Whether you are a recent graduate student or an experienced advertising executive, having an up-to-date portfolio to showcase your marketing skills is a critical part of attracting clients or landing your next job. This comprehensive guide will give you the tips and strategies you need to stand out and make sure your samples will impress the next hiring manager or client that comes your way.
Online or Hardcopy Marketing Portfolios?
In short, it is best to have both. While most employers these days will expect an online advertising portfolio, some will ask for a traditional bound version of your work samples during the interview phase. If you are in the job search now, then having a hard copy of your best work ready is a must.
Elements of a Strong Advertising Portfolio
Whether you are working on your digital or hardcopy portfolio, the fundamental elements are the same. At a minimum, you need to include the following:
Cover Page or Home Page
A cover page or main home page should convey the design and visual themes that are central to your brand. If you have a tagline or a brief mission statement that captures your professional brand, then it belongs here.
Table of Contents
Hardcopy portfolios require a table of contents that gives the reader a sense of what is to come and provides some structure for the body of your portfolio. Of course, your online portfolio will create this structure with tabs, click through elements, and/or other creative means to direct the reader to what they are looking for. It is important not to get so creative that the hiring manager has to dig around or work hard to find what they are looking for. Keep it simple, elegant, and engaging.
Of course, the resume that you have used to apply for the position should find its way into your hardcopy portfolio. However, since your online portfolio will be potentially viewed by multiple potential employers, you may need to adjust your strategy. In other words, your hard copy portfolio does not need to be the same as your online one.
Instead of using a specific resume that was tailored to a particular job, create a resume that captures your strongest attributes that are general enough to appeal to hiring managers in the kinds of work you are most interested in doing. Be sure to keep this resume up to date, and pack it full of results-oriented accomplishments.
5-10 Samples of Past Work Along with Results
For a hardcopy marketing portfolio, 5-6 samples is the standard. Although, for a digital portfolio you can go a few more, up to 10. Read on to learn more about how to select and contextualize your samples to get the most bang for your buck in this section of your portfolio.
Honors and Awards
If you have received any accolades for your work in advertising or marketing, it is important that you mention these in your portfolio in a way that is easy to find. This may mean including a single page mentioning and describing your past awards in your hard copy, and devoting a webpage to it in your digital version.
Additional Optional Elements
Advertising is a creative field which gives you some room when it comes to how you want to use your portfolio to sell yourself to potential employers or clients. When thinking through how best to tell the story of your brand in order to land a job or attract new business, don’t be afraid to get creative. For example, you may want to include a mission statement page, a link to a blog post that discusses your marketing philosophy, or even testimonials from impressive past clients.
How to Select Which Work Samples to Include in Your Portfolio
Showcase Your Range
These days marketing professionals are expected to be able to thrive with a variety of different advertising tools in order to reach the widest audience. Integrated marketing usually includes campaigns that translate a company’s advertising strategy across several outlets such as social media, email, targeted online advertising, television, magazines, newspapers, and/or radio.
If you have a wide range, be sure to show that off, as long as it is relevant to the job you are applying for. In addition, if you have done integrated ad campaigns, including different pieces from the campaign can show off your ability to capture the strategic intent of a single campaign across a variety of media and platforms.
Of course, any potential employer is bound to be most concerned with their bottom line when it comes to selecting which marketing candidate to add to their team. So, sometimes deciding which projects to include may come down to making sure that you can highlight your success in terms of measurables such as increased customer engagement, outstanding sales conversions, or impressive click through rates.
Real, hard facts are hard to argue with and they demonstrate that you can get results which allows a hiring manager to see how you would be an asset to their team in a direct way. That being said, this is not the only consideration, so be sure to balance this priority with others as mentioned in this section.
In addition to choosing past projects that you have success metrics for, it is important to be smart about how you will provide the data showing your success in a way that is visually appealing while clearly communicating important information. Since this is likely to be a key aspect of your job, it is also an important aspect of a strong portfolio.
Tell Your Story
One of the most important considerations when deciding on which examples of your work to showcase in your advertising portfolio is the overall story these samples will tell. As you customized your resume and cover letter when you applied to your job, you probably tried to highlight your fit for the exact position you applied to. Now is the time to make sure your portfolio comes in to reinforce that narrative with well curated examples.
For instance, if you are applying for a job that is looking for a marketing professional to focus on Facebook targeted ad campaigns, you may have emphasized your skills pertaining to this aspect of online marketing on your resume. And, you want your portfolio to keep an emphasis on those kinds of campaigns most closely aligned with the kinds of skills you will be using in your new role. This may mean highlighting campaigns on Facebook and other social media platforms and skipping samples from radio, tv, and billboard campaigns.
Consider Using Themes to Help Organize Your Digital Portfolio
If you are advanced in your marketing career, you may be aiming for jobs that will put you in a leadership position where you will need to demonstrate proficiency over a wide variety of advertising mediums, along with a more substantial range in terms of skillsets. As such, it is okay if your digital portfolio includes a lot of samples, as long as they are grouped in a way that will be meaningful to the reader.
For example, if you plan to include 10 samples (and more is really pushing the limits, even for advanced positions) then consider grouping them into different mediums, types (retail, B2B, etc.), or print/digital campaigns. By making your portfolio easier to navigate, you boost the chances that a potential employer or client will find what they are looking for in a hurry.
A Few More Portfolio Tips for Advertising Pros
Create Visual Consistency
Beware of the colors, background, and supplemental visual elements that you use in your online portfolio. You want a consistent feel throughout, preferably one that reinforces the main elements of your professional brand.
Get a Second Pair of Eyes on It
Get some perspective on your portfolio from other creatives in marketing, digital design, and even fine arts. Or, reach out to some people in your social and professional networks for a little perspective and constructive feedback. Ask your friends and colleagues to provide one idea to improve your portfolio, then consider whether or not you want to incorporate that change.
Keep It Current
As you work on new projects, be sure to continuously update your portfolio, particularly if you can show stronger success metrics or showcase a new skillset not otherwise covered with your current collection. This way you can make sure your portfolio is ready in a snap for a new job opportunity.
Choose the Right Platforms
It is important to choose a platform to host your digital portfolio that is well known in your target niche. This is also a chance to think about putting together multiple different portfolios using different platforms which allows you to tailor to different types of clients and/or job opportunities.
Do some research on the different platforms to learn more about which will allow you to best showcase the types of media and content that best allow you to tell your brand story. In most cases, using a platform designed for digital portfolios saves a great deal of time over creating a website from scratch, particularly if web design isn’t your strong suit.