Why continuous learning is the new black

By Valentina Borbone as published in the ADMA blog

Of all the business roles evolving, I feel sorry for marketers the most. Each and every day, there’s a new technology or platform, social network or advertising option, an increasing need for ROI and rationale on every marketing campaign, and all of this comes with the glory of marketing education set in the 80 or 90s. I mean for goodness sake, I still hear marketers referring to the AIDA principals from 1898 and the four P’s. Give me strength. Things have changed dramatically, and for marketers, if you’re not evolving, you’re going to find yourself on the same swing set as Kodak.

How is a marketer supposed to gain the desperate experience they’re seeking when there’s no-one to guide them, no-one to show them, no-one to ask and no-one to point out when things are going wrong? 

Before you start with any excuses, park these popular excuses:

  • I don’t have time to learn
  • I don’t have time to go on training courses
  • I only need to know a bit of it
  • I learned about social 5 years ago

Let’s have a look at some of the benefits that continuous learning can offer and a bunch of reasons why you need to jump aboard, stat:

So Many Learning Options

I know, it’s hard to take a whole day out of your week to attend a course. Or worse, a 2-day course. But is it? If the training is going to answer your questions and give you the knowledge you need for your next career move, is it too much to ask for some of your dedicated annual leave to further your capabilities? The days of classroom style learning are no longer your only option, as the plethora ofonline courses and MOOCs flood the market, coupled with How-To YouTube videos, on-demand learning and snack-able content. As an ADMA Instructor for a range of digital courses over the years, there are a few themes that have emerged, which I’ve summarised below:

Classroom learning is hard work for full-time working individuals. You have to fit it in with your work & life schedule, usually geared around having homework, group assignments, assessments, exams and presentations. That hard work pays off when you experience an engaging instructor and a motivated and interested group of people who have come together for the greater benefit of learning together; which may I add, is definitely one of the highlights of group learning.

Learning from the huge array of experience in the room, hearing the challenges of one industry and the solutions, which can then be applied to another industry, collectively solving problems. Classroom learning also allows you to discuss issues with your homework and assignments, providing invaluable insights and approaches to marketing tactics and solutions.

Online learning is harder than the classroom, because it takes enormous personal discipline. Sure, you can undertake most online learning options in your own time and at your own pace, but that’s the problem, sometimes your own time never comes, because there’s always something more enjoyable or non-work related to spend that time on.

On the other side of the coin, this approach can work brilliantly to fit into hectic schedules, or pausing learning modules whilst you undertake some additional research or frame things differently depending on your learning style. It takes courage and persistence to do online learning. Options vary dramatically, so look for ones that offer an online moderator to speak with & clarify ideas, or others that offer a collaborative environment online. There’s also a heavy reliance on great content, because let’s face it, a dull monotone for 3 hours is not going to keep anyone engaged, let alone awake. Consider which learning style for information retention works best for you, from the graph below.

On-Demand learning offers a more flexible approach to learning, utilising mostly a snack-sized content approach.  This means shorter, more directed pieces of content to engage with, like a Podcast or Webinar, solving one particular problem at a time, or looking at one area in detail. Whilst these are great for quick fixes, it’s much harder to get a longer term overview of a subject matter and fit the chunks of knowledge together. Again, this largely depends on the content and sequencing of information.

Snack-able learning is learning something new each and every day, and this also takes enormous discipline. I’ve talked about changing behaviour previously, ensuring you read an article, a blog post, a report, or something – for at least 30 mins a day to stay current. What you need to assess is your prioritisation for learning, assess the risk of being left behind, assess if you are really capable of improving your own self without developing your skills. If you don’t keep up with reading then you’re only a hop, skip and a jump away from not knowing about Ello.

The perfect storm to stay relevant and capable is really a combination of all styles, as they all offer a different experience, flexibility and output. The one thing they have in common is how well they compliment each other. I live and breathe digital, and as an educator, I’m expected to be across all new technology, platforms, advertising options and trends. If my thirst for knowledge isn’t fulfilled each week, I’m out of date in my industry within three weeks. Yep. Three weeks. My personal continuous learning looks something like this:

  • 30 mins of article / report / blog reading every day
  • Learning from people around me, every day
  • On-Demand Learning Session, once a quarter
  • Classroom-styled learning, 6 monthly
  • 2 Day Industry Conference or Seminar, 6 monthly
  • Online Learning, annually

Years of teaching digital marketing has taught me so much, and continuous teaching has shown me that continuous learning is the only way you’re going to stay in the game. Get into it, you won’t regret it.

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