So this is how it is?
December 13, 2012 7:37 AM   Subscribe

Is it common not to get credit for what you do when you work in marketing?

So I'm an intern at a digital marketing agency. I don't have a marketing background at all--hence the reason for this question; maybe this is how marketing works and I'm just ignorant of the field in general.

I'm responsible for blogging for different clients; once I wrote a post for a different blog for one of the staff writers when she had a lot on her plate. Last week, I saw that I accidentally forgot to publish it. It had just been saved as a draft. But I didn't own up to it because I'd recently made a similar mistake just a few weeks ago and by then it didn't seem to matter, since it was days after it was supposed to be posted and new content had been posted since--yes, I realize this was irresponsible of me--but I imagine the staff writer caught it and posted it, because then I saw one of my newer co-workers tweeting about the post a few days later, mentioning the staff writer because he knew she was the one responsible for that account. The staff writer re-tweeted new coworker's tweet. I know I messed up, but was my mistake so egregious that it justified not mentioning that I was the one who wrote it?

I was complaining about this to one of my family members, who said "This is why I couldn't do marketing. It involves a lot of stolen ideas." Is this especially the case with marketing? Or is this sort of situation pretty common across every field? I never realized until this job how important it was for me to have a sense of ownership over what I write. Sometimes, I'm glad just to post under the blogs' different account names, since what I end up writing under time pressure isn't what I would consider ideal. But at other times, like this one with the staff writer, it feels crappy not to get credit. I just wonder if this is big enough a deal-breaker for me to scrap the idea of going into marketing altogether.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure about other instances but in this one, it's perfectly normal and acceptable for them to not mention you. And it's not even that they "stole" your idea. The work is the work and getting the information out there is the goal.

It's really nice to get recognition but if you get upset every time you aren't mentioned, your work life is going to long and painful.
posted by dawkins_7 at 7:41 AM on December 13, 2012 [7 favorites]

I never realized until this job how important it was for me to have a sense of ownership over what I write.

This is an important realization. If this feeling stays with you, then you're not going to be happy in marketing.
posted by ceiba at 7:54 AM on December 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

But at other times... it feels crappy not to get credit.

This isn't exclusive to marketing. This is a feature of employment. You could work in advertising or finance or a lab or interior design and your boss will at least sometimes take credit for your ideas or your work. That's often how departments work. One of the benefits of climbing the promotion rungs is that there are fewer people above you to steal your thunder. Welcome to the jungle.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:54 AM on December 13, 2012 [7 favorites]

Yes, it will often be your job to create work that has someone else's name on it, or just the organization's brand. My wife could tell you hilarious stories of all the senior people who get credit for stuff that came from their communications department. It's not a slight, it's a necessary role and a valuable skill.

Early on your thanks will come from the people you write and design for, later in your career it will come from being part of creating a successful organization which will depend heavily on the public image you have planned and built for it.
posted by crabintheocean at 7:55 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is not even specific to marketing. I'm in a completely different field and when information starts going up the chain to upper management, my name gets lost. My immediate boss gets credit, then at some point his name drops off too and it's his boss that gets the credit.
posted by cabingirl at 7:55 AM on December 13, 2012

Regarding "getting credit for your ideas" in marketing: Marketing is the conceptualization, delivery, and execution of the communication of ideas. And honestly, ideas are a dime a dozen, and the process of getting from idea to execution is a messy melting pot of tons of good input, crappy direction, incomprehensible client feedback, surprisingly poor metrics, last minute changes, conflicting research, financial constraints, and management that has a different agenda from you. If you want your bit of contribution to stay unsullied and purely credited to you from start to end, that is pretty unrealistic.

I also think, as someone in "marketing" - of which there are many, many kinds - you are kind of making an enormous generalization here. But regardless of this sweeping "marketing bleh", ultimately, the truth about working in marketing is that you're not evangelizing yourself, you're evangelizing something (a product, a service, an organization) - to someone (consumers, salespeople, etc) - you are not your own voice, you are the voice of the organization you work for. That is... that's the job, speaking incredibly broadly.

