marketing nightmaresI have a recurring dream—a nightmare (albeit not a marketing nightmare)—that there’s a university course I’ve forgotten to take.

Somehow, someone is going to find out.

I spend the rest of the dream racking my brain to figure out how I’m going to make up the credit.

I still wake up now and then, panicked about how I’m going to manage to pull it off.

Weird. I know.

But that’s me! Every industry has its issues, and the people in it: their nightmares. The things they worry about most.

I’m pretty sure a doctor never worries about a website launch, or whether he missed a deadline.

A lawyer doesn’t likely have nightmares about a client not paying their bill.

What are the other issues and concerns that can cause anxiety for marketing and communication professionals?

Crashed or hacked sites? Losing an RFP? Forgetting to wear pants to your virtual meeting (just as an example, of course)?

This week’s Big Question deals with what keeps you up at night:

What are your marketing nightmares?

Cringe-worthy Marketing Nightmares

Scott Johnson admits he made a mistake some years ago, and his biggest fear is repeating it:

Ten years ago or so, when I was new to the industry, I purchased (for little money) a marketing list—a list of new parents.

I am sure you know what I am going to say next, but I wrote out a marketing letter highlighting the need for life insurance based on having a new baby.

Perhaps this is a story more about why you should hire a marketing firm because BOY did I get a response from that letter.

I must have received eight or nine phone calls from women telling me they did not have kids and had no idea how I got that information.

They all wanted to speak with my manager (I work for myself, so I always find that an odd request).

Of course, I apologized and now I never put out mass mailings like that.

But I am still terrified of making this mistake again!

Scott’s story reminded me of this other “targeted” mishap.

Can I Unsend and Other Tech Fears

Angelina Allsop has some marketing nightmares, but luckily she has also provided some advice on how to avoid them!

My nightmares?

Blasting the wrong group or blasting a message with a horrifically embarrassing mistake!

Did I just mass email a picture of me on my vacation? Did I accidentally put something offensive on my facebook ad and send it out to thousands of people?  

Marketing Tech not working properly!

Are hundreds of people trying to buy my products and not able to because the link is broken?

Is my landing page not set up properly?  

Fortunately, I have some great tips that might help avoid or fix any nightmares your readers may face!

Develop a system and stick to it.

Many times, mistakes are made because we are in a hurry.

However, when I paused and took the time to develop a system for myself, the end result was a faster and more accurate me!

Stay up to date! Don’t be complacent!

The market changes too fast and too often. It is important to stay current with the latest trends.

Subscribe to industry podcasts, read the latest blogs and books, attend conferences and workshops, do whenever you can.

You are not alone! Get connected!

Networking may seem like a sleazy sale-sy thing or something people only do to move up the corporate ladder, but that is not the case.

People have run into the same issues you have!

Don’t be alarmed when they share their nightmare stories with you, but ask them how they worked through their issues and how they prevented them from happening again. Most people love to talk about themselves.

Let them indulge! You will benefit when you learn from their mistakes and borrow their tricks.

Embrace the tech!

Facebook Ads, Automated Email Systems, and Landing Pages can seem intimidating, especially to someone like myself, who didn’t have someone to hold my hand setting them up, but they can be powerful marketing tools.

I learned what I could from blogs, podcasts, online courses… but in the end, it was my experiences that taught me the most.

Don’t let fear of the unknown hold you back from using a new powerful marketing technology.

It could give you the edge you need to become an industry leader.

Was It All Worth It?

How often have you put your heart and soul into content for yourself, your agency, or your client?

Ultimately, of course, you are hoping for torrents of comments, shares, and a cavalcade of praise leading to conversions galore.

Sometimes that happens. But more often than not, I fear that my content will receive the equivalent of a sad trombone melody: <wah wah>.

Which is why Glen Allsopp’s (unrelated to Angelina, above) marketing nightmare resonated with me:

I can spend weeks and months working on a single piece of content for one of my clients.

We try to create exceptional articles that people will share.

So what’s my biggest concern?

That I might spend countless hours on a piece of content that nobody ever picks up or talks about.

