10 Ways to Increase Your Marketing IQ This Summer

Take Advantage of the Dog Days of August

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Marc Brownstein Marc Brownstein
You never know what postings will stir a strong response. I recently wrote about the importance of getting away from the office and taking vacations. I got more personal e-mails and phone calls about that posting than any one in recent memory. Truth be told, some of the inquiries were resumes. Some people figured I run my shop on a school calendar, with summers off! Not exactly, though I stand by my comments about encouraging my team to take vacations.

What better time than now, mid-August, when seemingly the whole business world is at the beach, mountains or perhaps in Beijing -- August is the easiest month to find a parking space in my garage! -- to take time to expand your mind, and stay relevant. So I created 10 things to keep you sharp, make you a little smarter, and have you ready to roll for the post-Labor Day re-start:

10. Go places you've never been. It's an old adage that in our business, one of the keys to success is being a Ph.D. in "Life." The more you travel, the richer your palette of experiences to draw upon.

9. Listen to strangers. At a restaurant, in line at an amusement park or strolling along a boardwalk -- hear what ordinary consumers are saying. It's an easy focus group on what's on people's minds. And since our job is to motivate people to do something, it's important to stay in touch with what's being said out there. And if you're a copywriter, you'll be able to pick up fresh dialogue!

8. Do your homework. At the risk of sounding like I'm sucking up to my editor, now is a great time to catch up on back issues of Advertising Age that are sitting on your desk. And while I'm making shameless promotions, read industry blogs. Seriously, not just Small Agency Diary, but you can also choose among hundreds of others that will keep you up to speed on the fast changes in the industry. Just Google them. Or the Power 150 is a good place to start.

7. Read books that will keep you informed about industry trends. "Juicing the Orange," by Pat Fallon and Fred Senn is a good one. Also, there's Tim Williams' highly insightful "Take a Stand for Your Brand"; and a great management primer called "The Three Signs of a Miserable Job," by Patrick Lencioni, is an easy read and even easier to apply. I've bought all three of these for my management team, with positive feedback and results across the board.

6. Unplug. I've long emphasized this, but writing and responding to e-mails 24/7, especially while you are supposed to be on vacation, doesn't allow you to read, explore or write.

5. Be a mentor and mentee. Call me crazy, but during the (somewhat) slower month of August, what better time for an agency veteran to walk down the hallway and introduce yourself to some youth -- especially those specializing in the digital space (digital designers, web writers, programmers and bloggers). Offer to buy him/her lunch to talk shop. Be fully transparent that you want to learn more about the interactive space. And it's a good opportunity for you to pass along some marketing wisdom to someone who would likely appreciate it.

4. Participate in an activity for the first time. Whether it's waterskiing, fly fishing or yoga, the experience of doing something new is what counts.

3. Watch back episodes of 'Mad Men.'

2. Attend an industry conference or seminar. There are many of them, on a wide range of topics such as Value Billing, Diversity, Digital & Non-traditional Marketing, and Brand Planning. Organizations like AAAA, AAF, and schools like VCU Brandcenter are good resources.

1. Just chill. A mind at rest is a mind prepared to think clearly.

You've got a few weeks left before you have to shift into a higher gear for the fall. Hope this helps you put the rest of August to good use.
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