I was part of the class of 2020. The first generation to graduate amidst a global pandemic, stripped from the ‘soft landing’ expected when you leave university and begin exploring and figuring out your life.
Rather than taking our time to find our bearings in the big, bad adult world, we were graduating from our bedrooms, cast out to an uncertain future, scrolling through Indeed and wondering what to do next.
For me, that next step was the world of digital marketing, specifically digital PR.
The danger of getting comfy
When you start your digital marketing career, you're a sponge, absorbing all the knowledge more senior colleagues offer. It can be overwhelming, but in time it will help you become more efficient at work.
After a year or two in your role, you'll become much more comfortable, through a period of "trial and error". Once you know what can be successful, it's normal for you to apply the same methods to your everyday work to achieve a positive outcome.
However, when it comes to "stepping up", comfort can actually hinder your growth.
In fact, you need to step out of your comfort zone to grow. This is something that can be difficult at any point, but especially when you feel like you are still relatively junior in your role.
I wrote about this in a recent article on Medicat focusing on imposter syndrome. Through this piece, I discovered that it's not just your early career affected by this dreaded phenomenon, it can creep up on you even when you're flourishing as a head of a department, director or CEO.
Learn to embrace discomfort
Discomfort and imposter syndrome are two things that often go hand in hand. But through this piece I came to a bit of a realisation: if you’re not feeling uncomfortable, you’re probably not growing.
Now, hopefully when it comes to the topic of being a little uncomfortable at work, it goes without saying we’re not talking about the discomfort of being poorly treated, resourced, or not being set up to succeed. Those things are never ok, but as long as the right conditions are in place, a little discomfort can go a long way.
This type of discomfort comes from our inner imposter. When we start to get out of our usual depths, our imposter fights the self–belief in our heads and tries to dissuade us from heading out to deeper waters – because of the fear of failure, of course.
Your imposter, to some degree, will always be waiting around to tell you not to do something: that you shouldn’t take risks, because by taking risks you’re setting yourself up for the ultimate failure. And if you do fail, doesn’t that prove everything your imposter has been telling you; that you’re not good enough?Not good enough for a specific task, role, or even career?
Fighting the fear of failure
I think the fear of failure is particularly relevant to digital PR. We’ve become so accustomed to people shouting about their successes, and rightly so, but what about the digital PR campaigns that don’t land quite the way you expected?
Sometimes it seems you’ve done everything by the book (if there is such a thing in digital PR) and a campaign still doesn’t perform the way you’d hoped. Other times, the campaigns you least expect to succeed can absolutely skyrocket. I’m personally guilty of focusing on the number of links a campaign receives as the ultimate be-all end-all of a campaign’s success. Many of us are – we’re dubbed as “link-builders” after all.
Aira’s 2022 State of Linkbuilding Report came out recently, and the campaigns team at Yard have been picking through it with a fine-tooth comb. However, the report reveals the majority (53%) of creative content campaigners had seen one of their campaigns only generate 1-9 backlinks for a client in the past year. The second-most common response (49%) was 10-19 links, followed by 39% of respondents saying they’d had a campaign with 20-39 links.
It’s easy to focus on KPIs from the word go, and it’s just as easy to get lost in them. In an ideal world, every campaign would be award-winning, and as much as social media might make it seem like that is the case, it’s not. Small wins still deserve to be celebrated. Building and outreaching a campaign that doesn’t reach the target KPIs isn’t the end of the world, but it will be uncomfortable.
Eventually, although it might not seem that way, this discomfort evolves into learning. Not just for you or your team, but the business and the client.
The discomfort and uncertainty of the ego in your head telling you it’s a total blunder for the working relationship between your agency and the client will also fade. It’ll create a more harmonious relationship between you both, where you can learn to see that sometimes, things just don’t go as planned, and that’s okay.
After all, giving up is the only real way to fail.