Regarding "getting credit for your ideas" in industries beyond marketing: It is common and indeed the norm, if you are part of an institution, organization, or endeavor that is greater than yourself, to not get always external credit for your tiny little part. If you are going to fight over the need to be recognized over every little piece, then yes, marketing is not for you, but neither is, like hospital medicine or working in a financial institution or in a news bureau or a governmental agency.

I think you have to distinguish between literal authorship - "I wrote that sentence" - with true authorship in the larger sense - "This is my original concept that I put together that has some potential to make some waves and I can back it up with knowledge of this, that, and the other."

If a byline is that important to you, write for yourself.
posted by sestaaak at 7:56 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Look at the iPhone. We "credit" Steve Jobs with it, and to a degree, some of that is true, but the design and hacks that were developed to create such an elegant device were the work of hundreds of anonymous programmers, engineers, machinists, and manufacturing specialists. Did Apple "steal" their ideas? Are they frustrated that they didn't get "credit", outside of a few people who managed to get their names on the published patents?

it feels crappy not to get credit.

You do get "credit"! That's what the money is for!

Getting "credit" involves self-promotion. It isn't just something people "give" you-- I have to rush around at my job showing off the things I've done to colleagues and sponsors. I have to be the one pushing to get publications out so that the scientific community hears about my work. I try to give credit to everyone involved, but some people might get lost in the shuffle, but in part that's because they didn't make an effort to collaborate with me closely on the output.
posted by deanc at 8:01 AM on December 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

I do a fair bit of marketing stuff for companies, including on occasion blog posts, adverts, content libraries, articles, advertorials ... I don't think my name's ever been on it. If you're writing content for someone else, the someone else might thank you, but you're unlikely to get a byline. I like working "as" other people, picking up their house or personal style, but accept that most of it's "white label" (anonymous). So is a lot of the other work I do, actually, and a lot is under NDAs, too, so I can't even tell other people about it!

This is what I get out of it: I know I'm providing a service. I get paid for providing that service (OK as an intern, you're probably not getting paid. But you're gaining experience and references). I get to see my work appear in public and I know it's mine. On the other hand, if I've written something a bit cheesy or embarrassing, no one will know it's mine!

If you want to showcase your own writing, start a blog!

So: Accept you might not always be acknowledged. If you are allowed to, do keep a portfolio of your work. If you work for people and are not being paid for it, ask for a letter or email of recommendation or a reference. Write unacknowledged work in as many styles and fields as you can - use this as a learning experience. Create your own content if you want your name by it.

Hope this helps!
posted by LyzzyBee at 8:08 AM on December 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm slightly confused.

1. You don't want people to notice when you screw up.

2. You want to be noticed for your work.

This is the nature of teamwork and work in general. The guy who picked up your slack, good on him. He didn't narc you out, or make a big deal out of the fact that you completely flaked on an important part of your job. Buy this guy a drink.

As for who gets credit for a specific bit of your output. Dude, you've got to let it go. My job isn't to do the reporting, get the stuff sent out or any of the tasks I do in a day. My job is to make my boss, and my department look good.

The people who work with me know how good I am. I get annual raises.

That's pretty much it. I'm not waiting for praise for every little thing that I do.

This is not just marketing, it's all work. Get used to it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:13 AM on December 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

I will also warn you to not go into writing professionally (at least for other people) if your ideas are this precious to you because what an editor does to your piece will inevitably make you upset, especially the first time they cut your 3000 word snowflake down to a 1500 word piece that'll fit in the available space.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:24 AM on December 13, 2012

So I'm an intern at a digital marketing agency.

In addition to all of the spot-on responses you've received above, you also need to consider the fact that you are an intern. The agency is doing YOU a favor by even letting you be in their offices. Yes, you are helping out and doing some work, but as an intern your primary job is to gain experience - not to "get credit" for simply doing what needs to be done.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 8:35 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

A few thoughts:

1. Yep, you're an intern. Credit is a luxury.

2. It's your job to make your boss look good—forever. (Someday you'll be the boss, and hopefully your team will make you look good.)

