The Marketing Institute: What does a Head of Marketing and Communications at The Convention Centre Dublin (The CCD) do?
Suzanne McGann: As the Head of Marketing and Communications, I’m responsible for all elements of The CCD brand – developing integrated strategies and plans, managing the brand identity, public relations, internal communications, in-house digital media and all promotional activity. This means both developing the strategy and being responsible for the delivery of all marketing activity. I’m also a member of the Direct Leaders team, so I’m involved in developing the overall strategy for the organisation. At the end of last year, we set out our Vision 2025, so it’s an exciting time for us.
What were your key career moves to get to your current role?
I started my career in financial services marketing in Bank of Ireland. Working in such a large organisation was a great training ground for both business and marketing. I worked in a variety of marketing roles there, as well as spending three years as a currency dealer, before going back to my marketing roots in the French and UK markets with AXA Life Invest. In 2014/15, I also fulfilled a personal goal of retraining and working in the fitness industry as a personal trainer. That was a lot of fun and early mornings! I started in The CCD in March 2016 and I love working here. The people are great, there’s always something going on and the business tourism industry is so interesting.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?
One of the biggest challenges for marketers today is to stand out in a competitive market. Our marketing strategy is built on brand awareness in predominantly international markets, a competitive and noisy environment. All our marketing activity must resonate with customers and prospects and stand out in their minds. In December of last year, we won World’s Leading Meetings and Conference Centre at the World Travel Awards, so we are lucky to have a strong brand identity, which we promote and protect. It’s a constant challenge to make your brand stand out, but it’s an interesting and enjoyable one.
On a personal level, my biggest challenge will always be time! Marketing changes and moves so quickly – there is always more you can do and different ways to look at what you do. It would be great to have more time to consider and test new ideas, perspectives and trends.
What key skills do you need to be effective in your role?
Strategic thinking and operational delivery, flexibility, attention to detail and strong communications skills. I have both strategic and operational responsibility, so I need to be able to move between the two and deliver on both. It’s important for me to translate our day-to-day marketing activity into a longer-term perspective on strategic output. Attention to detail is key in my role, and strong communication skills, of course, are crucial, whether that’s with clients, the media or Clann CCD (our team).
Describe a typical working day.
Most of my days start between 5.00am and 5.40am, depending on whether I’ve planned a pre-work run or not. Morning runs are the best…once you’re on the road! I’m usually in the office just before 7.00am when I check and reply to emails and see what’s on for the day ahead. It’s after this that the days get less typical, and I think anyone in Marketing would agree that there really is no such thing as a typical day. It could be a day of meetings, a day at my desk catching up on actions, or as is the case currently, planning and budgeting for next year. Work/life balance is so important to our health and wellbeing, so I try to leave the office before 5pm in the evenings. It’s not always possible or practical, but it is something that I keep an eye on, both for myself and my team.
What do you love most about your role?
I love the variety of work and the people I work with. Everyone says it, but the people you work with really make a difference to your job. I have a great Marketing team, and among us we have knowledge and experience from a variety of industries. As a small team, it’s important that we support, learn and challenge each other and we demonstrate all of these in abundance.
Looking ahead, where might your career path lead to next?
This year has taught me that, despite best planning efforts, the universe has its own plan for you. And while I would have always been a planner, and indeed still am to an extent, I’m happy enjoying what I’m doing right now. From a career point of view, what’s important to me is to keep learning and being challenged, and to grow and add value to any company with whom I work. I hope that the next step in my career will offer me the opportunity to continue to do this.
To whom do you look for professional inspiration in your role?
I have been very lucky to know and work with many people who have inspired me at different stages of my working life. Helen Roberts is a business coach who helped me to make the pivotal move in my career. She continues to inspire me with her authenticity, motivation and positivity. I still sometimes ask myself “What would Helen do?”. I get daily motivation from Danielle LaPorte and Alison Canavan, whom I follow online, both successful business women who inspire me to be the best I can be both professionally and personally and without compromise.
On a personal level, my sister Karen is a true inspiration and someone I’ve always looked up to. At age 12, she knew exactly what she wanted to do and went for it in the competitive and tough environment that is television direction and production. A successful BAFTA nominated producer / director, she continues to challenge and push herself out of her comfort zone, achieving and delivering great work, while remaining true to herself.