to be a lot of what life is about. I find marketing applicable not just professionally but everywhere. And I love being able to work with a client who has a great product and help them grow their business. I feel like I’m making a difference in the world to make it a better place.
What skills do you believe are most crucial to communicating a client’s message?
The most important thing isn’t a skill at all—it is belief in what the client is selling. If we wouldn’t buy a product or recommend it to our friends, we can’t do a good job marketing that product.
Beyond this, creativity is the core skill that matters more than any other. A person can be trained on anything else with varying levels of time and difficulty, but creativity is a tough one. It seems to be one of those things people have or don’t. It’s also important to be analytical, informed by data, oriented toward great design, and have a feel for your audience, but it’s creativity that brings it all together to produce something amazing that fosters connections between companies and customers.
What was one mistake you’ve made in your career, and what did you learn from it?
I’ve made a lot of them. One mistake I made recently was I hired someone based on competence without much thought for culture. The guy was amazing in terms of his technical skills and his knowledge. But culturally, he wasn’t the right fit. We tried working things out but eventually had to let him go. Now we’ve created processes to make sure anyone who comes on board is a true cultural fit, and we see that as more important than core skills. Skills you can develop, culture is harder.
What do you see as the future of the industry?
I’m excited about data. There’s so much information available. The ultimate marketing is one to one, just two people talking to each other. But when you have a million potential customers, how do you do that? Data makes it possible, if you have the right technology in place. It also means it’s not companies selling to consumers, it’s consumers being sold by their friends – consumers selling themselves. The power has shifted and continues to shift rapidly toward consumers, and that will continue. It’s creating more of a culture of service at companies where companies can’t feel entitled anymore, but have to provide real value in a transparent marketplace, and I think that’s a good thing for everyone.
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