That nobody tweets. Nobody links to from their own sites, and whether my client will question whether I know what I’m doing at all.

There are no guarantees when it comes to marketing, so my biggest worry is whether all the time spent on a piece will be worth it.

We hear you, Glen!

Humorous vs. Horrifying

Tara Erwin provided nightmares that span the spectrum between horrifying, and self-deprecating:

My primary PR nightmare has to do with Crisis Communications.

When I took my Intro to Public Relations class in college, the shining example was the Tylenol scare in the ‘80s.

Even as a bright-eyed student, the thought of people dying under my PR watch was nightmare-inducing, and that uneasy feeling has always stuck with me.

I’ve been the steward of some controversial (radioactive waste cleanup) and consumer-facing (retail, food producer, restaurant) brands over the course of my career, and I still live in fear that I’m only one leaky barrel, wayward metal piece or unwashed leaf of lettuce away from my very own Tylenol crisis.

With all that heaviness aside, my other PR nightmare consists of purely vanity issues on my part.

Lipstick on my teeth when I’m on camera, calling someone by his/her incorrect name while introducing at an event, farting at a new business meeting.

Stuff I’m assuming most people freak out about, but might be just a little more embarrassing as a PR pro, since ours is a very image-conscious profession.

Remote/virtual work has greatly reduced the level of potential embarrassment stemming from those “new business farts,” Tara. I highly recommend it.

Live Streaming

Recently, Kimberly Crossland conducted a live stream via her Savvy Copywriters Facebook page, chatting about a copywriting audit she did for a local business.

That, of course, would be amazing news, if not for the fact that Kimberly’s biggest marketing nightmare is…

Going LIVE!

And yet, I have promised my mastermind group (and now I’m promising the PR Dream Team) that I’m going live today in about an hour.

So… here’s to tackling the thing I fear!

Side note: Is it too early to drink wine to calm my nerves?

While my views don’t necessarily reflect those of the Spin Sucks community, I can confidently say that no, Kimberly, it’s not too early to drink wine.

Live Events

Where Kimberly has nightmares about live streaming, Sherilynne Starkie’s feature live events:

Trade shows. Any trade show.

We might need to follow up with Sherilynne for some specific horror stories.

Marketing Nightmares: We All Have Them

The lesson? Maybe there isn’t one. Maybe we just have to accept the fact that we can’t control the things that keep us up at night.

Alternatively, perhaps we have to face our fears; or at least make sure we’re as prepared as we can be to minimize their impact.

But, all that said, there’s one thing that was made clear in this week’s responses: everyone is worried about something.

Perhaps, after reading through some of these, you’ll feel better about your marketing nightmare. It might not be that big of a deal after all is said and done.


Every month, we publish Spin Sucks PR Dream Team Spotlights.

Q&A-style interviews with members of our PR Dream Team.

Last month, we featured Kendra Corman who went from a bachelor of arts degree to a masters in accounting, to an MBA, before she ended up in marketing.

Another PRDT member, Seán Stickle, subsequently asked

I’d actually be interested to know what college degree (or grad degree, if any) the members of the PR Dream Team graduated with before they ended up in PR?

Our PR Dream Team answers weren’t as obvious as you would think. Very few actually had degrees in marketing, PR or communications.

Personally, I have a bachelor of arts (English literature) from McGill University (the Harvard of the north. Or is Harvard the McGill of the south?), and a post-graduate degree in journalism.

I practiced journalism for a number of years, and I’m confident both degrees were instrumental in making me the communicator I am today (this may or may not have been left here for my parents who, while always supportive, did question the value of an English lit degree once or twice).

Like law or engineering degrees, many educational journeys are designed to build a foundation.

Where did your educational path to marketing and communications start?

This week’s Big Question asks: What’s your major?

More specifically: What are the best degrees for a career in marketing?

You can answer here, in our free Slack community, or on the socials (use #SpinSucksQuestion so we can find you).

Mike Connell

Mike Connell is the director of client services at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. He is also a contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks, the leading source for modern PR training, trends, and insights. Find more of Mike's musings on his blog, Communative. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

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