Background: I’ve worked for the government, I’ve worked with non-profits (and founded one), I’ve worked with businesses (small and large) and I’ve worked in an agency environment – and now I’m at a public university.
I could not even begin to tell you how many people I have worked with since starting mmMMelissa’s mmmMMarvellous mmMMuffins at 13 – it’s been a lot. I think I am happiest in non-profit/public sector, even if just because I can pretend to be 10% more honourable than when I’m in a sales position – though I’ve never sold anything I didn’t truly think had value.
Since the Dawn of web 2.0 (then social media, then social web, now the norm), I’ve debated strategy in coffee shops, board rooms and conference panels. I’ve always felt that because of my background in the public sector, and academic focus on privacy/identity, that I’ve been a bit of an idealist when it comes to the new way of webbing. We know the rules: be authentic, offer value, treat the audience as equals, etc. But no matter how many times we hear the rules of engagement at conferences and books, they become a little shaky when put into practice. And when the rules get shaky, I tend to be one of the people who throws up red tape around anything that even thinks about breaking the rules, and I’ve always faulted my background for this. I think the last formal marketing class I took was in secondary school, and I am always quick to point this out and position my thoughts as based on the rules of the community and caution.
Last week I had the amazing opportunity to sit in on a series of guest speakers who have been visiting the newest MBA class here on campus. The three speakers that I sat in on were given by incredibly accomplished business people from three very different industries. Despite their different business interests, all three emphasized the importance of a healthy corporate culture. All three presented some sort of code that their companies and employees lived and breathed by. These codes were about honesty and transparency, and about respect to the consumer and contributing to the greater good of society. They were about profit sharing and executives working side by side with frontline employees. They were full of all the things that I as an arts student would never have dreamed would be the dominant message of an MBA classroom. Each of the companies presented are among the most successful brands out there, and have bottom lines that any one would be jealous of. And yet here they are talking about the importance of human resources and communication with the world at large (keyword: communication, not marketing – that’s a separate topic).
Each presenter had more than just one lesson for the class, and each brought different perspectives and experiences to the podium. But as I took my seat for each session, I was again struck by how freakin’ ethical these fantastically successful companies were striving to be. And how proud they were of it – and how much they stressed ethics and values to this class of future business leaders.
So to all those people who are focused on what will trick people into Clicking Here rather than building something that is worth clicking, and to any company that thinks it can deliver sub-excellent service and be successful, I apologize. I apologize because I am officially going to be more confident, more critical and more persuasive than ever before – whether we are talking about a marketing idea or just some pointless rule that prevents me from receiving the service I pay for. So for that I am sorry. I vote with my dollars, and my work will bow to the community before the client. I will make mistakes and I will admit them and do my best to fix them and learn for next time. And any time an idea is put in front of me that hits as tricksy, I will be speaking against it – regardless of who you are or the size of your account.