The Marketing Institute: What does the Director of an event management company do?
Mark Breen: Everything. I’m in the office at 7am most mornings and those 2 hours before anyone else appears are my most productive. Whether I’m developing client proposals or vacuuming, it’s my favourite time of day.
My business partner and I set up Cuckoo Events almost 5 years ago now. We’re very different people and complement one another well.
I look after all the marketing elements of the business and dedicate a significant amount of time to it. I enjoy marketing something I love so much.
MII: What were your key career moves to get to your current role?
M.B: I studied Business in UL and majored in Marketing. I did the MII Graduateship Case Study exam back in 2005 (I think!) and remember being one of a small number to get an A grade that year. I went on to do a Postgrad in PR & Event Management as well as a Postgraduate Diploma in Digital Marketing along the way.
I worked in media-buying briefly before moving on to work as an Events and Marketing Manager in a college and was then CEO of a staffing agency for marketing activations before setting up Cuckoo.
I’m currently completing an MSc in Crowd Safety & Risk Analysis, which is my specialist area of operation in the event industry – crowd & event safety.
I recently launched a new business, Safe Events, which is brand focusing solely in this area so am deep in the marketing and brand-recognition phase of marketing the new venture.
MII: What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?
M.B: My biggest challenge is quantifying the ROI on the time I dedicate to developing our profile internationally through social & digital efforts. It’s a medium to long term game and I’m very comfortable playing it but if I had to quantify it to a line manager then I’d be struggling. Luckily, I don’t have to quantify it to anyone other than my business partner.
All our marketing activity is through social & digital except for a print ad we ran in the Irish Marketing Journal promoting our www.ufc.ie website. This is a little bit of marketing fun that’s been extremely effective for us.
It’s become easier to quantify in the last 9 months as we’ve secured 2 significant event contracts, one directly through Twitter and the other directly through LinkedIn. With a cumulative value in triple figures, they are not insignificant to a small business like ours.
I occasionally get the opportunity to speak or sit on panels about marketing / social / digital for business / small business and I always enjoy it. It’s very easy for me to talk about what we do and what works for us as I live it and breathe it every day.
MII: What key skills do you need to be effective in your role?
M.B: Trust in myself and my gut instinct and the understanding that, for us to continue to grow at the rate we are, I need to surround myself with amazing people are key.
As a business-owner, belief in yourself and how you want to do things is paramount. I don’t need validation from a committee of people. I’m comfortable with making business decisions based on ‘I feel it’s the right way to go’. The freedom to do just that is one of the things I love most about running my own thing.
While I take lead on all our marketing efforts, I’m supported by our entire Team, from the creative & graphics people through to those adept at bursting my bubble. Sometimes my bubble needs bursting. I’ve had some marketing notions along the way, which probably wouldn’t have done what I needed them to do so I’ve been glad of the bubble-bursting at times.
The business would be nowhere near as successful as it is, were it not for both our full-time and part-time Team members. We’re like a big family and are often just as dysfunctional, but it works for us. From a marketing perspective, our staff are like Brand Ambassadors for us. That’s extremely powerful.
MII: Describe a typical working day.
M.B: No such thing exists in my professional life and that’s exactly why I enjoy it so much.
My day can see me focusing on business development, doing client work for upcoming events, development of new marketing collateral, doing capacity calculations for a church for an event, liaising with local authorities to secure permission for things, addressing human resource/ staffing issues and everything in between.
From a marketing perspective, EVERY day includes some marketing focus. Along with our web design agency, we’ve developed 2 amazing websites that support all that we do. The Cuckoo website is multiple award-winning as is our social & digital activity, both nationally and internationally. Both the Cuckoo site and our new Safe Events site have elements that we update on a regular (minimum weekly basis), as well as both featuring well-trafficked and busy blogs that we utilise and leverage considerably.
Beyond that, every day involves time spent on our social media channels engaging with our community and developing and providing value everywhere we can. Whether that involves the scheduling of social updates that will be of interest to our audience, or producing Facebook Live events, we’re active every day.
When you run your own business, 9 to 5 isn’t a thing. Most days are long and jam-packed.
MII: What do you love most about your role?
M.B: I love that I answer to nobody except my business partner, particularly with respect to marketing ourselves. He trusts me to market us in an effective way and, luckily, so far his trust has been well-placed.
I enjoy that running my own business allows me to flex my marketing muscles. If I hadn’t been drawn into the world of events, I’d most definitely be working in a marketing role somewhere now.
MII: Looking ahead, where might your career path lead to next?
M.B: I still have work to do and things to achieve with Cuckoo and Safe Events that will keep me occupied for the next couple of years or so at least.
I have a couple of other business ideas I’d like to take a run at. I really enjoy the challenge of starting something new and building it into something of value and standing. In doing so, the branding, voice, personality and general marketing of the business are the things I enjoy most.
Any opportunity I have to build and market something I believe in in its earliest stages, I’ll be drawn to.
MII: To whom do you look for professional inspiration in your role?
M.B: Primarily, I get my professional inspiration from my parents. My mother is the most intelligent and insightful woman I’ve ever known and had life been a little different for her then she’d have built some amazing businesses. My father, for his part, was possessed of the most admirable work ethic I’ve ever known. He was ambitious but restrained and family always came first.
In business specifically, I like how Niall McGarry at Maximum Media (Joe.ie, Her.ie etc.) goes about his business. I also admire Jack Murray of MediaHQ.com and All Good Tales. He’s a fellow Ballinasloe man and I think he has a knack for connecting with people that serves him well in business. Melissa Curley of SocialBee.ie impresses me greatly too. I think her love for her business is second only to my own love for mine.
There are a lot of truly inspirational business people running amazing small businesses in Ireland.
You can read all the A Day in the Life features here.