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Upskilling and reskilling your marketing team has never been as vital as it is now and Sarah Rosenberg, head of marketing at Clarion Events (Phacilitate - the Life Science division) explains how to do it.

External circumstances are ever-changing, and for event businesses right now the need for marketers to embrace upskilling and reskilling is paramount. Our sector has pivoted fast towards digital transformation, and while we at Clarion Events were heading there before the pandemic, this has had to be accelerated. 

It’s essential that the skills of an event marketing team complement your business strategy, and as we pivot short term into the virtual world, and long term to a hybrid one, your direct reports need to be able to take on new tasks where the business needs support.  Marketers need to be more innovative and tech-savvy than ever before. 

The simple fact is that we currently face two big challenges when it comes to aligning skill and strategy now:

  1. Limitations on recruitment mean that we cannot bring external expertise into the mix
  2. We are changing our strategy but expect our current workforce to work outside of their comfort zone to deliver against new objectives, sometimes in areas where they have no experience. We’ve had to learn how to use virtual event platforms and market a brand new offering at incredible speed.    

Before you begin, understanding who in your team is capable and willing to learn, and then undertaking a simple skills audit will paint a clear picture for you of where the skill gaps are and where the potential for getting ahead of the curve is.

Strengthen your team culture

At the start of the pandemic I went through an exercise with my own team to determine a set of team values, values that can be used as a foundation for success. Core values help navigate through difficult decisions and team values should support company values. We believe that if we truly live into our values, then we will perform as a team at our very best. Once we agreed on our values, we then identified two behaviours for each value as a way to measure success.  

One of these behaviours was, ‘I create opportunities by taking brave calculated risks. If they fail, I own my mistakes and learn from them’. We put this to the test during the planning of our virtual event and decided to take two key risks during the marketing campaign.

During the pandemic, marketing teams within different portfolios in Clarion have been sharing their experiences. Many brands have seen very late booking patterns for virtual shows. However, we didn’t presume that this was going to be the same for the event in our portfolio. We therefore decided to start advertising as early as possible, and to our surprise, the registrations came in at a rate faster than our colleagues in other sectors.

The second tactic that we decided to take a punt on was a channel that has historically underperformed for us on our live shows. To our surprise, this social referral platform delivered outstanding results this time. Clearly there is still a strong need for our audiences to reconnect.

Now going back to my original point, consider the upside to clearly aligned values: A sense of team, purpose, tool for decision-making, clarity. The list goes on.

Upskilling and reskilling your team now, not only helps prepare for a new era of work where a hybrid event approach will become the norm, but also provides an opportunity for the go-getters in your team to go on the journey of marketing transformation with you. 

There are many ways to strengthen your team culture, but this one nailed it for us:

Encourage your team to find an in-house mentor

Ideally this would be someone in a more senior marketing role than them, but given the shift in priorities for marketing teams now, someone with a more technological or operational role could be equally beneficial. Mentors are often detached from the mentees everyday work, so one of the best things a mentor can bring to the table is an objective opinion that puts emotion aside. Perspective from outside of your team can encourage mentees to look at a problem from a different angle or provide reassurance when at a crossroad. Mentors won’t necessarily provide answers, but will nudge mentees in the right direction.

Online learning

The digital learning industry is booming and there are plenty of virtual conferences, webinars and podcasts to take your pick of. Using the skills audit that you completed at the start of this process, identify the skills in which you want individuals to zone in on and align training with these skill gaps. Create a feedback look through team meetings where employees are empowered to share their learnings. At Clarion Events, we have also invested in a knowledge management platform which provides online training for marketers at all levels, a place to document processes and - the one that we have found most beneficial - a channel to facilitate instant communication between different marketing teams in the business so that we can innovate collectively.  

Upskilling and reskilling your team now, not only helps prepare for a new era of work where a hybrid event approach will become the norm, but also provides an opportunity for the go-getters in your team to go on the journey of marketing transformation with you. As this year has shown us, we can’t predict the future. But putting the time and energy into the things that we can control, helps us all feel optimistic about what’s to come.