We sat down with Katherine Heath, Brand Director at (hug) London and co-founder of More This.
“I definitely didn’t know what I wanted to be when I was younger. I changed university courses just three months before I was due to begin, moving from Property and Business to Digital Media.
I had a keen interest in brands and advertising since school but didn’t quite know how to turn that into a career. I’ve always been creative but never enjoyed studying creative subjects as they often felt restricting and theory heavy. Looking back, I would still like to have studied business but I’m glad I switched courses at the last minute. The Digital Media course opened up a whole new world to me, and played a big role in how I ended up where I am now.
When I finished university, I went to Australia for a year and a half where I worked in rural parts of Queensland mustering cattle on horseback (just a little bit different to life now). When I came back to the UK, I moved to London and worked alongside a food and hotel photographer as a photographic assistant/digital retoucher.
We worked closely with the marketing teams of restaurants and hotels, and I soon found myself taking a greater interest in how the images were going to be used rather than how they were created.
A few years later, my first official role in marketing was for a circular economy start-up. I joined as a marketing assistant to support the marketing director. I was there for three months, but it didn’t quite work out as expected. It was a shame, but apparently a blessing in disguise. When I left that role Lou, founder of (hug), approached me and I joined the team in the new year (2017) – I’ve been there ever since!
In all honesty, when it comes to women in the industry I don’t think it’s necessarily about having female role models, it’s about empowering women to know they can do the roles men can. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having male role models, as long as you know you don’t need to be male to do what they’ve done and more.
My advice to women looking to break into my sector is that you don’t need to go to university or follow any sort of traditional route to get there. It’s down to you and your unique approach. On a practical level, if you haven’t got experience build something of your own and give yourself that experience. Create a website, build a social following around a niche topic, rebrand businesses you think could improve and share your work online. Being proactive is one of the most vital attributes for anyone working in this industry.
Marketing, especially in the digital age, requires constant studying and learning but there is so much information available online, everything you need is already accessible. It’s figuring out how to apply your knowledge in a new and exciting way that’s most valuable.
From what I’ve seen, real industry experience is what all graduates generally lack (myself included). I think it makes a lot more sense to get into a job, in house or at an agency, as early as possible, there are some things that you just can’t learn without actual experience of certain situations. As for being a woman, do good work and surround yourself with people who value what you do and who you are. I am fortunate to have never come across sexism at work but when I look at the agencies and brands that are thriving at the moment, they’re the ones with incredible diverse workforces.
What I love about my work is the variety of interesting and driven people I meet. There are so many people starting great businesses at the moment and each time I hear an idea my brain goes straight into brand mode. It’s what I’d be thinking about even if I wasn’t paid to so I feel very lucky to be doing what I’m doing.
My biggest challenge? Acknowledging my value and saying no. It’s sometimes hard to quantify the value of creative work and a lot of the time brands will look at the number of words you’ve written or the hours you’ve spent on something rather than the value you’ve added to their brand. I understand that businesses need to see business results but, some of the best copywriters in the world are paid to write great headlines – imagine trying to pay them per word!”
Self-care and Social Media
“I wouldn’t say I’ve suffered from digital burnout but I’ve always been very aware of the repercussions of spending too much time with technology. I actively avoid it when I can and try to be minimal in my usage of social media channels. I try to keep my life outside of work as analogue and natural as possible. I shop at outdoor markets, I only exercise outdoors, and I cold water swim whenever I get the opportunity — I’ve just moved to Brighton so I there will be a lot more of that happening this year.
Social media is an unavoidable part of being a marketer but that doesn’t mean it has to be used in an unhealthy way. I’d recommend putting preventative methods in place to reduce some of the negative impacts of using digital so often. Wear blue-blocking glasses or use an app like Flux or Iris to tint your computer screen, organise your phone so it’s easy to avoid social media and easy to find the apps you need when you need them, spend as much time as you can outside in daylight and natural surroundings away from your phone or laptop. Exercise and eat well, of course.
When it comes to mental wellbeing I’d recommend really evaluating the people/brands that you’ve chosen to follow on social media and cutting out any feeds that you feel have a negative impact on you.
The discussion about mental health is certainly improving in many industries, I think there’s still a long way to go but it’s moving in the right direction. It’s great to see brands like Sanctus thriving and working with big organisations to change the workplace stigma.
Mental health has never been something I’ve had trouble with but I think we could all benefit from talking more about how we feel. We so openly talk about headaches or feeling sick but open up about the fact we’re feeling low or could use help with something that’s bothering us.
I think I’d struggle more if I didn’t spend as much time outside as I do. I don’t avoid alcohol completely but find I’m in a much better state of mind when I drink less too.
I have never worked for a large organisation so it’s hard to know what would work there, but for smaller businesses, I think it’s about encouraging an open culture from the beginning. I don’t think schemes or organised therapy sessions are necessarily what everyone needs but talking should be encouraged and accepted as part of a daily routine. People are individuals and should be treated that way, especially now that everyone’s working from home and potentially feeling more isolated than ever.
I also think autonomy is also extremely important, most people want to work, and I’ve found that they tend to enjoy their work until it feels like they’re only doing it because someone’s telling them to. When hiring at (hug) we look for proactivity and a genuine passion for building brands for startups — people who listen to industry podcasts, read books on brand or have built something of their own to test their skills. We know they’ll jump into a new role with drive and determination.
The subject of whether social media is positive or negative depends on where you look and who you talk to. There are the obvious stories around social media and its negative impact on peoples’ mental health, especially young people, but many have also found supportive communities online when they’ve felt isolated and alone that they may not have found elsewhere. In my opinion, social media is a tool and it’s the way it’s used that has the most impact rather than the technicalities of the channels themselves.”