Listener Episode: It’s OK to Fail

Episode #014: Lauren McConnell at Stanley Security, Brett Westerman at Oktober Media, and Anthony Coppedge at IBM

Episode Information

Failure. No one seems to like to talk about it, but it happens to all of us. No matter how many years of experience you might have, you’re destined to fail at something in your career. And I’m here to tell you that it’s OK.

From finding a typo in a piece of content countless people reviewed to spending an entire year’s budget in a month to sending out a broken email to hundreds of thousands of get the idea. We’ve all been there, done that. And we’ll likely fail countless times again in our career because we’re human.

In this episode, three listeners are being super honest and sharing their biggest career failures. We hear from Lauren McConnell who is in content marketing at Stanley Security, Brett Westerman who is a paid media guru and runs Oktober Media, and Anthony Coppedge, Agile Transformation Lead at IBM.

Stephanie's Strong Opinions

  1. If you're not taking risks, you're not innovating. Not all of them will be a home run, but it's better than being stagnant.
  2. We all make mistakes. Sometimes it's as small as a typo, and other times it's a lot bigger than that. Learn from your mistakes and move on.
  3. Being empathetic isn't always easy. Try to take a step back and look at situations through a different lens.

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Stephanie Cox: Welcome to REAL MARKETERS, where we hear from marketers who move fast, ask forgiveness, not permission, obsess about driving results, and are filled to the brim with crazy ideas and the guts to implement them. This is not a fireside chat and there's absolutely no bullshit allowed here. I'm your host, Stephanie Cox. I have more than 15 years of marketing experience and I've pretty much done about everything in my career. I believe speed is better than perfection. I use the Oxford comma. I love Coca- Cola. I have exceptionally high standards and surround myself with people who get shit done. On this show, my guests and I will push boundaries and share the real truth about marketing, and empower you to become a real marketer. It's a holiday week here in the US, so I thought I would try something a little bit different this week and release our first Listeners Episode. I've come through all the submissions you've sent me and picked out my top three for our first episode on failure. Take a listen to what Laura McConnell, Brett Westerman, and Anthony Coppedge had to say about failure.

Laura McConnell: Stephanie, you asked what our biggest failure was and how it has made an impact on our careers. I'm going to give you a very common situation that I think a lot of marketers and just professionals could relate to, and that is seeing something published with a mistake. Especially a typo, something very small, very silly. I think it's safe to say that if you've ever been in a position where you're producing content, that this has probably happened to you, despite robust quality assurance processes and protocols. Nothing matches the deep pit in your stomach when someone alerts you to a typo in something that you've published, that many pairs of eyes have seen and signed off on. I'd say first that experience has impacted me with being filled with anxiety around hitting the go live button or the send button. So much that you're paralyzed by fear and your output suffers greatly. I think early on in your career, you're still learning the rules of the game and how to balance taking risks and failing and succeeding, and all that comes with that. On your podcast you talk a lot about this. Taking risks, forging ahead, and that's really at the heart of marketing, and again, just being a professional. I'd say that failure has also impacted me by, as I've grown, recognizing that you're about to publish something, you're about to do something. Just recognizing that this is scary. I'm about to put something out in the world. And then pushing through, because you have to get stuff done. I'll also add that finding a culture that supports innovation, truly supports innovation, is so critically important in this. Because if you're not iterating and progressing, then you're not creating innovation. Finding a culture that really supports that creative process is so important.

Brett Westerman: A less than shining moment in my digital marketing career was way back in year one of running PPC. I had set a sizeable daily campaign budget in Google AdWords, instead of understanding this was the client's monthly budget threshold. After a few weeks of absolutely amazing traffic to the client's site, an invoice finally showed up from Google. We're talking real money here. This was a large client. I've never been sure how it was all resolved, but by the grace of certain managers, I held onto my job. And 12 years later, am absolutely militant when it comes to tracking and managing campaign budgets.

Anthony Coppedge: For me, it was lacking empathy and the decision to let someone go. I've ever since learned from that how to have and lean into empathy. To understand what it's like to be in their position. Sure, there was a performance issue. Sure, the numbers weren't being hit. Sure there was opportunity to work with that person over time and help them improve, and they did not. And those were their choices. There was a need for that removal. But my lack of empathy in it was due to my lack of experience, my age at the time, I was very young. I look back and realize, wow, what a missed opportunity. Since then, and learning more about myself, I want to be far more empathetic. I want to lean into what's it like for them? Where are they? What I have learned is my biggest failure? Letting someone go and not doing that with empathy. Now, if I have to let someone go, it's because we have worked hard to get to a place of shared understanding of what it would take, and how can I help? Rather than getting rid of a problem person, it would be someone choosing to not come along with the help that's provided to get to where we need them to be, and where they can be. It's a very different scenario. I had to learn how empathy was a very important part of that.

Stephanie Cox: That's it for our first Listeners Episode. I hope you enjoyed the format because we're going to have this type of episode every couple of months. I'm looking for submissions for our next one. Send me an audio recording about your best marketing hack. The one hack you can't live without. You can email it to me at or send to me via LinkedIn. Can't wait to see what you share. You've been listening to REAL MARKETERS. If you love what you've heard, make sure to subscribe, rate and review our podcast. Don't forget to tell a friend, all of this marketing goodness, shouldn't be kept a secret.

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