How to start your career in Digital Marketing

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I was asked recently for my advice on how to break into the communications industry. Things have changed dramatically since I started out at a small tech PR agency in the late 90s, but having interviewed hundreds of prospects in recent years, here are my top tips:

Major in a field that matches your skillset

The modern communications professional needs to be something of an all-rounder, a generalist. Someone who understands not just media/influencer relations and social media, but also SEO, paid media, content marketing, and ecommerce. You need to be both a planner and a data analyst.

It’s best to major on one single field that best matches your passion and skillset, while understanding how the other disciplines your colleagues specialise in complements yours. If you’re a people person you may enjoy media and influencer relations; if you are a numbers person you might prefer data analytics and trend mapping; if you’re a creative type then content marketing could be up your street.

Never stop learning

If you don’t have a background in digital marketing then you need to read up and get to know the industry terminology, personalities and best practice. Everything moves so fast, so it’s a permanent learning curve.

Stay curious – never stop seeking knowledge. You will never know it all and you should never trust anyone who thinks they do. Go to networking events and conferences, and read industry blogs daily.

I recommend the below blogs and sites:


PR and communications

General Digital Marketing


Network (on- and offline)

The old adage that it’s not what you know but whom you know is absolutely true, and you can never know too many people. The majority of my work comes from my personal network, followed by inbound search leads.

Make sure your social media profiles are clean, up-to-date and portray you in a positive light (see point 5). At the very minimum, make sure your LinkedIn and Twitter profiles represent you positively, and your Facebook account is set to private.

Google yourself in incognito mode on Chrome. What do you find? That’s what your potential employers will probably also see. [Continues…]

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Get work experience – personalise your approach

Nothing beats hands-on experience. Employers want to know what you’ve done, what you’ve learned, and – most importantly – what you’re going to bring to the party.

See if you can get some work experience or start at the bottom at an appropriate agency. Target those agencies whose work you respect and want to work for, research who you should address there and personalise your pitch to them.

Even if you do not have experience, show your energy, enthusiasm and drive. What digital campaigns have you seen that you want to emulate? Where do your talents lie? What have you done in your own time or at university that you can showcase?

Look for opportunities on LinkedIn or follow appropriate hashtags on Twitter for job announcements.

Learn to code

You’ll forever be in demand! I learned the basics using WordPress and online courses, such as Code Academy.


I cannot stress enough the importance of a personal blog. Preferably, set up a website about yourself with a blog page for regular posts. This is your forum to express your opinion, showcase your own content marketing skills, and generate awareness of your work and skills. This is also a positive link that should appear high on search engines when potential employers look for you only and is a way to help build your online community.

Don’t limit yourself to your own blog. Use LinkedIn Pulse – LinkedIn’s publishing tool – as a way to widen awareness of your work and get people viewing your LinkedIn profile. Guest blog on other industry and company sites to make yourself known and draw inbound links to your website/blog.

There’s never been a better time to get into digital marketing. I am lucky to have ‘grown up’ with Internet marketing and seen it develop and evolve. It never stops evolving, so neither can we.

Do you have any wisdom to impart for people starting out in digital marketing? Leave a comment; I’d love to hear your views.


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  1. Reply

    I started my career at roughly the same time as you – okay maybe a couple years earlier 🙂 – and you’ve offered some excellent advice. I have one more thing to add after seeing so many promising, intelligent, young people burn out and quit the industry after a string of bad experiences. Unfortunately some of the best young people quit PR because they care too much about clients, they get way too much piled on them and, because they often threaten their seniors, they get treated with hostility. I was EXTREMELY fortunate to have an excellent coach and mentor in my first PR job, who I am still very good friends with and I still turn to for advice. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of this when starting out in PR. Young PR professionals – please don’t give up! If you find yourself in a hostile, stressful environment try like hell to move on and find a successful, mature and generous mentor who will give you an opportunity to grow and shine. They are out there! After you make it past the hell, this can be a really rewarding, interesting and fun career.

  2. Reply

    Hi Sarah – that’s an excellent point. Up to AM level it’s a really hard slog. In retrospect, I worked for some terrible ‘managers’ and learned more about how ‘not to do PR’ while in-agency. It was while I was on the newsroom side that I learned more about PR: understanding the audience.

    Since your contribution I’ve added ‘learn to code’, that’s key too nowadays. Thanks for your comments.

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