Test Reaching Your Audience Has Never Been Easier. Engaging Them Is Harder Than Ever

Billy Madison was one of my favourite movies growing up as a kid. Sure some of the jokes might not stand the test of time but seeing a grown man destroy children at dodgeball never gets old. I never really thought I’d go back to (virtual) school but 2022 was the year I decided to go back. After working in the industry for over 15 years I decided that I wanted to find out exactly what I didn’t know. Trust me, there is a lot.

Let me take you back a little bit, it’s not to say I haven’t educated myself over the years, throughout my career I’ve sat on various boards, attended countless seminars, training classes and conferences. These experiences have helped me expand my network, pushed me to think differently and exposed me to some of the greatest marketing minds in the world. As the years went on and our agency grew I lost touch with some of the extracurricular activities I had always made a priority in my career. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be a part of these things, it was just harder to find the time as we focused all our attention on building the agency. I needed to get motivated.


This all changed when the CM (Chartered Marketer) designation launched in 2018, I was excited for our industry and wanted to be a part of the first cohort and to re-immerse myself in all things marketing and advertising. While I always wanted to see my name written as ‘Dustin Brown, Esq.’ I was excited to have a couple letters beside my name that signaled to the community my dedication to the craft. What I didn’t realize was how much the CM designation would push me out of my comfort zone. For those of you reading this who do not hold a CM designation or don’t know what it means; it requires members to earn a certain number of credits through educational courses, research, thought leadership, conferences, teaching or giving talks. Finally, there is a formal credential given to marketing experts for all the formal training industry people do on an ongoing basis. This new certification from the Canadian Marketing Association gave me the motivation I needed to re-immerse myself back into the industry I was so passionate about. It started with seminars and conferences and has led me to the latest course I am taking through Harvard Business School Online. It also doesn’t hurt that as an agency we provide an education bursary for every team member at the agency. Something we believe in as a part of our core values.


If you are wondering if I pronounce it “Hahvid” you would be correct, if you are also wondering if I constantly ask people “Do you like apples?” you would also be correct. But ‘Good Will Hunting’ jokes aside this has taken my learning to the next level. The first course I signed up for is Organizational Leadership. It is demanding, time-consuming and has pushed me well out of my comfort to think about our business in ways I have never thought about it before. As uncomfortable and challenging as it can be, I could not be more excited about what I am learning and the way it is making me think about Elemental every single day. The course I am in looks at leadership through three unique lenses:


Leader as a Beacon

Leader as an Architect

Leader as a Catalyst


Each module of the course takes you through real world case studies from some of the challenges faced by the largest companies in the world. It breaks these moments down and asks to think about your own situation and scenarios and helps you think through different communication challenges leaders face along the way. I love a good case study so this course is perfect for me. I have always preferred real scenarios over strictly academic studies. It has been interesting to see how relatable these blue-chip case study problems are to our 25 person independently owned Canadian agency. Two of my biggest take aways from the course this year have been ‘cadence and consistency’ when it comes to internal and external communication. This has given me a moment to re-establish a cadence of communication with our internal team and client partners and has made me more accountable to do this in a consistent manner.


I know this is just the beginning for my new found education journey as it is becoming abundantly clear that there is so much to learn about being a leader. And while I am curious by nature, in my role as the Head of Strategy at Elemental, it was the CM designation that gave me the push I needed to step out of my safe place to find out as much about things I don’t know, as possible.


If I am going to follow the path of Billy Madison, I guess that means the next course I sign up for is Dodgeball Leadership.