Preventing marketer burn-out

Aug 28, 2017

Assignments, attitudes, and acknowledgment – if you take care of the Big Three, your marketing people will do great things.

I have been an A/E industry marketer since the early 1980s. In those 30-plus years, I have been lucky in that I never felt like I was approaching burn-out.


As I said, I have been lucky. I have had a variety of assignments. I have a good attitude toward the work. The value of my effort has been acknowledged by my peers and supervisors.

  • Variety of work. My work assignments have included strategizing, managing, writing, designing, and producing almost every kind of marketing product and plan I can think of. No one marketing activity ever took up more than 50 percent of my work time, and every week’s work included at least three or four of the possible A/E marketing-related activities.
  • Attitude toward the work. I started in the industry as a word processor in an engineering and environmental firm. The other operators would have said they typed all day. I thought of it as, Monday, water resources engineering; Tuesday, socioeconomics; Wednesday, hazardous waste; Thursday, cultural resources; and Friday, an environmental “fatal flaw” study. With this perspective, every day was something different, so no burn-out. As a marketing manager and corporate director, I used to ask my staff what the most- and least-favorite job tasks were. Then I tried, within reason, to ensure that everyone had as much of what they liked and as little of what they hated as could be balanced, while still getting everything done.
  • Acknowledgment. In one Dallas firm, I once worked seven consecutive weekends and cancelled an Austin trip five times. The senior principal thanked me publicly for my commitment and privately put a $100 bill in my hand. In another engagement, when the president recognized a department head for a specific large proposal win, he told the assembled Dallas staff, “Bernie did most of the work.”
  • Avoid boredom. When a marketer spends all day, every day, on the same task, he/she develops a level of boredom that is difficult to overcome. If a marketer has a few concurrent assignments of different types, he/she always has something else on the desk when it is necessary to get some distance from their main assignment. If the assignments are sufficiently different from each other, this distance can help mitigate the level of boredom. Just make sure the deadlines are not too close together, or that some assigned tasks are ongoing, with no specific deadlines. Updating database files based on proposal revisions is a very useful task that falls into this “no deadline” category.
  • Demonstrate their importance. In one engagement, I came up with a way to acknowledge a staff member’s value during performance reviews and other meetings. When they arrived at my office, I hung a “please do not disturb” sign on the door. Once they were seated across the desk from me, I reached over and unplugged my phone. This told the person that, for the next little while, they had my undivided attention. One person actually thanked me for unplugging before the conversation started.

If you do these things for your marketing staff, it makes it easier for them to believe that you will be sympathetic if and when they begin to suffer burn-out symptoms. If they believe you will understand, they are more likely to ask you to shift some assignments to prevent that burn-out.

Accommodating your staff is less expensive than losing someone who already knows how you like the work done and what the company expects of its marketing products. And it’s much less expensive than having to go through a search, hire, onboard, and training process for a replacement.

Bernie Siben, CPSM, is owner and principal consultant with the Siben Consult, LLC, an independent A/E marketing and strategic consultancy located in Austin, Texas. He can be reached at 559.901.9596 or at

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.