Why marketers need a robust wellbeing toolkit
This week’s guest blogger is Lawrence Mitchell, Global Marketing Director of RBI and founder of Raw Energy, a health coaching and training practice.
Lawrence has been a key contributor over the past few years to RBI’s pioneering approach to supporting the well-being of their employees.
Ann-Marie sat at her desk and glanced at her priority list. The day ahead was crammed full of meetings, with very little ‘white space’ to deliver on all of the things she had to deliver that day. If only she could become better at prioritisation, or time management, or something that would help her feel more in control.
Her inbox was full of asks: requests from demanding sales reps asking for information that had been supplied multiple times before; friendly reminders from marketing technology sales reps keen to engage; direct emails from HR, reminding her of looming deadlines, and then the email that immediately grabbed her attention, with the subject line: URGENT!! Her heart sank and her cortisol levels went up as she clicked open, knowing inside that her list of priorities for that day was about to go out of the window.
Ann-Marie works in a modern marketing department, a function that has seen so much change in the last decade:
- New marketing technologies have transformed the toolkit that we have to work with and enabled improved customer contact, automated processes, measurement and reporting.
- Websites have provided online shop windows that promote your brand 24/7
- Digital marketing has led to the capture of a huge amount of buyer and customer data, increasingly requiring the support of data scientists to help marketers have more meaningful interactions with their customers
- Social media platforms have appeared and matured providing access to millions of people
- Content marketing has created editorial operations within marketing departments
- Teams have become distributed, blending skills from different functions and locations
- Marketing operations has emerged from the shadows and has taken centre stage as an essential marketing discipline
With artificial intelligence, sensor technology and virtual reality applications promising to create new opportunities for marketers, the next decade looks set to be even more transformational as organisations strive to deliver exceptional value to customers to drive performance and growth.
Depending on your perspective, all of this change and transition is enormously exciting on the one hand, and it’s really great to be alive during this time. However, on the ground, the experience can be just like Ann-Marie’s, a day of fire-fighting, challenging conversations, unreasonable demands and expectations which can drain energy and lead to overwhelm and burnout, ‘The illness of the rich world’
To survive and thrive, marketers need to focus on building their technical skills without question, but need to balance this by paying attention to building their personal wellbeing and resilience to prevent risk of burnout, the main cause of sickness absenteeism in the UK.
Based on my experience as a marketing leader, a corporate wellbeing sponsor and a health coach, here are 9 key steps that you can take to ensure that you remain resilient, particularly through periods of change which is very much business as usual in modern marketing departments:
- Flood your body with nutrients – good quality food and water is the basis of any wellbeing strategy. Food gives us energy and that energy becomes part of us, so it figures that the more nutrients we can add to our body, the better we will look, feel and act. So what should you eat for health? There are so many answers to this question, however, we are all different. We have different lifestyles, genetics, personalities, blood types which means that one universal healthy diet doesn’t exist, although there are some common principles. A good starting point is to track what you eat and drink for a fixed period of time, say a week. You can use a diary, excel or a great tool I use is cronometer: https://cronometer.com/#diary
- Move your body – we all know that exercise is good for physical health, but there’s so much evidence today that exercise is also a great cure for stress and builds mental resilience. Exercise does not mean doing things that you hate. The trick is picking a sport or exercise that you love. That way, you’ll be intrincitly motivated to do it. Exercising with others is a good way to help yourself and to take this a step further in the workplace, why not organise a team challenge. RBI’s 30 Day Challenge in May 2016 got 400 people competing in teams of 5 for a cash prize and created a great community spirit in the process. http://bit.ly/2eb8gbm
- Embrace Digital Health Technology. I started my career in direct marketing before digital marketing. Testing was a key part of the process, but testing at that time was constrained by the technology available, and to get to the insights I wanted, it involved prohibitively expensive research. That’s not the case today. You can easily see and track customers’ behaviour and tailor messaging just for them, the age of digitally-enabled, one-to-one conversations is here. Digital health is just like digital marketing. Through wearable devices and other health technologies, we have access to data and insights about our health profile, genetics, gut health, activity levels and behaviours that previous generations would not have known, and can take action on those insights. Here’s a link to an article I wrote on digital health: http://bit.ly/2adLLks
- Use technology to save time. Marketers are busy. There’s never enough time or resources to do all of the things that we need to do. Fact. However, I see so many people wasting time, simply because they don’t know how to use a tool in the right way. Depending on your role, you don’t need to be a master of every technology in the marketing tech stack, but take some time to understand where your time goes and then consider whether technology could make it easier for you, which will enhance your wellbeing in the process. At the recent RBI Living Well Experience, there was a very useful roundtable session with one of the tech guys who helped people save hours simply by revealing tools that everyone already had access to, but didn’t know it!
- Plan, test and don’t over think. In today’s economy, there’s a balance between planning everything out and presenting a great deck, to planning a bit and then testing, reviewing, learning, adjusting and scaling. Exactly the steps I used as a direct marketer operating in 1995 – but now with a very different toolset at my disposal. From a wellbeing point of view, this process reduces risk and builds confidence. So don’t overthink and start to learn from doing. You can always go back if you need to.
- Pick your friends. It is often said that you become like the 5 people you spend most of your time with. With that in mind, take a look at those 5 people and ask whether they are enhancing your energy or depleting it? If it’s the latter, you may need to find some new friends to hang out with.
- Get support. Positive relationships are a huge source of energy and wellbeing, and being isolated isn’t great for wellbeing. When I first started working in 1990s, admitting to feeling vulnerable, out of control or stuck wasn’t the done thing. The good news is that many modern organisations are increasingly acknowledging vulnerability and encouraging people to support each other. A key element of the RBI Living Well framework, a programme designed to support employee wellbeing, is ‘Get Support’ and support comes in all forms: support from mentors via books and audio programmes, support from like-minded and connected communities, support from learning new skills and having the confidence to deliver.
- Sleep well. I track my sleep every day and have done for the last 3 years. By tracking when I go to bed, wake-up, the quality of my sleep, my mood when I go to bed and when I wake-up, I have gained insights that have helped me optimise my sleep and performance. Out of all of the tools that you can apply to support yourself, optimising sleep comes at the top of many health guru’s list.
- Take a break. As well as sleeping, taking a break from the everyday and allowing your mind to focus on something else has enormous wellbeing benefits. Taking a break could be meditating using apps like Headspace, it could be going away for the weekend or making time for an activity that truly gives you joy – your creative pursuit. At RBI, I have learnt that we have such wonderful talents within the workplace community, and there’s no reason why you can’t bring those talents into the organisation to create a positive community feel.
Marketing is a dynamic place to be and we’re fortunate, in my view, to be living and working through such a revolution. However change is unsettling, and marketers are faced with working in new ways, learning new skills and doing new things every day that collectively pushes us outside of our comfort zone, which helps us grow as people as long as we have a robust wellbeing framework and toolkit to draw upon.