Interview with Mandi Bateson, Head of Social at Mindshare

This week we have Mandi Bateson, Head of Social at Mindshare, discussing her career path, her creative process for coming up and executing ideas, technology trends and skills that are becoming increasingly important for marketers.

Mandi 2012

1. To kick things off, can you tell us a little about yourself and provide a quick overview of your career to date?

I started working as a marketing and events coordinator during a 2 year stint in England in the early 00s. After a few years working in a multitude of B2B marketing communications roles, I was adamant that I would a) never specialise and b) never work for an agency. And yet here I am, loving agency life and in one of the more niche marketing areas in the industry.

I love that I started my career in B2B – I’ve set up forums for real estate software beta testers, created communities of interest for Australian businesses exploring international trade opportunities and used content marketing to generate leads for enterprise telecommunications. For 6 years I worked side by side with sales teams which meant a Monday morning without solid marketing results was a Monday morning I didn’t want to face. Our reports always showed that the strongest source for lead generation was word of mouth which is why I started focusing on social media marketing tactics before they were really known as social.

The past 4 years of agency life have been a rollercoaster – from setting up the social team at Daemon Digital (now TWO Social) to setting up the social team at PR agency Hill & Knowlton (now H+K Strategies) to my current role setting up the social team at Mindshare (still known as Mindshare thankfully). It’s been interesting to see how social is perceived within different marketing disciplines and it will be no surprise that I feel a media agency is well placed to see social come to life.

2. As the Head of Social at Mindshare, does that mean you basically throw parties and sip champagne all day? Or is there more to the role than that?

I have been asked at many a function if being Head of Social means that I’m responsible for the party. When I explain my role is about social media marketing I usually get an apology from the person that they’re not on Twitter.

We look at developing participatory ideas, creating content, influencer outreach, social listening, and communications planning. I spend a lot of time with our clients assisting them with their social strategy, whether that’s because they need help educating their internal teams on how it will be executed or that they need to translate a global strategy to have relevance locally or because they want to integrate campaign activity into always-on planning. Champagne is optional.

3. What would be a typical day for you at the office?

Much like anyone else, there’s no real typical day for me.

I have a fab team which I can rely on to execute our campaigns so I can focus on all the other elements that keep our business ticking along including meeting new clients and getting to know their pain points, internal training and education so everyone’s thinking social, catching up with the client teams to make sure we’re all working towards the same goal, meeting with our media partners to stay up-to-date with their solutions, writing strategies and developing campaign ideas, giving advice on how to manage those tricky social issues that always seem to pop up, tinkering with our planning and reporting templates and process documents, talking to our strategy team about upcoming campaigns and the role for social, attending some kind of training session on either our Original Thinking Framework or one of the company’s professional development courses, and talking to the digital team about social advertising updates.

We have offices in Sydney and Melbourne so there’s quite a lot of work to cover and sometimes all of this needs to be put on hold if a campaign requires all hands on deck.

4. Part of your role calls for a lot of ideas generation and creativity. Can you talk to us about your creative process? Do you switch it on and off or is your mind constantly racing with new ideas?

We always ask “why would they care, why would they share” when trying to tap into a killer social idea. Without wanting to black hat ideas as they develop, getting realistic about the likely audience reaction and how much incentive would be required to get a reaction improves creativity as you really need to be able to articulate the motivators and behaviours of your target market. Seems pretty obvious but it can often make a big difference between how an idea lives in traditional advertising and how it is executed socially.

Strangely enough I find that technology inspires my creativity. Most people will tell you that technology is not an idea – of course it isn’t. Unfortunately though my creativity is restricted by known limitations. To explain myself, here’s a campaign I liked: Flair Fashiontag. Say your friend posts a photo of themselves on Facebook in a cute outfit. You can use the app to tag a piece of clothing in the photo with a Fashiontag, which lets them know you like it, helps you get more info about the item of clothing or accessory and gives Flair magazine content they can use in their magazine. What I liked about this is that I didn’t even know it was possible to tag images on Facebook with something other than the name of a friend. The more aware you are of your possibilities, the more creative you can be.

One lesson about brainstorming that I’ve taken with me is that sometimes you have to let ideas go. I may have thought I had a cracking idea in a brainstorm in 2009 but if you cling onto an idea for too long you’ll find yourself trying to retrofit a strategy to suit that idea and what may have been a moment of brilliance will fizzle pretty quickly or even worse you become a one-trick pony selling social scavenger hunts to every client that comes along.

5. What are your thoughts on the digital landscape at the moment? Are there any technology trends that you’re really excited about?

I think we need to be aware of the consequences of this always-on environment that we’re in. Have you ever taken a break from social media? I try to do it twice a year for at least a week at a time because otherwise I find that my attitude towards social changes as I get overwhelmed with the constant barrage of people, platforms and brands telling me to like this, view that, share with friends, get outraged by this, overshare that. I think when we are trying to understand our audience we will need to know more than just how or when or why they access online properties and understanding their attitude will becoming increasingly significant.

It changes how people react to social media mishaps or crises as an issue that may have received little to no attention gleefully becomes branded as the latest #fail. It shapes who and what we trust as those willing to trade a tweet or a share for a sample freebie dilute their own social currency by becoming background noise instead of a possible “influencer”. The savvy social networker is becoming jaded by mainstream platforms and even more so by the promise of bright shiny new things. For many, tech snobbery is cool and “I don’t have Facebook” is the new “I don’t own a TV”.

I think brands that can understand the dynamics of the overall digital landscape and how it changes the attitude of those using the technology will fare much better than those jumping on the latest trend.

