Having just completed the Chartered Marketer (CMSA) designation with the Marketing Association of South Africa (MASA), I’m relatively new to the process. So, I can relate to anyone who has perhaps just stumbled across the concept (like I did) and is keen to jump in immediately. Or perhaps you’ve had this on the bucket list for a while and you’re wondering if it’s worth the investment? 


I’ve come up with SIX benefits, based on my experience thus far. I’d love to know in the comments which of the benefits you’ve found to be most valuable, and which the least!


You’ll learn a lot about marketing


The first thing that struck me in approaching the MASA designations process was the excellent workplace evidence guide or journal – This was the portfolio of evidence for recognition of prior learning (RPL). The 16-page guide gave me a helicopter view of the marketing profession in one pack with a practical outline to follow. Marketing is by its very nature constantly changing and reinventing itself, but the framework for the portfolio of evidence clearly outlined the scope of activities I needed to cover.


If you’re like me, you will not be an expert in all seven areas of marketing. But with your work experience, you will have some expertise in all of them, and in-depth expertise in many of them. 


Interestingly, when you look at your marketing experience from the perspective of a designations process, you begin to see things you didn’t see before. As you step outside of your day-to-day work and look at what you’ve done to date, especially in the last 3-5 years, you’ll see your work with fresh eyes. Then, with the support of your portfolio advisor, you’ll get to see even more. This was a huge benefit for me – Clarity of the scope of the full marketing discipline as applied to my own work experience. 


Preparation for the Board exam in November was exceptionally useful as we spent two full days in an online workshop that refreshed us on the theoretical aspects of marketing, as well as current trends and digital developments. All sectors were involved, and this is where I experienced even more learning. Although my background is cross-sector, most of my work is now in education. I therefore gained a lot from the interactive discussions across fintech, gaming, telco and other sectors represented by my fellow candidates.


You’ll identify your gaps and specialisations


Initially, the list of marketing activities appears overwhelming, especially the detail. Every single item must be included in your portfolio of evidence. Some doubt is normal, I believe. And scary. But as mentioned above, sometimes it only needs clarity of thought, and a fresh perspective.


It’s the first time in my career that I’ve taken the time to really look at what I’ve done in the workplace and to reflect on where my strengths are in the wider discipline of marketing. My specialisation in education (school) marketing, specifically in market research, consumer behaviour and strategic marketing made the RPL process much easier to manage. These areas popped up quite early in the process as strengths. They then helped me in planning the portfolio work in a way that removed a lot of the overwhelm – Getting me into a momentum early on and helping me to catch up quickly when I fell behind due to unanticipated external factors.


Also, where are my weaknesses, and where are the gaps that need to be filled? I’ve always believed in lifelong learning, but I’ve never had a formal plan for my continuous professional development (CPD) in marketing. I’m now able to see much more clearly what that comprises, and what I want it to look like in order to maintain my designation.


You’ll optimise your work experience


This was possibly the biggest breakthrough for me as a business owner. But even if you’re employed and you’re keen to build your personal brand as a marketer, you’ll see value here too.


Projects you’ve completed successfully. Clients who are pleased with a result. These point to areas of experience that can be packaged into future sales revenues and career opportunities. What do I mean by this? 


Here’s an example. While I was compiling my portfolio of evidence, it was necessary to look back at marketing projects that I’d completed for my clients. When I needed to provide evidence of work I’d done in market research, for example, I pulled out a sample of the series of in-person interviews conducted with school parents. These I had summarised and analysed to solve a strategic marketing problem that the school was facing at the time. 


In compiling my portfolio of evidence, I then reflected on how effective this market research had been and what could have been improved (as the designations process includes reflections on each section). Today, the work that I do with independent schools on market research benefits from this recent exercise. This is because I can now repackage the ‘product’ (market research) with the improvements following my reflection and experience. 


Thus my work experience in the field is optimised and the value increased for the business.


You’ll get a recognition of your competence and expertise

Recognition in the form of an official certification registered with a professional organisation that can be verified independently is probably the most common reason to pursue a designation. I did enjoy adding that CMSA designation to my LinkedIn profile and including the MASA certification number.


