Celebrating National Marketing Operations Appreciation Day with AltoPartners Marketing Dream Team

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Building a strong team is essential for success. How do you cultivate an environment that fosters female leadership and encourages women to thrive in the marketing industry?

[Julia] It is less about the female aspect and more about the fact that we are highly skilled professionals. The marketing and communications industry is predominantly increasingly viewed as female-led so that’s not our USP. For me, there is a delicate balance between leading a team and giving them the autonomy to be creative. Innovation and creativity cannot thrive in an environment where people are micro-managed or constrained. However, it is important that all members of the team are part of the creation of the marketing strategy and approach (so they take full ownership of the strategy and are accountable for deliverables because they crafted the strategy). Our team works really well together because we have crafted the communications strategy together and each takes accountability for activities. One of our biggest strengths is the fact that we don’t have a team made up of traditional “marketing” skills, instead, we have a team who have skills in journalism and editing, communications strategy and positioning, and branding, marketing and social media. We leverage each other and learn from each other. We also appreciate each other’s sense of humour and are not afraid to give each other constructive feedback in a respectful way. Our pursuit is to always improve and produce work that our global partners are proud of, where they want to be featured and that they are excited to share with their clients and networks.

With the rise of social media influencers and digital platforms, being a team of dynamic women in marketing, how do you ensure your content stands out in a sea of competition? Any secret ingredients or just a sprinkle of magic dust?

[Julia] Quite simply, we know our audience and enjoy finding new ways to keep them engaged. Having the global experts that we have daily access to ensures we are able to produce outstanding content. We produce content that can be tailored to multiple platforms – for example, we use our corporate website as the centre of our ecosystem and then all platforms link back to that centre. The website is where we publish the longer form articles and white papers and then we adapt the length of those pieces to be relevant for other platforms. We produce a combination of short, sharp blog-style posts (the “Ask Alto” and “The AltoPartners Guide to DE&I” series) and longer form, research-driven thought leadership. To stand out from others, we ensure that we produce high-quality, well-thought-through content but what truly differentiates us, is understanding that our audience is a global one and they want insights that showcase local expertise within global trends. Our partners truly are our greatest assets when it comes to our ability to produce insightful content from across the world. Another aspect that sets us apart is the understanding that our audiences are not all mother-tongue English speakers, so we produce content that is “insightful but accessible” by writing in a style that is conversational (many of our competitors write for an English-speaking audience only using jargon that is hardly ever used in real business settings). Our clients have responded well to this approach because they can read and digest our content easily.

[Gail] Basically, we stay in our lane. We don’t try to be everything to all people.

We often talk about the power of storytelling in marketing. How do you leverage storytelling to advocate for societal change and women’s advancement in business?

[Julia] We understand that we have an impressive global reach (currently, AltoPartners is made up of 61 offices across 37 countries… and growing!) and through that reach, we can reach multiple audiences, at a very high level, and share insights into important topics (like those relating to the multiple facets of DE&I and leadership). We don’t just focus on diversity from a gender perspective; instead, we aim to be as inclusive as possible by distilling issues and trends into easily digestible pieces for our audience, as we know many of our readers are time-poor.

[Renee] But we’re also not vanilla, especially on social justice topics and factors that can drive societal change. We are very lucky to have the support of an organisation that encourages us to ask hard questions and doesn’t shy away from debate.

[Gail] We also know that we are competing for attention with organisations and teams with far greater resources than we have. What we do have though are people on the ground who can talk authoritatively and knowledgeably about their lived experiences of specific issues and demonstrate how it has impacted their clients and their searches in different countries and regions. This is storytelling at its best: showing, not simply telling.

What have been your favourite campaigns or pieces of work over the last year (the most meaningful, the most interesting to you personally)?

[Gail] At AltoPartners, our IP is our people. I love finding ways to showcase their abilities, their quirks and what makes them tick in a way that is fresh and interesting. People don’t bond because they share a job title or work in the same industry. They bond over a love of dogs, or a passion for tennis or the fact that they binge-watched Slow Horses (which is very good by the way). That’s why my favourite campaigns have got to be Phenomenal Women of AltoPartners which we launched in celebration of International Women’s Day in 2022, in a nod to the amazing Maya Angelou; followed by our most recent campaign, The Company We Keep. The trick is to keep it personal and keep it real.

[Julia] It has to be our most recent research report which we put together in record time for International Women’s Day 2024. Originally, we had planned a short blog piece but once we started digging, the piece took off. We are already planning next year’s piece!

[Renee] For me the absolute stand-out project is the Succession Planning in Family-Owned Businesses thought-leadership piece. It was a big undertaking – but I learned so much by talking to AltoPartners experts in the various countries. They are all such interesting people! And I love the way it illustrated how the three of us work as a team: Julia did all the organising and upfront strategising, and Gail and I shared the interviewing and writing. When one of us is under pressure, the other just picks up what’s needed. And all three of us edit and proofread and work with the designer. Working from home, and alone a lot of the time, I am always grateful to be part of this small, supportive and amusing team.

We’ve all seen marketing activities that miss the mark. How does your team avoid common pitfalls and ensure your messaging is both empowering and inclusive?

[Julia] We have had campaigns that we launched, and were very excited about, that just didn’t get the traction we were hoping for. We have all been in this industry for a very long time and have learnt not to take things personally or as a failure. These are learnings and we are able to assess why the campaign didn’t work, what we should do better or differently in future and go back to the basics of “know your audience” to understand what would resonate with them. Marketing / communications is not an exact science. It is subjective and we also have to understand cultural nuances that will impact how campaigns are received. We never have a “one size fits all” approach as we know we would end up missing our audience and their needs.

They say laughter is the best medicine. How do you infuse humour and levity into your marketing strategies without diluting the seriousness of Executive Search & Leadership?

[Julia] For me it is less about levity and humour, and more about creating content that is “insightful but accessible” by telling the story in a way that is relatable and people-centred. AltoPartners is a globally and culturally diverse team, and not all humour resonates with people in the same way because they view the world through their own cultural lenses. We would never want to assume that what we find funny, others would also. It is about distilling the business jargon down into a conversational style and being culturally sensitive. We often share our thoughts on brand images or terminology with partners from different cultures and countries to understand how they view and interpret it. The insights we gain from this are always eye-opening!

If marketing were a superhero team, what would each of your roles be and which marketing challenges would you conquer together?

That’s a hard one! We don’t really think of ourselves as superheroes – we just get up, put our game face on and do the work. We can all write, edit and proofread and have our various skills. But if we had to be pinned down, it would probably look like this:

The Connector – that’s Julia, who holds in her head all the names, personalities and roles of the 350+ people in the partnership. She networks, she holds the AltoPartners vision, she keeps it all together and always knows who the right people to talk to are. She is also the brand guardian.

The Visionary – Gail looks ahead, thinks about what we need to be doing now to be better down the road, has deep corporate roots and an outstanding analytical brain.

The Content Queen – Renee writes like a dream and, as a former journalist, knows immediately if a story is worth telling or writing about. She is allergic to nonsense and keeps us grounded.

Do you need advice?

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