Creating teams. Shaping futures.

Agency Heads feat Lauren David – PR Account Executive

To showcase some impressive and local career journeys as well as the wealth of knowledge and expertise those working within the South West agency landscape has to offer, we are catching up some of the people that play a part in producing brilliant (and often award-winning) campaigns for their clients as part of their client services teams.

Today, we’d like to feature: Lauren David, PR and Marketing Account Executive.

lauren david account exec

If you are thinking of embarking on a career in public relations and marketing as a PR Exec – some first-hand insights and knowledge for you right here: Lauren has worked as a PR, Marketing and Content Executive across the B2B tech and insurance industry.

ADLIB: In approx 30 words – what has been your career journey so far, what paths and avenues have you taken to get you to where you are today?

Lauren: I graduated from University with a French degree and decided that I wanted to get into PR and Marketing. After a few setbacks, a recruitment agency got in touch and set me up for my first role in a B2B tech agency. After a travel break, I’m now doing PR in the insurance sector.

ADLIB: Can you share one key piece of wisdom that might help those who are looking to also start out as an Account Executive?

Lauren: I think when people are thinking about going into PR, they associate it with fashion, beauty, celebrities…all the glamorous industries! But be open to which sector you enter. You can gain valuable agency experience in tech, industry, finance, environmental etc., as you still learn the necessary skills for PR and will still get a fast-paced agency experience!

ADLIB: In your opinion, what are the top 3 skills it takes to succeed as an Account Executive?

Lauren: Without fail you need excellent communication skills, written ability and organisation! As an exec, you will be pitching releases to journalists and starting to build relations with clients. You need to be confident in talking and liaising with people. When it comes to writing content, in an agency you will be expected to write about a plethora of topics.

You need to be able to grasp and take on your client’s brand ‘voice’ and engage your audience! As for organisation, you will be working across a number of accounts, so you need to be able to prioritise your workload and juggle things at short notice.

ADLIB: In the context of upskilling, do you have any ‘go-tos’ or tips that help you to ensure that your skills remain top-notch?

Lauren: Sign yourself up to any webinars you think might enhance your skills and ask your Manager or Director what training is available to you. But most importantly talk to your Manager’s and Directors. They will have years of skills, so set up regular one to ones and ask them which areas can you improve in. Don’t be afraid to suggest training opportunities for your team either. Sharing knowledge and ideas is what keeps agencies so fresh. Everyone has a different way of thinking!

ADLIB: In an attempt to capture some of the wisdom you’ve gained as a professional so far, what are “3 stand-out things” you’ve learned over the years while working in agencies?

Lauren: You need to develop a bit of a thick skin. Sometimes journalists can be quite blunt when you’re trying to pitch to them but don’t take it personally. You need to build a confident persona whilst on the phone, so don’t let yourself get flustered. Don’t be afraid to say no. In agency, the workload can get heavy very quickly as managers will delegate tasks on top of your workload. But it’s okay to ask them which they would like you to prioritise and even to say that you can’t achieve what they are asking in the time frame.

It’s better to be upfront than panicking at the last minute! No two workdays are the same. Having multiple clients means juggling different tasks. If you like variation, agency life is for you!

ADLIB: And finally, what’s your favourite thing about working in an agency?

Lauren: I love the fast pace and the variation. In agency, you are fortunate to work across a number of accounts, so you have to be able to change your writing style, the audience you are pitching to and be able to deliver each client’s individual objective – meaning you never get bored! It opens you to a wealth of experience, as each client has a varied idea of what they want to achieve and how they do it!

Thanks so much for sharing!

Life as a Senior Digital Project Manager

Have you ever wondered what life as a Digital Project Manager is really like here in Bristol? What does it take to become a PM and to stay top of the game?

In this context, we caught up with Rob Matthews, Development Director (previously Senior Digital Project Manager) at Create Health to give you a little more insight – if you are considering a career within Tech or are planning on adding an expert to your team – you can find some first-hand perception right here.

ADLIB: In approx. 30 words what does your role involve?

Rob Matthews: Getting products and services out the door and used by real people. Making sense of a diverse team and different and personalities. Getting shit done.

ADLIB: What has been your career highlight so far?

Rob Matthews: Early in my career somehow managing to launch an application used by half the schools in England. A highlight in that it worked out well in the end. A lowlight in that launch day could have gone better if the application had 3 months longer to bake, and therefore launched in a fashion that was not ideal. A lot of late nights and learnings on that project.

ADLIB: In a nutshell, what is a typical day like for you? (…if there is such thing)

Rob Matthews: Get in, check emails and slack to make sure nothing is on fire, with the team to check everything is moving along nicely, and unblock where appropriate. Review budget burndowns, cards left in Trello, review against plans. Then likely a client call, a meeting, maybe reviewing work so far. Inevitably being the calm one keeping everything ticking over and looking to the future. Every day will be different in some respects, which is why it’s difficult to get bored as long as there are projects running.

