The Marketing Institute: What does the commercial director at the RDS do?
Michele Griffin: The role of commercial director at the RDS involves revenue responsibility for the RDS Venues. This includes Key Account Management with the sales team for customers in conferencing, exhibitions, sports, concerts, exams and special events; I work with the Marketing team on venue marketing & brand development and evolving Sponsorship and Revenue Optimisation opportunities at the venue. Catering & hospitality are core ancillary revenue streams and with our partners RDS Hospitality (RDSH) we have launched a number of new packages in the marketplace and this innovation has been very well received.
MII: What were your key career moves to get to your current role?
M.G: I started life as a teacher and taught for 2 years full time and then moved to work with Dublin Zoo to head up their education department, and later moved into the business side of the Zoo as Commercial Director. I was a Member of the Management Team that transformed Dublin Zoo from a state-subsidized attraction to a self-financing modern Conservation Park. The commercial portfolio gave me great insight into running a visitor attraction with a not-for-profit ethos and saw me working across gate admissions and ticketing, retail, catering, sponsorship and associated activities marketing, education, volunteer & outreach services.
A relocation to my home county of Cork presented an opportunity to work with University College Cork (UCC) as their Director of Development at the Cork University Foundation; this involved raising donations annually from corporates, individuals, Trusts and Foundations to underwrite capital and strategic projects at the University. A subsequent return to Dublin involved a move to the Irish Management Institute (IMI) as Director of Membership & Marketing at the IMI, prior to commencing working here with the RDS!
MII: What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?
M.G: The Event Industry sees daily challenges as you can imagine, bringing a large scale exhibition or conference ‘to life’ as the RDS seeks to work with our customers to make their event ‘extraordinary’ – and our recent venue re-brand captures this spirit. As Ireland’s busiest venue, the RDS positions itself as the venue of choice. Meeting customer expectations that will deliver an exceptional and extraordinary event carries its own pressure! Fortunately, the RDS have a superb team in place with strong event experience, so we are well positioned to meet the challenges of the 500 events that happen here annually.
MII: What key skills do you need to be effective in your role?
M.G: Knowledge of the events industry is essential and an appreciation of the process from concept to planning and execution of an event are core parts of the job; my commercial skills have been honed over the years and the RDS presents an abundance of opportunity to grow, develop and innovate from new and existing revenue streams. As a person, I’m capable and robust, so that comes into play as the venue operates a busy events calendar annually.
MII: Describe a typical working day.
M.G: A typical day is punctuated by activity that ensures the venue will achieve its commercial revenue target for the year and the commercial team at the venue are 100% focused on that goal.
To illustrate a typical day, I’ll talk through today - a typical day in August prior to our biggest annual event – the Dublin Horse Show, where I hold several commercial responsibilities.
Early morning started with a sponsorship meeting: with an annual Dublin Horse Show sponsorship budget close on €1 million, the sponsorship team meet daily to ensure delivery of the activation packages promised and as the Dublin Horse Show seeks a new ‘’title sponsor’’ significant work is being undertaken on that front in 2017. Next stop was a staff briefing on the Horse Show; followed by a series of other meetings & interactions with staff on the media centre, hospitality and trade stands at the show, signing a large event contract (the culmination of 2 years work) and finally writing this article for The Marketing Institute!
MII: What do you love most about your role?
M.G: The RDS are re-developing the main arena and we are working currently with a Naming Rights partner to assist funding this; in addition to seeking funding from Government to see this project through. The outcome will be an amazing new facility to support the Dublin Horse Show and our commercial activity with Leinster Rugby, Outdoor Concerts and other large scale outdoor events.
MII: Looking ahead, where might your career path lead to next?
M.G: I have had the good fortune to have a career I thoroughly relish and enjoy, and also the privilege of being a parent to my 3 children, with Dara my husband, over the past 17 years. As any working mother will understand, managing the balance between family and career is a daily challenge, but as my kids are moving to a more independent stage, I look forward to reviewing where my career is going and the opportunities that it will bring.
MII: To whom do you look for professional inspiration in your role?
M.G: Mary Robinson is a person I admire. As a role model for professional women in a contemporary working environment, she is a person of principle who represented our country so well as a President and her many achievements and contributions with the UN and progressing the social justice agenda. For myself, working in the not-for-profit sector interests and motivates me; the ethos of achieving change or positive outcomes, based on principles and shared values, is very rewarding.