It’s been a busy start to the year for Convertd. On the 14th January, I delivered the Understand Google workshop as part of Birkbeck’s Readiness for Work program. Five days later I was at University College London (UCL) doing the same for the Advertising, Marketing and PR Society (AMPSoc).

Overall it was a real success and great to be back teaching digital marketing at universities, especially given that I started Convertd workshops whilst at Google as a way to inspire university students to enter the digital industry.

In this blog I will lay out my arguments for why I believe it is essential to teach digital marketing to students who are deciding on their first job. I will then review the curriculum, highlights and learnings from both events.

Why teach digital marketing to university students?

To break the mould

As a university student contemplating their first career move, it is too easy to follow the crowd. From any November, across campuses around the world, you can feel the peer-pressure building as the usual troupe of banks, management consultants, law and accounting firms march in and promise fulfilling careers garnished with smoked salmon and dill canapés, served on slate.

The next thing you know, either directly or through the grapevine, is that three of your course mates have already applied, passed the online aptitude tests and are busy preparing for the assessment day this coming weekend.

Jeepers, you think; I better get on it.

You draw a list all the companies that your peers are applying to and get to work: frantically writing and firing off as many applications as your busy schedule permits. The first week it’s banking so you get creative by thinking of all your weekend/holiday jobs and university society experience that demonstrate numerical prowess and fiscal responsibility. You dust off your percentages and ratios in preparation for the aptitude tests.

Then it’s management consultancy. You overhear someone in the library talking about ‘strategy’ and ‘executive travel’ and repeat the process above, spending a whole weekend applying to the big guns.

On Monday, bleary eyed you enter the canteen and hear your coursemate proclaiming that she is taking a ‘conversion course’ and becoming a lawyer. Another year of study paid by a Magic Circle firm and a guaranteed job at the end! What’s not to like? With your head turned, you set your wheels in motion again by repeating the application process.

Then you wait for your first offer. And accept.

I am not saying that these jobs are unfulfilling. In fact, plenty of my friends love their jobs at McKinsey, Bank of America, PwC and Clifford Chance. It’s just that many of them don’t and wish they had “thought about alternatives”. They rushed without considering alternatives and were succumbed to the frenetic pull of milkround recruitment.

It’s harder to jump, the higher you climb

There is a path dependency in the job market. Although careers are not as linear as they used to be, in some jobs, it becomes harder to leave the longer you’re there. Law and finance are two prime examples.

Many friends who are now mid-level in law or finance firms feel the pressure to stay. They’ve done the hard graft to rise up the ladder, and are now enjoying the perks of people management with better projects, bigger pay checks and the weight of monthly mortgage payments. The opportunity cost of changing careers is high and increases as you get older.

Educating university graduates about the digital opportunity is therefore important so they can properly evaluate their options to avoid getting stuck on a path they later regret.

All consuming, all changing and always competitive

The last reason is because the digital industry is all-consuming, fast-paced and ever-changing; it affects everything but never gets boring. I remember a FTSE CEO, who has worked across multiple industries, telling me that I couldn’t go wrong by starting at Google. He said that the FMCG sector (Fast Moving Consumer Goods), was (despite its name) painfully slow and that getting a solid grounding in digital marketing would give you a competitive advantage in any sector.

An indication of the reach of digital and the speed at which it moves is this slide. Transport, hotels, e-commerce and media. Uber, AirBnB, Alibaba and Facebook. Four industries transformed beyond recognition in the space of five years.

Convertd Understand Google course

What did I teach at Birkbeck and UCL?

The workshop was entitled ‘Understanding Google (and other things)’. It starts with three warm up exercises where we collectively draw the arguments for why the internet is such a powerful force for business. [The headline image above are UCL students midway through the first exercise!] I then dive straight into Google, understanding the reasons behind its founding, its mission statement, powerful business model and importance of data-driven decision making.

The next thirty minutes is a whistlestop tour through Search Engine Marketing, Display Advertising, Video Advertising and Analytics. In fact I explain and contextualise the following 37 terms through a mixture of Powerpoint and whiteboard exercises:

Demand Fulfilment; Demand Generation; SEM (Search Engine Marketing); SERP (Search Engine Results Page); First Page; Organic; Paid; AdWords; PPC (Pay Per Click); SEO (Search Engine Optimisation); PageRank; AdRank; On-page optimisation; Off-page optimisation; Anchor text; Black Hat tactics; White Hat tactics; CPC (Cost Per Click); Keywords; Search Query; Match Type; Quality Score; CTR (Click Through Rate); Keyword planner; Google Insights; Global Market Finder; GDN (Google Display Network); Contextual Targeting; Audience Targeting; Remarketing; Ad Blockers; YouTube; Preroll; Trueview Ads; Google Analytics; Metric; Dimension.

I conclude the workshops by offering some advice on how to land and succeed in your first graduate job. I won’t review these here but save them for a future blog.

What did I learn?

1. The importance of involving the audience

The best way to teach is to involve the audience every step of the way. Xunzi, a Chinese Confucian philosopher, once summarised the power of experiential learning with the following quote (translated):

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

That’s why throughout the UG Workshop, I ask (and encourage) lots of questions as well as involving the audience in whiteboard exercises.

2. Learning digital marketing is learning a new language

35 new concepts in a 90 minute workshop is a lot to take on board. As a consequence, it’s important that the audience is given the chance to internalise and contextualise their new vocabulary. In my Birkbeck workshop, I did not pay enough attention to ensuring the audience had time to digest the terminology. I rectified this in my UCL workshop by adding a cumulative glossary to each slide. I emboldened the terms that were relevant to that part of the workshop but they could see the terms they’d previously learnt and were going to learn.

Good teaching strikes a balance between Powerpoint and Whiteboard; telling and involving.

Frederic Kalinke Digital Marketing training

3. Same wine; different bottles

Another observation is that every workshop throws up the same myths and misconceptions about Google. It doesn’t matter if I am teaching MBA students, lawyers, undergraduates, strategy consultants or bankers. They all have the same beliefs:

  1. Nobody clicks on adverts in Google Search.
  2. In order to appear on the first page, you have to pay Google lots of money.
  3. You should trust ‘organic’ listings more than sponsored ads.

My Understand Google course debunks each myth as we uncover how Google makes ~$50B a year, why it’s a meritocratic system and why relevance is king.

4. What gets measured, gets improved

I always ask for feedback at the end of each workshop as it helps me to constantly improve my teaching and content. I was thrilled to receive several positive endorsements that I share below.

I just wanted to say thank you so much for coming into UCL last week – really appreciate you taking the time to fit it in. I found the workshop hugely useful and everyone else I’ve spoken to has said the same thing. You made a daunting and technical topic really understandable – Gus Allen – Founder of the UCL Advertising, Marketing and PR Society.

The session was really informative and inspirational, and the presenter Frederic Kalinke was very knowledgeable, helpful and approachable – Mr Cacciarru, Birkbeck Student.

If you are a university department, company board, law firm, management consultancy, private equity company that would like an Understand Google Workshop, please contact me.