Where are you based?
What job do you do?
How did you get into marketing/communications?
I sort of fell into marketing without realising it . I’ve always been a writer, I have been exploring food blogging and mini entrepreneurial pursuits from a young age Whilst studying English at Sheffield Hallam University, I launched my own bespoke cake company and attended some ‘get into business’ sessions at the Enterprise support centre and it was through networking the room at the marketing session that I found myself in a very animated conversation with Faye Smith, Owner and Managing Director of Keep Your Fork PR in Sheffield. Before long I was freelancing with Faye and supporting on a variety of PR and marketing related projects. Faye taught me the value of networking and building relationships and without her dynamism and enthusiasm, I’m not sure I would be where I am today.
What are you most proud of in your career as a marketing/communications professional?
In terms of professional marketing, one of my biggest achievements was launching an interactive event concept at a large UK conference. I worked with a team to develop a virtual reality game for the finance industry and launched the full game and mini app version, with branded headsets and a full tradeshow stand. The marketing campaign was on a tight budget, but had swarms of attendees queuing at the stand.
After months of late nights and worrying, sitting back and watching people enjoy the experience made it all worthwhile. The year after I worked with the same agency on a campaign sending a Lego man to space, which you can check out here: www.ahc.com/thepensionpioneers
Outside of campaigns, I am incredibly proud of my involvement with the CIM and local universities, providing mentoring. Early on in my career I won the local, regional and national award for Student Employee of the Year for Above and Beyond. The achievement was emotional to say the least, as I won for supporting a mentor of mine through a turbulent time in her personal and professional life. I remember choking for words when accepting the award. Last year I was able to go back into Sheffield Hallam and support other marketers in achieving their ambitions. I was highly commended at the Sheffield Hallam Career Mentoring Scheme awards and celebrated alongside some incredibly bright minds who are set to shape the future of marketing. The students I have worked with have gone on to achieve fantastic grades and secure great opportunities and I have been lucky enough to be part of their success story and journey into their dream careers. By far, being able to give something back in a way I know helped shaped my career, is one of my proudest career moments to date.
How has marketing/communications helped the organisations you’ve worked for?
Marketing as a business function is so closely linked to all different departments in a business. I’ve worked on projects for HR, produced internal campaigns for employee engagement, advised clients and designed solutions pre sales. Throughout my career there has been question to the value of the marketing function, how tangible results are and how clearly ROI can be demonstrated financially. Although challenging, with the rise of cross functional software, tracking platforms and digital media there is an abundance of transparency.
In all my roles I have worked at Board level, to support a drive towards more structured and strategic external communications. By introducing processes and encouraging best practice through regular, relevant content production and persona lead marketing activity, the companies I have worked for have seen a general overall improvement in brand awareness, as well as greater sales opportunities for proposals and recommendations.
The biggest lesson learnt for most organisations is that ‘they’ are not their audience. Marketing is more than just sending a tweet, it is about knowing your audience, communicating what they want, when they want and via the most appropriate media to get the reaction the company wants. Once the companies I have worked for understand their audience, the marketing function can work more strategically using time and budget to achieve the company objectives. This is a continuous journey, as audiences develop and most companies are still discovering who their target audience are.
What challenges have you overcome on your professional journey to where you are today?
No matter what career path you choose, you will face an abundance of challenges. When I started in marketing, my first few roles were in an isolated capacity. Although this gave me the fantastic opportunity to shape the function, explore all options and carve the role out for myself, it was also incredibly lonely and meant I dealt with senior executives from the outset.
The role of a marketing department is to inspire and engage businesses’ target audiences, whether the objectives are to reach, acquire, convert or simply engage. Naturally, when proposing a strategy for market, the activities, behaviors and processes will incur a certain amount of change in order to best achieve the objectives. With change comes friction and therefore, managing challenging stakeholders.
This has been one of the biggest challenges I have faced in my career so far, as it is something uncontrollable by technology, training and knowledge. I recently wrote an article for the Professional Marketers Forum, exploring different methods of management and drilled down my top tips to:
• Research your audience
• Be prepared
• Seek to educate and collaborate
• Make it human
• Handle resistance head on
The successful management of challenging stakeholder is about resilience, repetition and finding out what works for the individual personalities you are dealing with. When you produce a marketing campaign, you research, learn about your audience’s needs and communicate via media that works for them. Managing challenging stakeholders is much like producing an internal marketing campaign.
Do you have any words of wisdom for someone starting out in the marketing/communications industry?
Marketing is as much about technical skills as it is about building personable relationships and understanding the needs and motivations of others. People can develop skills and traits to become a marketer, but you cannot replicate personality and personal relationships.
One thing that has massively supported my career development is networking. Through seeking out strong networking opportunities, I have built relationships with key senior professionals who have not only provided valuable advice, but have given testimonials and recommendations to boost my career.
Also, I would encourage aspiring marketers to network internally at work. Not only is it incredibly valuable to have allies and ambassadors in all areas of the business, but it is also useful to understand how the marketing function interacts, impacts and influences other areas of a business. You never know when this insight and expertise might come in handy to support an upcoming campaign and how understanding the business operations may improve your ability to navigate challenges or address pain points.
I have been fortunate enough to build a base of connections who give me honest feedback and have supported me through mentoring and identifying opportunities when I needed it most. Nothing is stronger than a personal recommendation.
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