ADLIB: What do you like most about your role?

Rob Matthews: The opportunity to work across many different clients, teams, projects. I’ve worked on projects and brands in my career that from the outside should be really intimidating, but as time has gone on I’ve come to realise that it’s a job that if you like working with many people to solve problems then you’re probably in a good place. It’s good to talk, to sort problems, all together as a team.

ADLIB: What do you see as the top 3 skills it takes to become a Digital Project Manager?

Rob Matthews: While you can learn planning, processes, technical knowledge etc, my view is it’s all about attitude and having honesty, compassion and bravery.

You need to be honest with your team, your clients, the wider community. Honesty builds transparency, which a lack of will kill your projects. Being the one to ask the difficult question, to point out a flaw, to get real.

Compassion – you need to be able to work with a team effectively, and also be compassionate to the end-user, and use that as a guiding light to what you help prioritise and deliver. Without this, you’ll end up with a burned-out team, a poor client relationship or an unhappy user.

Bravery – because it’s pretty scary when things are not going according to plan, but you have to grit your teeth and own the problem because often no one else will do it for you. It’s not a job you can hide from.

ADLIB: What top tip would you give someone to ensure that their skills and knowledge as a PM remain top-notch?

Rob Matthews: If you are ever working somewhere that you’ve stopped learning new things or become complacent then consider moving on. While you can do courses, read blogs, attend meetups (all of which are valuable), PM skills are mainly built with experience. If you’re doing the same cookie-cutter projects over and over, it’s time to consider your options.

Thanks for sharing, Rob!

Ask the Expert: Unintended Design Consequences

The 9th UXBristol 2019 is soon approaching. The conference will contain hands-on UX techniques from leading practitioners and 12 exciting workshops presented in three different spaces. As proud sponsors of the event, we took the opportunity to catch up with some of the workshop runners, those that are experts in their field.

We caught up with Mike Harris, Freelance UX Consultant to gather his career journey so far and to chat with him about ‘the unintended consequences of design’ specifically; the subject of his workshop at this year’s UX Bristol.

ADLIB: In a nutshell, what has been your career journey so far, leading you to where you are right now?

Mike Harris: Simply put, I studied Psychology to understand human behaviour, then applied that to the digital world to understand people’s relationship with technology. I have been working in Bristol for almost a decade and have researched and designed products and services across many sectors. I have come to be intrigued by the impact of technology on us both as individuals and as a society and am continuing to explore this now.

ADLIB: How can designers be better equipped to explore the possible impact of their designs? What approaches could they adopt as part of their decision making processes?

Mike Harris: I would love it if the workshop helped people explore this question and drum up some new ideas.

Let’s acknowledge that some great processes and methods to address this already. I would say one under-utilised method is the diary study; it is long-term, very natural and user-led, and a skilled researcher can uncover the root of reported behaviour by asking questions. Aside from longer-term and more open research, we can adopt a certain ethos in our decision-making. I for one would like to see product teams adopt some pessimism! I want them to question things beyond the brief and maybe turn some of the ‘metrics’ and ‘KPIs’ on their head; for example, if we want to increase “engagement” – how might we curb addiction?

If we want people to be “empowered to self-diagnose” – how might we avoid them becoming hypochondriacs? If we want to “connect people”, how might we prevent us being ‘alone together’? I heard another good technique to get to the bottom of exactly what we are designing and the ethics behind it, which is to ask at any opportunity: “Why is that good?”

ADLIB: Could you share what you define as ‘unintended design consequences’ in a nutshell?

Mike Harris: All of us in the digital world are designers to some degree – in that we are trying to make something which has an effect on someone else. We are trying to elicit a behavioural outcome – but we cannot control everything. Our own central argument as designers is that humans are complex, and designing for them is not straight-forward. So how can we know what the full effect is from the things we make? All those complexities of humans will produce unintended design consequences.

ADLIB: And finally, can you tell us a bit more about your workshop ‘unintended design consequences’? What can people expect from the session?

Mike Harris: I am going to be realistic here! We have under an hour, and this is a big topic. We will also have so many different perspectives in the room, so it would be remiss if we didn’t try to capture some of that and get people talking. So first off I will set up a short and provoking workshop task for people to do on arrival – hopefully, this helps break the ice too! Then I will spend as little time as possible framing the session and laying out the core argument and the reasons I think we should talk about this as designers.

Then we will do two exercises where groups can explore questions – one of those will be looking at how ethics is expected of practitioners in other professions – and if UX can learn from them. It should be a fun and collaborative session, and hopefully, we will have started an important conversation

Thanks so much for sharing, Mike!

Mike will be running a workshop at UX Bristol 2019. To learn more, please follow this link.

New Faces at ADLIB