3. Most times the execution looks absolutely nothing like the original concept, because it's a team effort.

4. All is not lost! When you make your portfolio/site, you can claim credit for the writing (or the concept, if it was indeed yours), but don't forget to mention that it was a team effort.
posted by functionequalsform at 8:46 AM on December 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

The vast majority of the writing I have done while working for companies (copywriting, web content, etc) has been uncredited. This is totally normal.

However, I learned the hard way that you should start putting together a portfolio now, and get screenshots/offline versions of things rather than depending on websites to stay up. Almost all of the products I've worked for are defunct, and none of the work I did on them is available anywhere. (It's the Incredible Vanishing Resume!)
posted by restless_nomad at 8:50 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

"That's what the money is for!" is something I've had to accept since starting work in a creative profession. I'm on the low end of the totem as well, and it's been a struggle for me to surrender my work. Growing up, everything was praised - no matter how mundane - and I quickly became accustomed to being the best and being recognized for it.

When I saw this episode of a popular television show, something clicked. When my name is on the front door, I will take the credit. Until then, that's what the money is for.
posted by nathaole at 9:20 AM on December 13, 2012

I work in marketing, and I think you need to think a bit about what it means to you to "get credit" and have a "sense of ownership".

There is one person from whom you should always be getting proper credit in a well-run environment, and that's whoever decides on your raises and promotions. In a good agency, it's not kosher for your coworkers to steal your ideas, nor should you expect your boss to always pass your ideas off as their own. But that's internal credit. With clients, or to the public at large, yes, you need to get used to the idea that you won't get credit.

The reality of your early years with an agency is that a client is much likelier to buy into a concept if it's sold as "our creative director thought it would be good for your brand if..." than as "out intern thought it would be good for your brand if..." Similarly, clients should only care about the quality of the work they receive, but the reality is they sometimes don't like to hear that their content has been farmed out to an intern. And that's not even touching on bylines, which others have addressed above.

So if your post were to become the most trafficked of the month, and the staff writer took credit for it with your boss, you'd have a right to feel miffed (though the reality is that this happens, and sometimes there's not a good solution for dealing with it). But if the staff writer didn't choose to clarify on a public platform that one particular post actually came from an intern...any job that involves working in teams means you'll rarely get full, public credit for your individual contribution, and that's something you should work on accepting.
posted by psycheslamp at 9:55 AM on December 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

While I agree that not getting credit is a feature of employment everywhere, it drove me away from working at a marketing department because the people I worked with weren't interested in making the group look good, they were lazy folks wanting to take credit for other's work to avoid doing any themselves. Not all marketing departments are dysfunctional but in my group of graphic design colleagues, they're the majority. Smaller agencies are better about this.

Don't just get over it. It's not a character flaw to want credit for your work. But you won't get it from the public or higher ups in the company 99% of the time and the best case scenario is being useful and hard working so the team as a whole gets credit. This is its own reward, being part of a high performing team. Marketing departments don't really get love from the rest of the corporation; they're seen as a bunch of weird "creative" types who like to waste money. That being said, marketing is a service industry, there to make others look good. Seek out awards shows if you can, getting recognition from those in the industry is wonderful. Put together an awesome portfolio and join professional groups—you can be a rock star there!

To me, as someone with an actual creative background vs a business background, the talentless yet egomaniac hacks I worked with everyday made me realize that I was better off not in a marketing department. Maybe you're not either; or maybe you work for a crappy company who does nothing to make you feel valued. That's important, and don't let anyone here act like a paycheck will ever make up for feeling unappreciated. But you're an intern and I think joining the professional workforce is always a shock and a hard transition. Good luck, don't give up or make any decisions yet! And definitely document all your work for your portfolio—that's the part you can enjoy taking credit for!
posted by thesocietyfor at 10:06 AM on December 13, 2012

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