Last week I attended an event on Creative Engagement by local digital marketing agency The Tomorrow Lab. It comprised of six speakers from a diverse range of backgrounds talking about branding, social media and marketing (there was also a lot of pizza and beer, but I promise that wasn’t my only motive for attending…). Although primarily targeting those in the marketing industry, much of the advice imparted by the speakers can easily be taken as guidance for life. In the spirit of brevity, I’d like to highlight two of my favourite speakers from the day and what I learnt overall.
I’ll start with Sheree Atcheson; an impressive figure who wears many hats as a tech business consultant for Deloitte, UK expansion director at Women Who Code and founder of her own social responsibility organisation I Am Lanka. She delivered an inspiring talk about unexpected responsibility. To her, this meant being thrust into leadership (through her own hard work), at a young age. As a petite, feminine 20-something of Sri Lankan descent brought up in Tyrone, she professed herself that she was not what you would picture a typical leader to look like. However, rather than shy away from her responsibility, she embraced it and used her privilege to amplify others. She encouraged us to think about how we can all make an impact, simply by understanding our own privilege and really focusing our efforts. Sheree has an impressively long list of achievements, but the one that inspired me most was her founding of I Am Lanka. Despite living in Belfast, she facilitates important conversations and encourages Sri Lankans to champion their own homegrown talent before looking further afield. At a time when privilege is a hotly debated issue, Sheree calmly demonstrates how it is on us to use our own for the good of others.
The keynote speaker was Helena Langdon, Head of Digital and Communities at Innocent Drinks. If you’re familiar with Innocent’s humorous and quirky marketing tactics, then you’ll have a good idea of Helena’s personality. The company’s social media has spawned numerous viral campaigns, #1 Twitter trends and made it to all of the major national press, simply by being relevant in their own way. For example, did you know that Helena is responsible for #DogsAtPollingStations? And the well-traversed 4th Floor Stapler? What’s her magic formula? Basically, there isn’t one. Helena’s advice is to always keep things personal and remember that you’re dealing with other humans. This allows real conversation to happen, which in turn builds their brand from the ground up. Helena also believes in learning by doing, confessing that she has learnt many things by accident and that luck also has a massive deal to do with it. Luckily, they have an enabling rule at Innocent: “If you’re 70%, go for it.” Isn’t that a great general rule of thumb for life? It gives us the licence to take risks and make bold, brave decisions. Of course, mistakes will be made, but mistakes are there to be learnt from and help us develop in the long run.
All six of the speakers gave their own valuable advice. Matthew Thompson, founder of Best of Belfast, encourages us to go deep, not wide, to create content that impacts and moves our audience. He believes that when you make content for everyone, you make content for no one. Alan Davison, Brand Strategy Director at The Foundation, showed us how your branding can completely change how people perceive your business (and also revealed that sometimes the best creative thoughts come from having a few glasses of wine!). Matthew Morris, founder of The Bearded Candlemakers, also believes in creating authentic content that showcases your own personal brand as well as your products. This has helped him build an Instagram community that he engages with regularly (and who all love his dog Teddy!). Sophie Smith, Senior Digital Marketing Specialist at The Tomorrow Lab, demonstrated how today’s technology can provide us with incredibly detailed insights of how our business is performing and how we can use these to take the guesswork out of building an excellent marketing campaign. I think she should also be commended for injecting a bit of humour to a talk on analytical data!
At the end of the day I left the event happily satiated with pizza, beer and some food for thought. All of the talks had one recurring ideal to me; be authentic and let your personality show through in all that you do, whether that be creating content for your brand’s social media channels or connecting with the people in your own life. I’d like to extend a big thank you to all of the speakers and to The Tomorrow Lab for hosting, I’m looking forward to the next event already!