‘How to survive being an introvert in marketing’

 By Clair Heaviside, co-founder of award-winning digital marketing agency, Serotonin, and one of The Drums Creative Equals Business Leaders 2020

I’m going to say it one more time for the people at the back: “Introverted Does Not Mean Shy”.

The difference between introverted and extroverted (or somewhere in between, as most of us are) is all about energy flow.

Introverts regenerate and recharge their energy levels by time spent alone, and extroverts are exhilarated by being around other people. A massive over-simplification, but an important point. Because if you expect introverts to simply be the quietest people in the room, you are missing out on the very special qualities of the people sitting around you.

You can be courageous and confident and still be an introvert.

And I know, because I am.

On paper, the world of marketing is not a great place for introverts. In many circumstances the fastest and loudest prevail, and those who take their time, or generate their best ideas amongst the stillness and quiet, get forgotten.

But maybe if marketing shaped itself around better accommodation of the qualities and skills of both introverts and extroverts, we would see better work all round.

Because the world is made up of the unique tapestry of individuals, and the best things brands can ever do is deeply understand and relate to the nuances of their audiences.

If you’re more of an introvert than an extrovert, even if you’re a ‘confident’ introvert, like me, and want some helpful tips to make it in the energetic and energising world of marketing, read on.

  • Time and project management

To be fair, you’ll struggle in any campaign or project team without strong project management, and this works just fine for the introverts amongst us. Project management tools like Asana, Trello and JIRA mean that workflows are visible and accessible so people can simply ‘crack on’ with the task in hand without all the unnecessary chatter which, in the eyes of an introvert, is simply wasting time and energy on small talk.

  • Work with your teammates to find the perfect balance.

Nobody is good at everything. The fact that we all have different strengths and weaknesses is what helps to create solid teams, and the best line managers will understand that, bringing individuals together in a way that enables them to deliver their best work. At Serotonin we invited the whole team to take the Meyers-Briggs assessment so that we could openly discuss how best to accommodate and support each other. Tools like this equip you with the vocabulary and structure to articulate sensitive issues about personality types in a safe and supportive way. I recommend Surrounded by Idiots by Thomas Erikson for more on this, although try to buy independent, not from Amazon, if you can.

  • Learn to say no when no is for the best

I’m going to come clean here, I am the worst for this, but once you understand that self-preservation is about managing your own energy flow then you can protect your introvertism more closely. Writing a journal that tracks daily activities and related feelings helps you to spot trends. If you notice yourself feeling particularly drained on days when meetings were back to back, or there was too much jumping around between tasks for you to really focus, you need to take ownership of your time. It comes down to delivering the best work you can, and if you know there is a recipe for success, why wouldn’t you implement it?

  • Stress management and taking things personally

Introverts tend to struggle more with managing stress and also take things more personally. Make sure that managers and colleagues understand this and don’t be afraid to ask for what you need: help with managing a particularly challenging or needy client; a bit of time out to gather your thoughts, or someone to understand the difference between negging you out and constructive criticism. This is where introverts and extroverts make a perfect team. I purposefully founded an agency with an extrovert. Where he steps in to front things out for me, I have his back when it comes to quieter or more considered decision making.

  • Organise your space

It’s a little thing, but I work every day with a candle on my desk. As I light it and sit down for the day I have already stepped into a routine and headspace that is calming and creative. It’s easier, in a way, now that the majority of our time is spent working from home, but even in an office you can take steps to create a safe haven around your workspace.

Keep it clean and tidy, use a big screen if you can, rather than a laptop, and make sure everything you need is accessible for you to start work. Allow your focus to be just the space in front of you and you are less likely to be drawn into conversations that sap your essential energy. Noise cancelling headphones are a great investment too, especially if you are having to deal with open plan.

  • Lean into your creativity

Ultimately, lean into your own energy levels. Embrace the uniqueness that makes you creative. Give yourself room to breathe. Set focussed times for tasks using methods like the Pomodoro Technique, block out non-contactable hours in your calendar for projects when you need to get your head down, and make sure you are rewarding yourself in ways that allow you to recharge: like going for a walk without your phone.

Remember, as an introvert you are a wonderful and valuable member of any marketing team. Share your magic, your ideas, and your energy. Just look after yourself too, ok?