However, this benefit also has extra significance. A marketing designation remains relevant and endures beyond what many short courses and (short and long) qualifications might do. In order to maintain your designation, you must participate in continuous professional development (CPD) and register those points with MASA. This means that if a recruiter or a prospective client wants to check how valid your designation is, it’s easy to do so simply because it’s registered with MASA. CPD is tracked via MASA.


So, to me, herein lies the real benefit. It’s not a once-off (unless you choose to be). It’s a journey which requires commitment. And as a business owner, the ability to check my credentials has value that a qualification (as with my HDE or MBA) is unable to offer because of the difference in the relevance to current professional marketing practices, and today’s constantly changing digital environment. 


For marketing teams in independent schools, I think this is extremely important. When marketers are recruited and promoted in schools, the ability to compare candidates is tricky as it currently stands. Years of experience and qualifications are not a guarantee of expertise. But a designation from MASA (the AMSA, MPSA or CMSA) provides an independent marketing recognition of competence that complements the candidate’s existing qualifications and experience. We’re starting to see more candidates with the MASA marketing designations. I believe this will accelerate into the future.


You’ll be investing in yourself, which is empowering

With wellness such a priority in today’s working environment (including schools!) I believe this benefit is much bigger than it appears at first glance. Typically, in an independent school, the marketer is not a part of the academic process of training and development. Choices are confusing on what to embark on to invest in further study because the career path of a school marketer is often less defined. So, the school marketer may register for ad hoc online courses, attend conferences and webinars. Marketing budget limitations will sometimes prevent these efforts too. 


My own personal long-term vision had been to pursue a doctorate (DBA) after I completed my masters (MBA). Over the years, I’d explored various options. But when I started my own business, the likelihood of a long-term period of study at a high cost became less feasible. During the COVID-19 lockdown period, I completed a 1-week online course with GIBS (University of Pretoria Gordon Institute of Business Science) on Strategic Marketing. I loved it! It reaffirmed for me that I must avoid long-term study commitments at this stage of my life. And then when I stumbled across the marketing designations process, I realised the value it would bring to my business far exceeded a doctorate in marketing. 


Well, I’m pleased to say that the investment of time (9 months part-time) and money (significant in my view, as a business owner, but much less than any doctorate would cost!) has already been worthwhile for me. I found the designations process very intense, but rewarding. Spending time with my portfolio advisor was extremely valuable (60-minute Zoom calls every few weeks). Engaging with the MASA team and offering has been educational, motivating and collegial, in the interest of ensuring a professional marketing sector across all industries. 


I’m only at the beginning of this journey, but I’m looking forward to it!


You’ll join a structured CPD process


For independent school marketers, I think this may be the most significant benefit of all. Schools require academic staff to be SACE registered (South African Council of Educators) and expect teachers to maintain SACE CPD points when the SACE system is operational. However, marketers do not receive such CPD recognition for their professional development efforts, whether it’s an online course completed or a conference attended.


Once the marketing designation is granted, any CPD that meets the MASA criteria can then be logged towards maintaining the professional designation. MASA has a wide range of CPD activities from various organisations which can be pursued, plus there are activities that may be submitted for approval, both marketing and non-marketing activities, plus mentorship. In addition, points are awarded for relevant publications. Here I’m reminded of the book I authored for ISASA called ‘A Guide to Effective School Marketing’ and also the training workshops I run for ISASA on school marketing. Through a combination of these areas according to your own specific marketing role and organisation, the marketer establishes a career path that is far more relevant and valuable in the long run. The CPD is tracked on your profile on the digital platform and is constantly updated during the year towards maintaining the designation.


If you’re still unsure and would like to chat about my experience, please make contact via my website. Alternatively, check on the MASA website for the information on the marketing designations and email them with your questions. All the best!


I'm Keryn House

I enjoy creating marketing anecdotes and visuals related to my horse as there is a lot to be learned from animals, and this provides a unique context to my writing. My horse Slick (aka Sports Express) has been with me for many years and is a source of inspiration and relaxation for my strategic mind. He lives on a friend’s farm in KZN and I see him twice a week.

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