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May, 2021

Professionalism in Marketing & how to elevate yours

Embarking on a career in marketing can be rewarding and challenging. The skills required of new marketeers can feel endless: from understanding and maximising ever-evolving communications channels, to navigating the convergence of marketing and technology (one of the most significant areas of investment for marketers in recent years).

However, according to AMI Fellow and Certified Practicing Marketer Kristie Atkins who is Managing Partner of acquisition and retention marketing company Wink, there is a timeless skill that remains synonymous with success: professionalism.

Being a marketing professional means more than just holding a degree or experience in the field. Professionalism should be evident in the way a marketer handles themselves at every touch point while representing their personal brand amongst their colleagues, suppliers, stakeholders and customers.

“Some characteristics associated with professionalism include integrity, reliability, accountability, competence, being ethical and keeping a cool head under pressure.” says Kristie.

Further, the term ‘unprofessional’ can be easily earned and hard to shake off. Once considered unprofessional, the level of trust enjoyed from your clients, suppliers and team members can be limited.

“The right attitude is everything. The importance of how a person acts never changes, regardless of their career stage. First impressions count and for that matter, second and third impressions do too. Compare it to something as simple as experiencing bad service in a shop or a restaurant. You always remember it and even worse, you tell others about it too.”

According to Kristie, there are demonstrated behaviours that when executed consistently support a case for professionalism in the workplace, including:

  • Character: behaviour directly relates to how a person is perceived – both good and bad. Every decision made either improves or degrades your character in the eyes of others. Demonstrating self-control and an awareness of your own actions and its impacts on those around you are great starting points for consideration.
  • Care in your work: inattention to detail, making silly mistakes and showing a general lack of interest can lead others to think you’re unprofessional. Always be accountable for your mistakes. This builds trust and respect with your colleagues and lets them to see small errors in your work as a ‘one off’ rather than the norm.
  • Communication: both verbal and non-verbal methods of communication provide cues for how people interact with you. Become an active listener by asking questions, respecting people’s right to respectfully disagree, and knowing when to offer help. A large portion of communication is non-verbal so becoming adept at reading between the lines is key to knowing how to communicate effectively with the different personalities you encounter in the workplace.
  • Commitment: dedication, consistency and passion are drivers which will draw a positive response from colleagues. Commit to letting these traits help guide and define your career goals. Adopting these values will also shape how others perceive and interact with you. Used consistently, they will eventually help you form a reputation for excellence.

The concept of professional ethics is complex and far-reaching. Professional ethics are a guide for people working in the same industry to help them act in alignment with specific rules, values and principles.

According to Kristie, acting with ethics requires the bravery to do the right thing while staying true to a person’s own core values, particularly in the face of difficult challenges or complex problems. “Acting with professional ethics is rarely just taking ‘the easy route’, and requires more thought, time and attention.

“Professional ethics are necessary at all levels. It can be argued that given people learn through osmosis, standards in professionalism and ethics comes from ‘the top down’ with senior members leading by example in guiding marketing strategies and behaviours that are conscientiously-sound. This sometimes means that adopting professional ethics is challenging for junior members of the industry if they don’t have ethical leaders to follow and learn from.”

Ethical behaviour can stem from two core outputs outlined below:

  • Ethical marketing: the outcomes of a company’s marketing promotion that considers not only how its products benefit the end user, but also considers its social and environmental impact.
  • Ethics in marketing: the principles that shape a person’s decisions to act responsibly by acting with morals and fairness.

“Unfortunately, sometimes deciding what is ethical is not a simple task. There is not a definitive set of rules or a right and wrong answer, especially when dealing with varying factors that may be in conflict including cultural or religious beliefs or values and behaviours. Marketers are often required to navigate the line between business interests and community or individual good.” said Kristie.

Marketing with Purpose

The term ‘marketing with purpose’ has existed for some time. However, following a tumultuous 2020/21, ‘marketing with purpose’ has evolved to provide new opportunities to authentically connect with audiences through shared values.

According to Ms Atkins, in this new world where consumers are increasingly demanding that brands meet their environmental and social responsibilities, purpose should be embedded at the very heart of marketing professionalism. “Marketeers at every level need to constantly challenge themselves, and the industry, to do the right thing for their brands customers, stakeholders, and the planet too. A brand’s authentic self must remain front-and-centre, and a good marketing professional will respond to emerging cultural movements to help reshape and underpin an organisation’s core beliefs.”

Developing and refining relationship building skills are key aspects of AMI’s growing Emerging Marketers mentoring program. The program gives aspiring marketing leaders the opportunity to connect with senior professionals, get valuable insight into the industry and help them have a competitive edge in their career.

Mentors are Certified Practicing Marketers who are leaders in their fields in marketing, communications, advertising, media and professional services. Learn more about the program at

Take Out Summary: A Professionalism Checklist

Here are some questions and considerations to keep in mind when upping professionalism and operating with ethics:

  • Have you been truthful?
  • Have you respected others privacy?
  • Is your behaviour appropriate?
  • Have you been fair?
  • Are you acting with passion and purpose?
  • Are you proud of your work?
  • Are you considered by yourself and others to be an ethical role model?
  • Do you visibly reward others ethical behaviour?