marlo marketing CEO
Alum Marlo Fogelman offers career advice
In our series “Jump-start Your Job Search,” BU Today brings you short interviews with BU alums who are leaders in their fields, such as banking, advertising, tech start-ups, journalism, or nonprofit organizations. They talk about how they got to be where they are and what they’ve learned from their mistakes. They tell us what they look for when hiring and offer advice for those just embarking on a career.
Marlo Fogelman (LAW’97, GRS’97), founder and CEO of Boston-based marlo marketing, a public relations and creative services firm whose clients have included Shake Shack, Starbucks, and Marriott, studied international relations and law at BU. “To be honest, I fell into the field of public relations purely as a matter of happenstance,” Fogelman says. But her interest in, and talent for, communications and relationship-building made her a natural. After she passed both the Massachusetts and New York bar exams, she became increasingly uninterested in a lawyer’s life and answered an ad in Lawyer’s Weekly for a PR job.
“I got the job out of 500 applicants and ended up running the Starbucks New England account. Starbucks followed me as a client after I moved on from that first agency and came on board as one of my first clients when I started Marlo Marketing at the age of 32. I haven’t looked back since.”
With Marlo Fogelman
BU Today: How competitive is the field for new college graduates?
Fogelman: The field is incredibly competitive–even more so during the current climate–and we receive thousands of applications for entry-level positions every year. Marketing roles, especially ones focused within the areas in which we specialize—restaurant, hotel, travel, destination, leisure/attractions, consumer products—are few and far between in Boston. In a city so highly concentrated in the tech and healthcare categories, we’re fortunate that our expertise stands out, and as a result, the level of talent we attract is high.
What qualities do you seek in people you hire?
We have staff who work exclusively in social media, design, digital marketing, etc. For all roles, we look for candidates who have a strong work ethic, an appetite for learning, attention to detail, and a willingness to be a team collaborator. For those interested in a traditional PR role, communication and organizational skills—such as strong writing, presentation aptitude, client management prowess, ability to multitask and meet deadlines—are critical. Also crucial is consistency in absorbing information; the best marketers are ones who read constantly (newspapers, books, magazines, blogs, etc.) in order to connect the dots, see trends, and come up with new ideas.
What are the deal breakers that keep you from hiring a job seeker?
Typos in cover letters and résumés are deal breakers. It doesn’t matter how amazing a candidate’s experience is; if they can’t control the quality of their first impression with a potential employer, it’s a good indicator of the quality of work that can be expected down the road. Once past the initial application phase, we shy away from candidates who don’t embrace our core value of not stopping until you’re proud. We look for people who can convey to us their passion and ability to go above and beyond. If they can’t, that’s a deal breaker.
What questions do you ask job candidates during an interview?
We ask about past experience as well as future goals. We ask about proudest accomplishments and greatest challenges faced. Most importantly, we ask why does a candidate want to work in our chosen field, for our company, and within this role for which they’ve applied specifically.
Ultimately, we look for people who are looking for a career, not a job, and who are willing to work hard not only for the agency, but more importantly, for themselves, so we ask questions designed to uncover these traits. Marketing is a service business. Our success depends on the people who represent the agency, and we take extremely seriously our reputation for delivering the highest quality product in an industry that often isn’t known for doing so.
Are there common mistakes young job applicants make?
Common mistakes are the same as in any field. First and foremost, ensure that you are submitting clear, concise, and compelling introductory emails in addition to an organized, typo-free résumé. Make your application easy to peruse, and don’t email asking how to apply when it’s clearly spelled out on the company’s website.
Once you get to the interview phase, be sure you’ve done your homework; know everything about the role you’re applying for and research the person or people who will be interviewing you. Be well-versed in the consumer and/or trade outlets or other key opinion leaders (magazines, podcast, social influencers, etc.) in the field. Candidates who come in demonstrating interest in, and knowledge of, an industry, even at a baseline level, immediately stand out from the pack.
Failing to do so is actually the most common mistake young applicants make.
Embrace creativity when applying for a job, especially for a job in a field like marketing that relies on creativity to make an impact for clients. Use a unique résumé design or format, create a compelling visual aid like a well-designed and written website, send a bag of coffee beans with a note if you’ve read online that the CEO launched her career with a coffee client—anything that will grab the prospective employer’s attention. Within reason, of course. It’s imperative to understand and be respectful of what is appropriate for the industry in which you’re applying.
What advice would you give an employee for the first day on the job, and for the first six months?
Say yes to every opportunity with a smile, and volunteer above and beyond to learn everything you possibly can about your company, clients, colleagues, and categories. Showing enthusiasm, passion, and willingness to learn from day one sets the tone for the rest of your time within any organization.
In the current environment, when remote work is so prevalent, it is also critically important to over-communicate and truly be “present” when trying to learn the ropes and get acquainted with new colleagues. Schedule video calls. Send email updates. Do everything you can to stay top of mind in a virtual setting.
Lastly, I encourage recent grads starting entry-level positions to consider their first role in marketing a secondary college education. Your job is to soak up every opportunity to truly learn the ins and outs of the business (provided you are at a company or on a career path you enjoy), and to give yourself enough time—in most cases, several years—to really understand the nuances of the marketing industry before starting to move around.
What mistakes have you made in your career, and what did you learn from them?
As someone accustomed to working independently and at a very fast pace, it took me years to learn how to delegate and lean on others in order to achieve greater success. Early on, I was adamant about doing things “my” way, but over time, as my trusted team grew, I’ve learned that my way isn’t everyone’s way, nor should it be, and we’re a better agency because of it.
Who most influenced your career, and what did you learn from them?
My father instilled in me the notion of giving back to my community. One of the reasons I was so drawn to the field of PR was when I first worked on the Starbucks business, giving back to the community was a huge part of the company’s business strategy. It had never occurred to me that I could give back while working within a field that I loved, instead of contributing to the greater good by working expressly in the not-for-profit sector.
Another mentor, the late philanthropist Don Rodman, further instilled in me the notion that business success is most rewarding when balanced by giving back. Over the past 15-plus years, I have made it a point to volunteer time, energy, and resources to causes that matter to me, my Marlo Marketing colleagues, and our community. As a result, I can genuinely say that my career has not only been professionally rewarding, but also significantly more personally rewarding.
Are you an alum who would like to be interviewed for BU Today’s “Jump-start Your Job Search” series? Email John O’Rourke at email@example.com.
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