Power Pairs: The Power of Mentorship

Emma Eret
By Emma Eret

As a bright-eyed and relatively new member of the working world, as well as the Power Digital team, the learning curve can be pretty steep. Sure, I went from intern to part-time to full-time, so I was afforded some acclimation time. However, nothing can truly prepare you for the plunge that is full time. Now don’t get me wrong, earning a full-time position at Power Digital is one of the life accomplishments that I’m most proud of, however, along with the high of the offer came a pretty harsh crash where the training wheels were “officially” off and the standards were drastically raised.

This crash was weirdly very exciting for me as it challenged me and pushed me in a way that I’ve never been pushed before. I was now in the major league as opposed to the minor leagues. I questioned if team members around me were human or were digital marketing robots – the amount of work and the high quality of work they’re able to consistently crank out is so impressive! It became a challenge for me to keep my head above water with my workload and I found balancing quality of work with quantity of work to be a struggle.

As is the Power Digital way and at the heart of “The Rules We Live By” simply getting by isn’t acceptable. I needed to challenge myself, instead of waiting to be challenged. I needed to go above and beyond. I needed to always innovate. Luckily for me came Power Digital’s Power Pairs mentorship program where I was able to dedicate 12-weeks to perfecting my craft and becoming a rockstar content marketing strategist.

Here’s a high-level overview of my journey with my mentor, Amanda Windsor, and all that we learned along the way.

STEP 1: IDENTIFY AREAS OF OPPORTUNITY

For the first step of our Power Pairs journey, my mentor and I decided to complete personal SWOT analysis and to present those to each other. For those of you who aren’t familiar with a SWOT analysis, it’s where you list out strengths (S), weaknesses (W), opportunities (O) and threats (T). For our personal SWOT analysis, while we wanted them to be work/business-centric, we felt that it was critical for us to share more personal details about ourselves to help paint a crystal clear picture of things that we’re good at and where we might struggle a bit more.

MENTEE TIP: SWOTs are GREAT on many levels. They provide you with an opportunity to be vulnerable, open and honest with your mentor and break down barriers and preconceived notions. They help you to bond on a deeper intellectual and emotional level as you’re able to share what matters most to you and get a true glimpse into what matters to them and how they view themselves.

MENTOR TIP: When your mentee shares their SWOT with you, be sure to ask TONS of clarifying questions. Dig into the WHY behind WHAT they’re saying. A simple, “now what did you mean by that?” or “why is that important to you?” goes a very long way and helps you to drill down into the greater goals and/or issues at play.

After we went through the SWOT exercise and taking my strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats into account, we landed on the topic/focus of our 12-week mentorship program which was to be centered around becoming an Account Manager at Power Digital and deepening my cross-channel understanding in preparation for the coveted Account Manager title.

NOTE: This Account Manager focus does not end up being the focus of journey… more to come on that in a bit!

STEP 2: CREATE A GAME PLAN

Once we landed on the “focus” of our Power Pairs journey, we collaborated on a tangible plan. We set weekly check-in meetings and we coordinated meetings with Power Digital’s top Account Managers and Executive Sponsors so I could pick their brain on their path to their role and any tips they had on how to master Account Management.

MENTEE TIP: Take advantage of the people around you! The knowledge that your fellow team members have is invaluable in the digital marketing realm and can really open your eyes to new ways of thinking.

MENTOR TIP: It’s always a great idea to meet with your mentee’s direct manager to ensure that the areas of opportunity your mentee views as being top priority are both realistic and in fact a priority. In addition to their manager, you should also meet with other team members who work closely with them on a day-to-day basis to help round out a complete picture. This helps to ensure that both you and your mentee don’t have any blind spots about where they’re currently at and that you’re being 100% realistic on where you should place your time and efforts.   

Truth be told, and my mentor Amanda can attest to this, we didn’t have a super clear vision of what success looked like for this “Account Manager” goal and while we were taking some game plan steps in the right direction, we were essentially going through the motions and hoping to find ourselves along the way. THIS IS NOT IDEAL OR RECOMMENDED. I REPEAT, THIS IS NOT IDEAL OR RECOMMENDED.

So, it’s no surprise that our Power Pairs focus shifted… again, more to come on that in a bit!   

STEP 3: DON’T BE AFRAID TO PIVOT

As I’ve alluded to a couple of times in this blog already, the focus of our Power Pairs program shifted for my mentor and I. As we started to peel back the layers and after a few tough conversations, we realized that for this program to have the greatest impact on me and in turn, me on Power Digital, I needed to focus my time and energy on being an amazing content strategist.

Our initial goal of having me become an Account Manager was a bit too lofty given where I was at – which was totally fine and Account Management can absolutely be in my future (after content strategy mastery, of course) – but that meant we needed to pivot and we needed to pivot fast!

MENTOR TIP: Don’t avoid honest conversations that some might deem “difficult”. These conversations build respect and trust between you and your mentee and ultimately ensure that they are set up for success. If you approach these conversations rationally, with empathy and with your mentees main motivators/drivers in mind, you’ll quickly be able to get things back on track.

MENTEE TIP: Be honest and open with your mentor. Saying that you need help or acknowledging that you’re in over your head does NOT mean that you’ve failed or that you aren’t good enough. In fact, I’d argue the exact opposite. It shows that you are self-aware, truly care about your company and want to make sure that your growth is as impactful as possible.  

