Forbes Communications Council is an invitation-only organization for communications, public relations, public affairs and media relations executives. Members are successful executives from world-class companies, each bringing a wealth of experience to the table. In this spotlight series, we profile our incredible members and share their advice with you. This week: Jim Nichols.
We asked him four important questions. His answers are below:
How did your career as a communications executive take off, and what do you attribute your success to most?
My career path has been anything but a straight line. I started in advertising and brand management in CPG, then worked in video gaming and software, then organic food, then hardcore digital marketing strategy, then digital creative and now adtech/martech. I’ve made more industry changes than was wise for my career, but I’ve never been bored.
I’ve been able to make contributions in a variety of industries because of adaptability. For me, adaptability isn’t a skill so much as it is a passion. I freaking love change. In my career, I’ve deliberately sought “high change” environments where I could learn something new 20 times a day. If my future ever includes doing exactly the same thing year after year, shoot me now.
Like any marketer my age, I am a survivor. I’ve personally made it through (this is all true) nine mergers/acquisitions, 48 rounds of staff cuts, “pivots,” political wars, the dot-crash and lots of other stuff I can’t remember. But marketers – we’re as unstoppable as cockroaches. After World War III, there’ll be two things left on earth: glowing dust and a leathery bunch of us marketers figuring out ways to sell the benefits of that luminescence.
How do you keep yourself passionate and driven regardless of how busy you are day to day?
1. The constantly changing marketing environment. Every day you walk into some sort of change you’ve never imagined could happen. It means someone needs to write new rules and figure out how to get the metaphorical donuts cooked and out the door. And that someone can be you. How awesome is that?
2. The opportunity to learn and teach others. We all have our areas of expertise and they should be shared. There’s nothing better than working with someone who knows about things you don’t.
3. Writing about marketing and taking what seem like ridiculously complicated technological stories and distilling them into something crisp and clear.
What do you see as the future of the communications industry?
The death of thinking about customers as “consumers.” Treating people like people. My first job in marketing was at an agency – DDB Needham. Now it’s just DDB. The DDB brand brief demanded that marketing deliver “surprise, simplicity and a smile.” I’ve never seen a better description of good marketing. In marketing, we’ve spent the last 15 years focusing on the delivery of promises – digital, mobile, multiscreen, cross-device, etc. That stuff is incredibly important. But the best marketing plan won’t do any good unless it delivers surprise, simplicity and a smile.
What is your best communications strategy tip for businesses?
Your story is NEVER simple and clear enough.