Tell us a little bit about yourself and your role.
I head up marketing at Business in the Community Ireland, the national business network for sustainability. We have Ireland’s top companies as members and have driven the sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) agenda in Ireland since being founded in 2000. I joined in 2007 when CSR and sustainability were very much on the margins and we had to work hard to encourage business to see the rationale for being responsible and sustainable. I am delighted to see sustainability becoming mainstream in the past year or two as increasingly informed employees, consumers and investors are driving the conversation around the role of business in society. Many more companies are now coming to us for advice on strategy or want to measure what they are doing and get inspired to do more. A really exciting development is how many CEOs in Ireland want to become more vocal on environmental and societal issues so that’s a real thrill to help tell their stories.
I am lucky to work with a brilliant team here in Business in the Community Ireland and no two days are the same. From building the network and getting more companies to join us, to working with our members on joint campaigns like our Low Carbon Pledge or ramping up for our largest event of the year, our CEO forum on the 13th November, the work is varied, always interesting and we get to meet inspirational Irish CEOs every day of the week which is a joy.
Why did you choose a career in marketing?
I studied Japanese and marketing in DCU. Alas, the Japanese went by the wayside! However, I was always passionate about marketing and loved the variety that was on offer. That variety has stood to me as I have definitely enjoyed variety in the sectors I have worked in. I started off in software and worked in IT for many years and then had an amazing few years as Head of Marketing with Screen Ireland (then the Irish Film Board) but always in the back of my mind, wanted to do something more meaningful but still flex my marketing and business muscles. I stumbled across this small ad in The Irish Times (12 years ago when jobs ads appeared in print!) for Business in the Community Ireland and was blown away by it’s high powered Board of Directors and the calibre of companies they already had as members and I was sold. Whenever I have changed sectors, I always stick by the mantra that the fundamentals of marketing remain the same, we are here to communicate ideas and build relationships. Yes, the tools and audiences may change but a marketer’s skills are always transferable.
In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge marketers are facing today? How would you tackle it?
Cutting through the noise. The average attention span is now 8 seconds so trying to be heard by an already overwhelmed audience can be daunting. With all the great digital tools at our disposal, we can easily target who we want to get to but I still find the challenge of standing out and being memorable can be tricky. I love storytelling and find the simplest stories make for the most memorable marketing messages. A challenge, especially when it comes to our focus areas like the low carbon economy or diversity and inclusion, is the use of jargon and complicated messages. People are bombarded by information on a daily basis so we need to deliver messages that are easy to understand, provide inspiration and prompt action when needs be.
What advice would you give to someone starting a career in marketing?
Network, network and network! I have been lucky to have mentored a few people over the years who have entered marketing and my first piece of advice is to get out there and network. Pick up the phone and make contact with someone who’s work you admire. Meet them for a coffee, get on their radar and keep on their radar. I have hired people who approached me that way so it does work. Ireland is brilliant as it’s so small and therefore relatively easy to get out there and meet people you want to get to know. Marketing is about building relationships and it’s important to get away from the laptop and actually go meet people, ask their advice, I have always found people love being asked their opinion, and don’t be shy about asking for opportunities.
What makes a great marketer?
In my opinion, it’s the combination of creativity backed up by execution with a side order of curiosity! Some of the best people I know in the industry are not only creative but are reliable too. When they say they will do something, you know it’s going to get done. A great marketer must also always see the bigger picture and quite frankly be nosy! I love talking to colleagues about their work and always ask stories about their latest work with a member company. These stories may never become marketing messages in itself but it broadens my understanding of the impact of what we do and the passion of my colleagues is always inspirational.
What is your favourite marketing campaign of all time? Why?
Ooh that’s a tricky one. I am going to go for The Fearless Girl statue by State Street. Overnight, they placed this now iconic piece of art facing Wall Street’s Charging Bull statue and the campaign just exploded. It generated 1 billion Twitter impressions in the first 12 hours and stirred up fascinating conversations around diversity and inclusion. State Street is a member of ours and we had one of their VPs over for an event and he explained how impactful it had been not only to the company but for their customers as well. I think that campaign will go down in history as one of the best.
Where do you look for professional inspiration?
I am blessed that I work with some of the most amazing people in Ireland. Their passion for sustainability is infectious and they never give up when it comes to encouraging companies all over the country to make a real impact on the environment and on society. I am also inspired by the many activists I get to meet through the job. I interviewed the brilliant Adam Harris from AsIAm at one of our events and he is exceptional at communicating the business case for diversity and inclusion. Professor John Sweeney, the climate scientist is also brilliant. We have had him speak to the CEOs of our member companies on numerous occasions and he is always an inspiration. Internationally, people like Greta Thurnberg give me hope, she is the definition of a fearless girl!