Partner at Hopkins Communications, an independent fully integrated marketing communications agency with offices in Cork, Limerick and Dublin, Judy heads up the marketing, PR, events, promotions and online department while also working across the advertising, graphic design and print departments. Celebrating over 27 years in business Hopkins Communications’ clients include local and national organisations ranging from SME's, to festivals and events, state bodies and large multinationals. Their award winning core team of 18 full time employees work in conjunction with over 50 part-time promotional staff, partner companies and contract workers. They cover all aspects of campaign development from idea generation to creative, media relations, project planning, management and evaluation.
The Marketing Institute: What were your key career moves to get to your current role?
Judy Hopkins: After completing my numerous third level studies and working in the IT industry in a Corporate Sales and Marketing role, I felt the need to expand on my marketing experience, especially in the online arena. Australia was synonymous with being 4 or 5 years ahead of Ireland in this area and so I headed off to work for Australia’s largest Digital Media Agency at the time (OneDigital). On my return I went in-house to a Sales and Marketing role at SensL – a high-tech spin-off from UCC. After a number of years there, I finally felt it was time to join the family businesses, bringing my own expertise to the table and since then I have been growing the online, PR, events and promotions department and am now partner at Hopkins Communications.
MII: What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?
J.H: Energy levels! The PR and marketing world, especially when it is your name over the door, is a 24/7 business. We all work very hard morning, noon and night on our own client accounts, client events and then of course networking. Voluntary roles are another aspect of my professional career and as voluntary Chair of the Marketing Institute Cork it is like having a second job, but boy do I love it! So the biggest challenge I have really is keeping the energy levels up to be able to deliver on all aspects of the aforementioned and keep the best foot forward. I love it all so it really helps. After that it is getting the life/work balance right – It’s a work in progress!
MII: What key skills do you need to be effective in your role?
J.H: Organisation, creativity, understanding and an outgoing personality are essential. You need to have a thick skin while also being a people person – there’s no point in being in the marketing and communications industry if you don’t interact well with people, or shy away from interacting in social settings. People buy people at the end of the day. And finally, always be thinking of the bottom line – we have a tendancy to over service our clients’ accounts because we care about their reputation as well as our own, but you really need to think – are we busy or busy fools!
MII: Describe a typical working day.
J.H: No two days are the same in the world of marketing communications , especially in an agency, but here it goes. As soon as I get in to the office I check my emails, social media channels (ours and our clients) and deal with any pressing issues that have come in since I went to bed the night before. It could then be a case of anything from putting a proposal or tender together, brainstorming creative campaign ideas, to going to a client meetings.. Or the team and I could be doing a photoshoot, video,pitching a client story to the media, doing a press drop or putting a marketing plan together and booking in ads. It is so varied that there is nothing typical about it really! Because we offer all of the marketing services under one roof, I could have my advertising hat on one day, my social media hat another, or even my PR hat and creative design hat on within minutes of each other! Then there’s the operations side of the business, the financials, the billing, the planning and anything else that comes with being a Partner in the agency. Staff meetings are crucial too, we hold a meeting twice a week – one at the start to see what’s on the agenda for the week and then another towards the end of the week to see what has been completed and what’s next. It’s a great way to keep the team on the same page and ensure everyone knows what’s going on with what clients. After all we are in the world of communications!
MII: What do you love most about your role?
J.H: People. Our people, our clients, the media, our business contacts. People are so important to us, starting with our 18-strong core team and our 50+ part-time promotional staff, who I can honestly say are the best team we have had in our 27 years in business (and my business partner Mark and our founder Mary would agree). Our clients, well what can I say, obviously we wouldn’t be in business if it weren’t for them – they are not just our clients though, they are our friends and we respect each other. The media are our currency really if you think about it, without them we could not deliver to the extent we do for our clients, so keeping up strong relationships with them is imperative to our success. Finally, our business contacts, as my mother (our founder) always says – it’s all about who you know – if you are ever stuck, your fellow business owners will have your back, just like you would theirs.
MII: Looking ahead, where might your career path lead to next?
J.H: The only way is up, baby! We are doing great at the moment but Mark (my business Partner) and I have some exciting plans for the future. However, the key really is to keep moving with the times, just like we have always done. When Mary set the business up in 1990, it was an outdoor advertising agency with electronic signs in Dublin, Belfast, Limerick and Cork, then she expanded in to the land of PR and events. Following that, when my brother Mark joined the company he expanded us further into the outdoor world i.e. buses, billboards, adshels etc. and he built up the graphic design, print and promotions offering. When I joined, I introduced our digital offering from website design and development, SEO, social media set up and management and the online advertising offering (while expanding the PR, events and promotions side of the business). Already we are seeing some emerging trends,which we are testing - their longevity and return on investment in these offerings. So watch this space – we are always forward thinking but with the bottom line for the client (and ourselves) in mind.
MII: To whom do you look for professional inspiration in your role?
J.H: Mary the mother of course! My mother is my ultimate role model, she worked so hard all our life and was always an inspiration to me. She knows everyone and they all speak so highly of her. She knows our business inside and out and is always at the end of the phone to give us the historical on things or advise us on our forward-thinking ways. According to some recent research I heard at a family business event, the average life cycle of a business in Ireland is 24 years – we are in business over 27 years, so that in itself is testament to Mum. She is one in a million.
Aside from Mary, I am always of the thinking that noone is an expert at anything so we are constantly listening to our business contacts who are in similar or even different industries to ourselves – be it at meetings or networking events. We retrain and upskill, go to informative events (such as the Marketing Institute Events) and watch webinars to ensure that we are in the know as much as we can be, to deliver on client campaigns and our own overall business goals. On that note, the next MII Cork event is the Futuristic Marketing Ball, on April 1st at The Clayton Hotel Silversprings and early bird tickets are on sale until 28th February at www.mii.ie. This event is one of Cork’s biggest and best networking events of the year so not to be missed. #MiiCorkBall17