For us, we determined that being an amazing content strategist meant having complete mastery of all content marketing basics including keyword research, content calendar creation, proofing/editing, content optimizations, internal linking, implementation and finally, reporting on results. It also meant being exceptionally reliable, meaning hitting all deadlines, running all tasks to the ground, ensuring the quality of work was as high as possible (ex. No typos in blog content) and being proactive vs reactive with both the internal Power Digital team as well as with my clients. Finally, it meant being a complete master of the role content marketing plays in the cross-channel marketing ecosystem and being able to clearly articulate this to clients to make certain that the value of content marketing was crystal clear to them as it relates to their business goals and bottom line.

STEP 4: CREATE A (NEW) GAME PLAN

Now, with our clear focus and definition of an amazing content strategist in mind, we went back to the game plan drawing board and mapped out an intentional developmental action plan to make the most of our time and ensure this goal was realized.

MENTOR TIP: Successful growth programs have a clear structure and utilize plans/documentation to keep everyone accountable and on a clear path to success. When we created our first game plan, it severely lacked structure, clear actionable steps and a cemented vision of what success looked like. It’s no surprise that this focus didn’t pan out and that we needed to pivot. Utilizing tools like a developmental action plan make your goals manageable for your mentee and break them down into bite-sized chunks that are more than doable.

MENTEE TIP: Creating the developmental action plan with Amanda helped to cleary layout my vision for what my weaknesses were and how I was going to turn those into strengths. Establishing an actionable roadmap allowed me to work towards real goals that I knew were only going to help me become the best Content Strategist possible.

The purpose of the developmental action plan was to break down my ultimate goal of becoming an amazing content strategist down into a step-by-step plan. For me the developmental action plan related directly to the saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!” The elephant was becoming an amazing content strategist and the bites were each step of my developmental action plan.

The main focus areas and the steps of my plan were broken out into five buckets, all of which rolled up into my ultimate goal. These five buckets were:

  1. Content Strategy Basics
  2. Cross-Channel Understanding
  3. Strategic Positioning – Content
  4. Organization + Multitasking
  5. Account Strategy Understanding

For each of these five buckets, we collaboratively defined what great looks like, what action needed to be taken to become great, how we’d be measuring success and what next steps included. We also identified other resources and people (outside of Amanda and myself) that we need to tag in to help me meet and exceed each of the steps.  

STEP 5: GAME ON

With my finalized development action plan, it was GAME ON! Here’s a high-level overview of how we strategically tackled each of the 5 areas of my developmental action plan:

  • Content Strategy Basics
    1. I trained Amanda on the seven steps of Content Marketing 101. These seven steps are keyword research, content calendar creation, proofing/editing, content optimization, internal linking, implementation, and reporting on results. Through these trainings, I demonstrated mastery and retention of each crucial step. Since Amanda is not on the content team, she had loads of questions which forced me to think critically about the Power Digital process for each step and ensure she was effectively learning how to properly do things.
    2. I created an infographic with Power Digital’s creative team outlining the seven steps of Content Marketing 101 and a quick blurb of what goes into each step. Check it out below:
      1. [INCLUDE CONTENT MARKETING 101 INFOGRAPHIC]
  • Cross-Channel Understanding
    1. I met with nine different Power Digital team members from different departments at the company to better understand the key principles of their channel as well as how content marketing connects to their channel. Before each meeting, I created a detailed agenda to make the meetings as efficient and effective as possible. Additionally, I took very detailed notes to make sure that I retained the amazing information they shared with me.
    2. After meeting with all departments, I created a detailed blog post discussing the role content plays with all other channels. This blog post was a way for me to show complete mastery of the great information I gained during my meetings and that I in fact retained this information. Now it’s an awesome resource for the entire company and anyone who visits our blog!
  • Strategic Positioning – Content
    1. Amanda shadowed me on my weekly and monthly calls to observe and assess my interactions with clients and how I positioned content marketing to them. After each meeting, we’d debrief where she’d ask me questions and would give me feedback on ways to improve my strategic positioning.
    2. In addition to Amanda shadowing me, we also utilized role play to act out scenarios that could arise in upcoming meetings. We’d meet before my monthly reports and I’d run through my section of the monthly report the way I intended to present it to the client. She’d give me feedback on ways to up-level what I was saying and approach things in a way that showed the deeper impact content has outside of just the content marketing channel. This roleplay really helped to open my eyes and was the “aha” moment where things started to click for me.
  • Organization + Multitasking
    1. Amanda and I worked on how to set expectations and realistic due dates for my clients and AMs. This included trainings on how to block out my calendar to work on specific tasks, keeping my Asana dashboard up to date with the most accurate deadlines, follow through and following up with clients until the full task loop was closed, and how to make sure I am completely A+ work in a timely manner.
    2. Along with meeting with different departments to learn how they could get more aligned with content, I also gathered tips and tricks from each person on how they stayed so organized. As a result of these meetings, I created a blog post on how to become an organized badass digital marketer.
  • Account Strategy Understanding
    1. This portion of my developmental action plan was extremely important when it comes to the overall understanding of what a business’ goals are and how content can help to get them there. Amanda had me list out primary and secondary business goals for each one of my accounts. This was a very eye-opening experience as I realized that I wasn’t 100% sure what the core business goals and objectives were on my accounts. Clearly, this was an area that I needed to work on. For those accounts that I wasn’t sure on, I connected with the Account Managers and Executive Sponsors to discuss the main business goals. I then discussed this with Amanda and she asked me – “Now knowing that this is client XX’s main priority, how can you change how you speak to content? How can you show the true value of the work you’re doing?”

WRAPPING UP

All in all, the Power Pairs program has produced massive transformations for both myself and my mentor. As a result of this process, I can confidently say that I’m a badass content marketing strategist equipped with all the tools I need to be successful. While it hasn’t been an easy road, it has absolutely been worthwhile and then some!