The Other Kind of Social Networks

Article excerpt

Is there any need for face-to-face networking in the era of LinkedIn and Facebook? Craig Smith examines the role that clubs for mixing with the right people can still play on the marketing scene

You know who they are.

The stellar marketers, whose names and faces so often grace these pages, are ubiquitous. They excel at their day jobs, they lead the industry, are natural networkers and can be found at any or all of the elite marketing clubs.

If that is a recipe for professional success, the art is in knowing which ingredients to add first, and in what quantities. Being successful within, and on behalf of, your own organisation is crucial, yet the marketing-industry leader who does not acknowledge the value of judicious networking is, by definition, impossible to find.

Where should the rising marketing star begin when it comes to effective networking? The motivations, methods and forums have changed, even in the relatively short time since today's senior marketers attained their status. However, the overall hierarchy of marketing's clubs and societies remains largely unchanged.

At the head of the networking table sit the grand old four: by age, the Thirty Club, established in 1906; Women In Advertising and Communications London, or WACL (1923); the Solus Club (1929) and the Marketing Group of Great Britain, or MGGB (1975).

Alongside them are to be found the more-inclusive Marketing Society, the event arms of the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA), the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) and myriad trade associations, the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) on a rare night off from studying, and the gowned City Livery Company, The Worshipful Company of Marketors.

At the young, and some might say fun, end of the table is a transitory mix of intellectual verve, special interest and self-interest, and downright frivolity. An exhaustive list is impossible, but the spectrum runs from the Royal Society of Arts at one end, through agencies' own events series, such as Grey's Citrus or the Albion Club, to the gastronomic Bladdered Again or Meat Club.

Before you dive headlong into this networking circus, however, a word of warning. 'When you network, you have to be purposeful. You don't want to be a contagious social disease,' says Clare Sheikh, group director of strategy marketing and customer at insurance company RSA and a non-executive director of Alliance Trust.

Value of mentors

A member of WACL and MGGB and Fellow of The Marketing Society, Sheikh's advice to younger marketers attempting to navigate the best networking opportunities is simple - get someone else to do it for you.

'Do your own job well, then find a mentor,' says Sheikh, who has identified marketing stars from within her own team and taken them along to MGGB or WACL events as her guest - a sure-fire short cut to the elite dining clubs.

Mentoring, whether given or received, is for some the more acceptable face of modern networking. Indeed, Amanda Mackenzie, chief marketing officer at Aviva and a member of MGGB and WACL, says: 'Women shy away from the notion of networking.'

Cilla Snowball is group chairman and chief executive of AMV Group by day and member of the Thirty Club, WACL and president of MGGB by night Remarkably, then, she also professes to 'hate the word networking' and, alongside Mackenzie and a host of other industry luminaries, gives time to mentor emerging talent on The Marketing Academy's scholarship programme.

The received wisdom, at least from these three senior marketers, is that the elite dining clubs are not the be-all and end-all of industry networking, and that those individuals who do not have the guiding hand of a mentor may benefit from forging their own path.

'Marketing clubland is UK-centric and full of earnest marketers talking about marketing issues, when there may be a tidal wave happening in your own industry,' says Sheikh. …