By Karoline Tübben, Aimee Whittle and Zahra Islam
This week, Megan Whitlock from BookMachine shared her experience of working in marketing.
You recently joined BookMachine as a Marketing Executive, after over a year as a Marketing Assistant with Oxford University Press (OUP). What surprises most people about your job as a Marketing Executive?
I think the thing that surprises people most about my job is just how much creative control you get. You are writing and editing copy, designing eye-catching assets, creating original campaigns and can really see the results of your work come together. It’s the perfect job for people who like to have their finger in lots of different pies, as it requires strategic and analytical thinking (especially when keeping on top of trends and reporting on performance), but also the creativity to experiment and produce a campaign that stands out. I think the other thing that surprises people is that you don’t need to have a huge social following in your personal life! It helps to be on social media and be aware of what’s going on there, but not everyone in marketing is a digital influencer.
What is it about BookMachine that brings you to work every day?
There’s so much variety. Working with an agency means that I get to work on campaigns for a wide range of clients on lots of different types of publishing projects, so no one day feels the same. I’m still early in my career, so I love having the chance to learn and try lots of new things and BookMachine has been great for that. BookMachine is also just an incredibly lovely community; the podcast, resources and publishing events they put on are invaluable for keeping on top of what’s happening in the industry!
What does a typical day in the life of a Marketing Executive at an agency look like and how does this differ from your experience as a Marketing Assistant at an academic press?
They have both been such different experiences! As an assistant in-house, your primary job is to support the overall marketing and strategic objectives of the press. Because OUP is so large, often your role is focused on one specific part of the press that you get to know super well. This can involve analysing campaign performance, helping implement marketing activities, working on promotional materials (such as the newsletter) and generally getting to know your section of the business inside out.
On the other hand, at an agency you are jumping in and out of lots of different projects, so it is varied and much more fast-paced. As well as creating campaigns and working on marketing activities (anything from blog posts and events planning to influencer outreach and organic social strategy), I also spend a lot of time talking with clients and working out how to best help them. It is very collaborative!
Any events or initiatives/schemes you have experienced that you would recommend?
The SYP mentorship scheme is great support for when you want to discuss ideas and concerns, or just need a second pair of eyes on your applications. Applying for publishing jobs can be quite isolating because of how competitive it is, so I found it beneficial to have somebody on my side to talk to.
I’m based in the Northwest and found it difficult to find publishing events outside of London that were accessible to attend. The NYALit Fest (hosted by UCLan) and the Northern Publisher’s Fair were two events that I attended that were great for connecting with publishing hopefuls closer to home. Finally, writing for The Publishing Post (I’m on the news team) is a fab way to keep up-to-date with what is going on with the industry, especially if you need to juggle getting experience around paid work and education.
What advice would you give someone looking for or just starting their first role within academic publishing or an agency?
I think the most important thing to remember is that, although it is competitive and often romanticised, publishing is an industry just like any other. It still has a long way to go in terms of accessibility, so don’t fall into the trap of attaching your self-worth to your application/success rate – no job is worth that and you want to work somewhere where you will be happy and respected!
Whilst it is great to work with books as a book-lover, publishing is a business above all else; you need to be able to demonstrate you have admin, market-awareness and other skills in your application that will help the business grow. Finally, each press, imprint, department and role are vastly different, so really take the time to research the specific role you are applying for. I think it is better to selectively apply for just a few jobs that you have researched well, spent time on and can demonstrate your knowledge and passion for, rather than everything that comes up.