It may turn out that for much of the U.S. economy, 2013 will be another year of slow growth and anemic hiring. But in the world of marketing — and especially in the high orbit of multichannel, digital media marketing — that's not the message at all.
"We've been very busy in the second half of 2012, and we expect to increase head count by 50 percent in 2013," says Ellen Hanson, human resources manager at Walker Sands Communications, a Chicago marketing communications agency with technology clients. "We'll be looking for PR professionals, writers and programmers."
Not that marketing, advertising and public relations were unscathed by the recession of 2007-2009 and its aftermath. "Two or three years ago, companies cut positions in their in-house marketing departments, but they're now realizing they need to reinstate them," says Glenn Hansen, owner of HansenHouse Communication, a marketing, PR and communications agency in Chino Hills, Calif.
Even companies that still find themselves making very tough choices about where to invest are hiring marketing people or agencies. "So many companies are suffering in this economy, but in the digital space, companies are making huge investments," says Jim Butler, president of Roundarch Isobar, a digital marketing agency with about 450 employees in six cities. "Our clients are coming to us almost desperate for a mobile strategy."
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The intersection of technology and marketing will be a rich breeding ground for jobs in the marketing field in 2013, industry insiders say. "We expect to make 150 to 200 hires just in Chicago over the next few years," says Butler. In addition to specialists in core marketing disciplines, Roundarch will be looking for media strategists, user experience designers, Web developers, Java developers and content managers.
Professionals who haven't fully immersed themselves in the new media of marketing will likely feel less in demand in 2013. "Multichannel user experience people are the hardest to find, then mobile, while the market for creative and visual design folks is a little bit softer," Butler says. Roundarch's recent job postings have included SEO technical strategist, user experience director and project manager.
In fact, marketing professionals may have no choice but to get involved in digital if they want to have a future in their field. "The lines between digital and traditional media planning are blurring," says Christine Stack, director of senior talent acquisition at MEC, a media buying agency with about 4,400 workers worldwide. "We now need strategic media planners who work across all media." MEC has recently posted openings for senior associate of digital media, senior director of media planning and manager of marketing-mix modeling.
Marketing analytics will also be a very active area for hiring in 2013. "More employers are looking for marketers who have the potential to work with 'big data,' " says Larry Chiagouris, a professor of marketing at Pace University in New York City and author of The Secret to Getting a Job After College: Marketing Tactics to Turn Degrees into Dollars. "They're looking for people who can make sense of user-generated content, online ratings and so on."
But in addition to technical savvy, marketing firms and in-house departments say they are hard-pressed to find folks skilled in the very essence of the field: communication. "Economics majors are sought out by marketers if they can communicate," Chiagouris says. "Marketing people are in demand if they can do analytical work."
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More and more, media agencies find that they must not only examine the paper qualifications of candidates in detail, but also put those credentials to the test. "On the entry level, we'll be looking for people with exceptional writing skills, especially in engineering, medical and finance," says Hanson at Walker Sands. "Recently, we had 413 applicants for three media relations specialist positions. We sent out 53 writing tests, but only called in 15 for an interview, and hired three. Just because you have a communications degree, that doesn't mean you know how to write for us."
Technologists working in marketing must also demonstrate to prospective employers their ability to get a message across. "It's hard to assess a candidate's attention to detail and written communications ability in an interview, so we've created tests," says Butler. At Roundarch, these tests range from sketching how a PC application could be adapted to a mobile screen, to coming up with a response to a mini-RFP.
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