Where are you based?
My home base is in Nottingham but I travel a lot and work from anywhere around the world.
What job do you do?
Founder & Director of The Effective English Company
How did you get into marketing/communications?
I never had a clear plan of what I wanted to do, but I have always been interested in language and communication. I did a degree in linguistics and then spent a year teaching English in Sudan. When I came back I got a job as editorial assistant on the weekly staff magazine at a department store. I absolutely loved that job and learned a huge amount. After a couple of years though I was producing the same articles each year (Valentine’s, Easter, etc) and there was no scope for promotion within the company because of the way it was structured, so I looked for a new challenge. That took me to a role in a PR agency, which I hated but where I learned how to write a press release, amongst other things. Then I moved to a role as communications officer in the NHS and fell back in love with my work again. Communications is definitely the right fit for me.
What are you most proud of in your career as a marketing/communications professional?
Personally, I’m proud of making the leap to go freelance in 2006, developing that into a remote company with a team, and ultimately still being here 12 years on.
How has marketing/communications helped the organisations you’ve worked for?
How does it not?! Our work is all about helping people communicate clearly and effectively – and in my opinion that can only ever be a good thing in life and in work. With many of the NHS projects I’ve worked on, our communications efforts have helped local people understand changes or the need for behaviour change, which has saved the NHS money and lead to patients receiving faster, more appropriate treatment – in some cases it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say that good communications work has saved lives.
What challenges have you overcome on your professional journey to where you are today?
In 12 years of being self-employed I’ve come up against a fair few challenges. From a personal perspective the biggest ongoing challenge is maintaining a steady flow of work coming in to us and balancing that level with the capacity we have to deliver. In terms of the actual communications projects the biggest challenge is usually managing tricky clients – you know the ones who continually ‘flex’ the brief, change their minds on quite what they want, ask for things really urgently and then sit on them for weeks, ask for more deliverables without increasing the budget, move deadlines and generally make it difficult to work with them. I’m pretty experienced now with these situations but that doesn’t make them easy to deal with.
Do you have any words of wisdom for someone starting out in the marketing/communications industry?
Be clear on everything! Be clear on the instructions you’re receiving and be clear with the communications you send out – that means the questions you ask as well as the pieces you write. This industry is all about clear, effective communications. If you’re not sure what’s needed or what the objective is, how can you produce something that does the job effectively? If you’re not clear on something, ask a colleague or manager, check it out online, go to the library, phone a friend – use your initiative and do whatever is needed to get clear.
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