According to Statistic Brain, roughly half of all Americans will make a New Year's resolution, and less than half of those resolutions will be achieved. Most resolutions will be entirely personal — spend less, lose weight, quit smoking — but why not some professional resolutions, too?
The following seven New Year's resolutions can help anyone in marketing and PR build their knowledge, and thus, their value and effectiveness in the industry. Consider adding some or all of them to your resolutions for 2014.
To be successful, you have to keep up with changes in the industry. Thankfully, insiders constantly share their trials, tribulations, thoughts and expectations in print. The next three resolutions put their work in your hands.
Resolution: Spend 30 minutes each weekday reading blogs about the marketing industry (including your favorite, the DigitalRelevance blog).
Resolution: Subscribe to at least one industry-related magazine and read it from cover to cover each month.
Print magazines are not dead; you can choose anything from the mainstream (PRWeek, Fast Company) to the subversive (Adbusters) to magazines geared not toward marketing but to your specific industry (Jaguar World Monthly). Any of them can help open your eyes to new technologies, patterns and ideas.
Resolution: Read one book about marketing or PR every month.
For every Malcolm Gladwell or Seth Godin bestseller, you can find any number of less-known but equally well-written and informative books by other great authors who can raise your understanding and awareness. Plus, they have wonderful, interest-piquing titles like Tweet Naked; The Power of Unpopular; Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook; and Marketers Ruin Everything.
Resolution: Learn how to use a new online research tool by the end of 2014.
Not only do you need to keep on top of industry changes, you need to stay current with the tools you use (or should be using) every day. Google, of course, offers an array of tools, including Google Analytics, Webmaster Tools and Google Insights, but your opportunities extend way beyond what the Googleplex offers. So do a bit of research, pick a new tool — SEMrush, Cision, HitWise or whatever looks promising to you — and become the company expert on it.
Who knows? You might discover you've been using the wrong tool all along.
Resolution: See if you can move the needle with a new social media platform.
Ten years ago, Facebook (at the time, "Thefacebook") was still in its ideation and programming stages at Harvard University, and tweeting was still something only birds and The Jackson Five did. No one could have predicted that today's marketers would be focusing on using these social tools to grow their brands.
In the same way, no one today knows what social media tool will be the big thing in marketing 10 years from now. You could get a head start on the next marketing revolution by seeing what you can do outside of Twitter and Facebook on other social platforms, like Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, Vine or whatever the Internets dream up in the coming months.
Even if you don't accurately predict the future of social marketing, you'll have another tool under your belt for the present.
Resolution: Find new and useful ways to segment your audience.
About once a week, I get a piece of snail mail from my ISP advertising a special deal on an upgraded service that I already know isn't available in my neighborhood. That form letter is often accompanied by an offer from my bank for a checking account or credit card that I already have.
This type of old-style, wide-net marketing focuses on putting the brand message in front of as many people as humanly possible. If their marketing teams had further segmented their audiences beyond zip code — down to neighborhood and current business relationship — they wouldn't be wasting their paper and my time with this bad marketing push.
In contrast, a good marketing campaign with effective segmentation puts the right message in front of the right people at the right time. Figuring out what "right" is in each instance is the tough part.
Before the age of 24/7 connectivity, marketers relied on only a small collection of audience demographics (gender, age, income, location) to target their advertising campaigns. Today, though, these are the "easy" demographics, and they aren't enough.
Finding the right people takes effort, but it can pay off big-time. The effort you spend segmenting your audience by, say, their interests and behaviors can save you the time, effort and money that would otherwise be lost to futile marketing efforts, not to mention the ill will generated by it.
Resolution: Become a better writer.
The secret to becoming a better writer is no secret at all. Like mastering any skill, it takes practice, practice and practice. Here are the four basic steps for becoming a fabulous writer:
This isn't as measurable as some of the other resolutions, but it isn't unmeasurable either. Right now, open your calendar to Monday, December 29, 2014, and set a reminder to yourself to evaluate the success of this resolution.
How do you evaluate it? Blog posts are organized chronologically. Look back at your posts from December 2013 and compare them to your writing at the end of 2014. Incremental improvements easily go unnoticed; you might be surprised by how much your writing has improved in just a year. (If you don't believe me, compare the last thing you wrote to your blog posts from December 2012.)
What other professional resolutions do you have for 2014? How will they help you do your job better in the future?