Russell O’Sullivan: State of Digital Summer School, Learning from the Experts

This summer we have been taking you back to school! We have been focussing on education in Digital Marketing: what is the best education, what background is important? Questions you have seen answered throughout the summer by those you can learn from the best: the experts. Those that already earned their stripes and are now willing to share with you how they got there and what you should do to get that far as well.

It is now time to close the series, since the summer is officially over. But not before we have just a few more insights from the experts closest to us: our editorial team!

Today we listen to Russell O’Sullivan, Senior Digital Marketing Manager at Legal & General and our newest member of our editorial team.

More about Russell here.

Summer School

What type of education did you have?

UK Degree level, spent 5 years across Industrial and Product Design courses, loved it, infact I loved Uni as a whole for all the right reasons.

Is your education related to what you do now?

Not really, having done Product and Industrial Design I was really keen to move into that area, but at the time the jobs were pretty limited (as it was quite a few years ago) but my courses were all about problem solving and trying to be creative, so that’s why I kind of fell into marketing.

How did you get into digital marketing?

Russell_OSullivan_StateofDigitalIn the late 90’s I enjoyed the boom of the internet really starting and found myself working in a temporary job for the government, before you knew it I was the “techie” guy, who understood how computers worked and so on. And as you know, ask anyone who works in digital marketing and people seem to think they know how to fix computers!! But I quickly moved into being a coder back in late 90’s, but felt much more at home with the marketing side of websites, products, brands and companies I worked for. Became a content strategist in 2008 for a leading UK comparison website, which focused me more on all the disciplines that surround digital marketing, like search, content, PR, IA, UX and the customer, not the brand.

Moved across a number of brands and different markets since then and still thrive on digital marketing, the fact that the landscape changes so quickly keeps me on my toes and happy… (well kind of, when not pulling my hair out due to algo changes..)

How do you think the state of education in marketing is these days? Do marketers learn what they need to learn?

I think that universities, colleges and secondary education systems try to do a good job to give an all round learning to students, but there is nothing like learning while on the job. Making mistakes, learning from them and not being afraid to make more mistakes while working is a good place to really find out about your strengths and weaknesses.

There have been vast changes in the way we undertake marketing these days across the different types of media and I feel that people leaving universities these days may have been taught more of the offline advertising principles – perhaps the curriculum for universities needs to change with how the landscape changes, but that may cause some major headaches for planning and the course leaders – at least it would give students a more up to date knowledge base.

How do you feel about online training courses?

I think they can work as long as they are practical and can give some understanding of how exactly they can work in the live/working environment. It also depends on how the individual learns, some people are more inclined to do face to face training, but myself I prefer a mix of both. I also pick up a lot of my knowledge via industry blogs.

What is your tip for those that want to learn more?

Get yourself signed up to industry blogs newsletters, read them frequently, make a percentage of your working week assigned to reading the blogs and see where you can apply those learnings. Also attend some annual conferences, the best thing I have learned over the years of attending these conferences that sometimes you end up nodding and agreeing that you are already implementing.

Sometimes I wish I had focussed on one principle like, SEO, PPC or Content, but have become an all round digital marketer and actually enjoy all areas that feed into brands, products, sites, engagement and so on.

What resources are best to learn marketing?

Again, I learn a lot from industry news and blogs, seeing what works in one industry can be used in another. There are so many websites and blogs out there that can give conflicting opinions (and hey, all opinions are good… they just need to be the right opinions), but I would say stick to the top 5-10 industry blogs like State of Digital of course and read, read, read!

Download whitepapers too, yeah you have to hand over your email address but it gives you a feel of how brands are doing certain things, so well worth the time – plus always good for referencing if you haven’t undertaking the work yourself.

What’s the last lesson in marketing you learned?

Well its probably less about a principle of marketing and more about working, don’t be afraid to make mistakes… just make sure that no one finds out it was you 😉

Bas van den Beld

About Bas van den Beld

Bas van den Beld is an award winning Digital Marketing consultant, trainer and speaker. He is the founder of State of Digital and helps companies develop solid marketing strategies.