[GUEST POST] Help – I have just hit the glass ceiling

Posted originally on Marcduke’s Blog, thanks to Mark for his permission to repost.

I have been having a number of great conversations with members of the AR fraternity about all things AR. Smart people whose work I respect and opinions I value too.

One of the comments that really got me thinking (and now finally blogging) was as follows (paraphrased as this was a conversation I had a while back):

‘The problem I have is that I feel I have hit a glass ceiling with AR, there is only so far I can go with it. Plus in the organisation I work in, its part of the PR framework and I feel there is a limit to what I can do’

Is that really the case??? At an analyst event I put this view to an analyst and got a very interesting response:

‘Yes I deal with some really smart AR people, they really understand how we work and how to make things happen for us, and we likewise help them as well, but some take too short-sighted a view about working with analysts and need to look further than the briefing/messaging process’

In effect it comes down to what you make of AR, I have written in the past about marketing oriented AR and feel that this is the key to breaking the glass ceiling. I for one will always look at ways to push the boundaries!

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8 Responses

  1. Marc-

    Well done and very timely for the AR professional who thinks he/she has hit a glass ceiling.

    I think of myself as not just an AR pro but a strategic marketer and evangelist for the company.

    I also agree with the analyst comment that AR pros need to cultivate analyst relationships better and look beyond the briefing/messaging process.

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  2. I couldn’t agree more with Stephen, which is part of what makes him an effective AR pro from my perspective as an analyst.

    Many of us analysts have previously had strategic and tactical roles as former practitioners and customers. Simply looking to us as part of PR or media does both sides of this relationship a disservice. You won’t get what you want and we’re going to think you don’t understand the breadth and depth of analysis that we do.

    At the same time, you only get into the analyst what you put in. If you only present press releases and website content to analysts, you’re not going to get value-added and strategic feedback in return that can improve product development, market strategies, brand positioning and competitive intelligence. And by going in any of these directions, you go past the glass ceiling and provide value-added functions to AR rather than just treating it as a PR-based job.

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  3. Gentlemen, Appreciate your pro-analyst and pro-AR views and yet I must disagree with the spirit of your comments. In my experience, glass ceilings are real. They’re a genuine career hazard for AR and every other role in marketing.

    Let’s not throw AR practitioners under the bus for deciding they’ve spent enough time banging away at a glass ceiling – or deciding they don’t even want to try.

    Many in the industry have immovable biases against “analysts”. These people flatly refuse to see any value in analysts beyond PR and a few vendor ranking charts. No amount of AR championing is likely to change such minds.

    What does an ambitious AR person do in this situation?
    First, recognize that the law of diminishing returns applies here. Know when to cut your losses and stop waging your prolonged assault against a glass ceiling (which by now feels like 4 brick walls and a concrete ceiling). At this point:

    - If you want to stay in the company, start focusing on moving up or over into a more respected functional role. Or, renovate your existing job by adding other functional responsibilities to your AR charter.

    - If you’re willing to leave the company, look for an opportunity where analysts are given more respect and folks at the top are open to strategic AR programs and robust results. There are always signs. Look for the signs.

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  4. Barbara,

    My apologies if the spirit of my comments seemed off. My biggest point that I meant to convey was actually similar to your point of adding other functionalities to the “traditional” AR charter that the vendor deems important. Or to be blunt, use us as analysts to help your own career goals.

    Although I can complain that too many companies only think of analysts as PR + vendor ranking, I’m realistic enough to know that AR practitioners aren’t always in a position to change their entire organizational philosophy. I’ve definitely met AR individuals who are smarter than their company’s or department’s perspective. ;) But I’ve also spoken to AR practitioners who have legitimately expanded their role both through their access to market knowledge and corporate executives.

    (Although I’ve never really understood why a company would take a vendor ranking seriously if they don’t take the analyst’s strategic input seriously. At the very least, I’d think you’d want to get in the analyst’s head to understand their interpretation of their analyst firm’s methodology if the vendor ranking is that important and is seen as being that relevant to end users.)

    But I agree that if the glass ceiling is real and immovable, the options are to shift or leave. And there’s no problem in that; that’s just being pragmatic and true to yourself.

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  5. Hyoun, You highlight a critical point here:

    “I’ve definitely met AR individuals who are smarter than their company’s or department’s perspective.”

    Me too. So true! Attentive analysts recognize this and can become wonderful allies throughout the remainder of an AR practitioner’s career — no matter where that career takes them.

    Thanks for the opportunity to discuss frankly here.

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  6. I agree with Barbara 100% — this is really up to the drive and professional desires of the individual. I have known plenty of AR folks who have moved from pure AR roles into other non-PR/AR roles with expanded responsibilities.

    In my own case, when I worked for Intel, I moved from an AR role into a strategic marketing & message development role, then on to a brand management role, and finally to a global marketing campaign management role. However, after about six years in marketing, I realized that my passions lay in AR, and I worked to get back into a pure AR role.

    I have also known other AR managers who have moved up the chain from divisional/product AR roles into AR management / global AR lead roles. And you can always work with your management to negotiate and craft a new, expanded role for yourself. It never hurts to ask.

    If an environment is too stifling or unfulfilling for whatever reason, it’s time for the AR manager to move on to greener pastures. Easier said than done in today’s environment, I know.

    What’s most important is for the AR manager to have a very clear picture of what their passions are, where their skill set and talents lay, where they want their career trajectory to follow, and what experience(s) they’d like to gain in the course of the next 3/5/10 years. Then put a personal plan into place to make it happen.

    My two cents.
    Cheers,
    Gerry

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  7. In my experience the glass ceiling does exist, there again it exists in other professions too. You can look around oneself and see others moving on while you tread water, only you can decide how that will affect you. I’ve reminded myself on a few occasions that it’s my career and I’m the only person that really cares about it. If there’s a management change in your business and (I see this a lot recently) your functional line is managed by a ‘non-believer’ you could perhaps reflect on your AR role in the business and decide that you will be better served elsewhere. Whilst this is a tough decision to take it may be better in the long run to move and apply the skills, insights and relationships that you have developed in the AR world the other divisions/roles within the business. It’s worth remembering that these newly developed assets are fairly unique and valuable to communications, marketing, marketing intelligence and sales teams – use them to your advantage.

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  8. Fred McClimans and I just moderated a discussion on the “glass ceiling” topic on our last #ARchat on Twitter. We will send the transcript to IIAR members when it’s available.

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