6. What sort of skills do you think will become increasingly important within the next 5 – 10 years?

We’re already seeing this but I think those wanting to work in social media will need to have a few seemingly contradictory skills up their sleeve. The assumption that people are good at either numbers or words is being proven wrong by social media marketing professionals who need to be as comfortable diving into line after line of data as they are writing succinct and successful copy.

The perfect marketer would have the ability to optimise social advertising, write copy appropriate for discovery within platforms or search engines, design and produce content, be able to calmly manage a crisis situation, analyse data like a pro, be an ideas man, be able to articulate the tone of every brand they work on, be able to write and deliver training courses, dabble with code, create media plans, manage media/influencer relations, write solid strategies and have an innate understanding of consumer psychology. A good social generalist will own the specialist field.

***If you want to get in touch with Mandi, say hi on Twitter @mab397 or check out her blog***


Interview with Ishtar Schneider, Senior Account Executive at Palin Communications

This week we have Ishtar Schneider, Senior Account Executive at healthcare PR agency Palin Communications, talking about her career path, working at Palin, her thoughts on company blogs and emerging PR trends and how she keeps up-to-date with all the news out there.

profile1. Prior to Palin Communications, you worked in a range of roles — from interning at Edelman to community management to media relations assistant — can you give us a quick overview of your past positions?

Haha well there is a fair chunk, I’m one of those people who always likes to be busy. I worked three jobs while doing Uni full time. One of those was as a media relations assistant for my own school – University of San Francisco. I was lucky enough to be hired into that job when I was only a sophomore so I was able to learn a lot through my 3 years there. It was basically entry level in-house PR experience and I got a really great base for my career in that job.

I was also an intern and then asked to stay on as community manager, blogger and stylist for a styling consulting firm in San Francisco called Urban Darling LLC. It was great experience since the company was pretty small and I worked closely with the founder who is a fabulous woman and who taught me a lot about the industry and gave me plenty of exposure to high profile people. I still do the occasional guest blog for them, since fashion is one of those things I never get tired of writing about.

My senior year I studied abroad here in Sydney and was lucky enough to intern with Edelman in their corporate team. I learned a lot and it definitely helped me when I made the big move over here, learning the media landscape in Australia. I met some great people, some of whom I’m still friends with! The PR industry is pretty small no matter where you go.

2. During your studies, you also dabbled in advertising and journalism – why did you settle on PR as your career path?

I’ve always known that PR is the route I wanted to take, not everyone does, but I’m lucky that I did. I took some advertising and journalism courses because I wanted a well-rounded view of the industry. All of those – PR, advertising, marketing, journalism – are so frequently intertwined that it helps to know the distinctions and to have a general understanding of each I think.

3. Can you describe your role as Senior Account Executive at Palin Communications?

As a SAE for Palin (a specialised healthcare agency), I am responsible for supporting the Account Managers on a variety of clients, including Non-profits, pharmaceutical brands, medical devices and medical technology etc. Its a pretty exciting range of projects that I get to work on which makes every day equally fun! I also have a few projects that I handle more autonomously which is great. We’ve just launch an introductory online course in healthcare PR based on industry demand that’s pretty nifty.

4. In the past, you blogged for fashion website Guilty Star. In light of the growing demand for original, high-quality content, how do you think blogging fits in the PR industry? Do you think all organisations should have a blog?

I don’t think blogging is for everyone. I think you’ve got to really enjoy blogging otherwise it will show in your writing and no one wants to read what you don’t even want to write. I think organisations need to really identify WHAT the purpose of their blog will be, WHO will be the voice (will you have one main voice or many contributors), and put in the time and effort it takes to make the blog a success.

You can’t just have a blog because it’s what you “should” be doing and expect it to be a rousing success. Interesting, topical, engaging content and a clear voice is key. If you go through all of this and decide a blog isn’t the best thing for your brand/service/product that’s OK! It’s the same as asking is Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest or Instagram right for every company? The answer, in my opinion, is resoundingly, no.

5. What are your thoughts on how the PR industry will shift in the next five to ten years? What sort of trends and changes do you anticipate emerging?

I think the industry is experiencing a lot of change, especially within the health sector. Something that everyone is concerned with at the moment is regulation in the social media arena. People are rethinking their positioning in that space given recent regulations that state you are responsible for EVERYTHING on your page/account including posts by others and (the biggest shocker) suggested posts/videos.

I think this has PR agencies reevaluating the way they approach social media and this will only continue to change in the future. I think online will continue to grow and I definitely think there’s a lot of exciting potential for us as PR professionals in the next 5-10 years. Integration between advertising, pr and marketing efforts will continue to be the way to a winning campaign. Great article on Mumbrella recently on this –

6. As a PR professional, you have to keep up-to-date with all trending news and topics for your clients. I’m curious as to how you stay on top of this while preventing information overload. I know there were some days where I’d absolutely dread looking at my Google Reader!

Haha yeah it can be overwhelming at times, I try to check things out in the morning before I dive into work and periodically throughout the day when I’ve got a spare moment. It helps signing up to relevant newsletters so that when they come through (there are some daily and weekly health ones worth reading)you can just scan them and move along. Twitter is also great if you follow the right people and/or hashtags. That being said, I think it’s definitely worthwhile to take a break (even if it’s over lunch)to tune out otherwise your work life/pressing activities will consume you!

7. And lastly, what would your number one tip for PR students looking to get their foot in the door?

Stay in touch with people you meet. I’ve been really lucky to have worked for people who were extremely encouraging and supportive of my fledgling career. Take advantage of the knowledge around you and keep in contact with those people (and professors!) no matter where you end up after graduation. Also, be ENTHUSIASTIC! It’s contagious I promise. In my experience if you show people you’re excited to be doing something, no matter how mundane, they will remember that and it will get you far.

***You can get in touch with Ishtar via Twitter or LinkedIn***