We had a few minutes with Vicky Kangurs, owner of copy, social media & content company Tabby Tiger.
I had no idea I’d end up doing what I do now, but I’m so glad my career has led me down this path. Like most horse-mad girls, I was desperate to be a world-famous rider when I was young. My bedroom was plastered with posters of equestrian heroes including John Whitaker, Ginny Elliott, Mary King and Pippa Funnell. If I wasn’t at my local riding stables, I had my nose in a horsie book or magazine. I could also often be found jumping our pet dog in the garden over fences made from plant pots and bamboo canes.
Soon after I turned 12, I caught Glandular Fever. It totally floored me and I pushed far too hard to continue going to school, cycling, tennis and riding rather than listen to my body and take time to recover. That then turned to post-viral fatigue, chronic post-viral fatigue and then ME. At that time, it was epidemic proportions in the UK but by their own admittance, our local GPs had no idea what to do with me. Pumped full of painkillers and antidepressants, one day I decided enough was enough and I explored alternative therapies. I still love and use them today and avoid going to the doctor unless I absolutely have to!
Fast forward to my early 20s and almost recovered, my (now) husband kindly booked me a riding lesson so I could see how it felt to be back in the saddle. It was as though I had never left! I slowly but surely gained some equine qualifications and set about training as a riding instructor. Sadly, a back injury following a nasty fall meant I had to give up on that dream and get a ‘sensible’ job instead.
I eventually worked for The Pony Club in several roles that encompassed press, PR, marketing, events, internal and external comms, social media and more. I’ll never forget the time I was honoured enough to interview our Olympic teams shortly before they flew out to Rio. Amongst them was John Whitaker. Starstruck and with trembling knees, I mentioned my love of his beautiful grey horse Milton and how they had inspired me. He replied humbly, “Aye yes Milton, he was a good ‘un!”
I’m now self-employed and I love it! My business is called Tabby Tiger and I’m a copywriter and social media manager and content creator. I chose the name after one of our beloved cats who used to follow me around like a little furry shadow. My logo features another of our adorable boys, Milo, whom we lost suddenly aged just five.
My natural talent and passion for creative writing, plus a demand for services I could offer, gave my business much-needed direction when I left a full-time role to go it alone. I’ve always loved writing. I had no interest in maths or science at school, but English and history sparked my imagination, so I liked them the best. My parents always encouraged me to read books and write stories at home. They’ve both published books and that’s on my bucket list too.
My advice for women looking to enter the industry is to always be open to upskilling and learning to keep on top of changes and trends. Join and make the most of networking groups to build relationships, give and gain support and meet others doing similar jobs, especially if you work alone and feel isolated. I’ve found that most of the time meeting people in the same industry brings about opportunities to work together, rather than competition. Read as much as you can, too. If I’m writing an article or a press release for a publication, I always read them before I jump on the laptop to get a feel for their style.
There are so many things I love about my job, but the flexibility that self-employment brings is invaluable for me. If I have a busy day with lots of chores, I get those done then work in the evening or catch up at the weekend. I also love the variety of clients I work with as I do a lot of research when writing so it’s a good opportunity to learn about all sorts of subjects, from telecoms to family law.
Working freelance means I can arrange my work around other things, such as looking after my very needy horse, helping my parents and, at the time of writing, moving house. It always makes me proud to see copy I’ve written featured in publications or on websites and promotional materials. I write, edit, review, edit again and review again and again until my work is perfect so I can be sure the content reads as well as possible and meets the brief. There’s always plenty of scope for collaboration. I know marketers who don’t do what I do, and some who do different things to me, and working together means we can deliver a complete marketing plan.
I also host a monthly networking group for the 3rd sector called Charity Meetup Birmingham which runs alongside London and Aylesbury groups run by Dawn Newton. My fellow Birmingham host Hope Drew and I work hard to organise and promote the events but it’s incredibly rewarding. The Meetup aims to build collaborations, share skills and support each other and it’s a joy to see how people benefit from coming along. Our speakers give their time for free to talk to the group which is generous and kind of them.
Challenges and Tribulations
I’ve always struggled with self-confidence, so finding myself working alone with everything ‘on my head’ was difficult at first. Although I can give others plenty of creative ideas for marketing their businesses, I still find it hard to promote myself at times as I’m frightened that I may fall short of expectations. Most of my work has come through word of mouth from happy clients which I’m grateful for.
Looking back, if someone had told me I could find the courage to stand up in a room full of people all looking at me and introduce myself and my business I would never have believed it possible, but through networking with like-minded people, I learnt to cope and eventually enjoy it. I think that makes me a good mentor for people who are in the position I was five or six years ago. I’m currently helping a young lady as she begins her career and I see a lot of me in her which means I can relate to her better.
Misconceptions about my job
Some of the misconceptions about my job include that people always say social media is easy, but it isn’t! Because most people use it as part of their everyday lives, they think they can apply the same to their business accounts. For business, it needs to be strategic, measured and adapted to perform.
Just popping a post on when the mood takes you isn’t enough. You need to use it as part of a wider and more consistent marketing campaign and take time to respond to comments, plus engage with users across your channels to get noticed and start conversations.
You shouldn’t be too sales-y either. You wouldn’t walk into a room and start demanding people buy a product or service from you. You would take time to get to know them, perhaps make them smile or give them a piece of useful information. It’s just the same with social media.
There are also heaps of tricks I’ve learnt that help increase reach and engagement, such as the way you post links on Facebook and how best to use hashtags on Instagram and Twitter.
The Impact of COVID
I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to continue working throughout the pandemic. I know there are a huge number of people who haven’t been so fortunate.
The week before lockdown I was due to start with three new clients. I was panicked by this and wondered how I’d cope with such an increased workload as I always want to put in 100% and give clients the best possible service. All three postponed due to the uncertainty of the climate in their sectors, and I was then panicking in case I lost all of my work!
Fortunately, I have retained my clients and taken on new ones, plus some short-term projects such as rewriting websites as people repositioned and adapted their businesses.
Shortly after the lockdown began, we launched Charity Meetup Birmingham. We considered waiting until we could meet in person, but I’m pleased we went ahead online as support was needed during COVID more than ever and nobody could have predicted the pandemic would have lasted this long.
Role Models and Inspirations
My parents are my inspiration. They instilled in me the need to work hard, behave kindly and be generous. I also had some wonderful teachers at school. As mentioned, I had an illness for a long time that affected my schoolwork enormously. I was desperate to follow the path my friends were talking of doing GCSEs, A-levels then leaving home to do a degree, but it just wasn’t possible. My form tutor told me I had the rest of my life to get a degree and that I needed to focus on getting better. Studying for a degree is another item on my bucket list so I’m sure I’ll get there one day.
There is certainly a lack of female role models and mentors in some sectors of my industry, yes. I hear stories about women having to work twice as hard to prove themselves which is obviously wrong and frustrating for them. Equally, I don’t think a woman should receive extra attention or praise for doing or saying something you’d expect a man to do easily. That’s not equality either and it’s embarrassing when a man says you did something well ‘for a woman’ however well his intentions.
I think better education and ensuring the right people are in management positions would help enormously. Businesses need to empower people who have genuine complaints to raise them without fear and take them seriously rather than brushing issues under the carpet until they get complacent and want to leave. If I was granted one wish, I would ask for an equal world. Not only one where women have the same rights and opportunities as men, but one where race and background aren’t barriers to achieving. I can honestly say I have never judged anyone by their looks or status. When I talk to someone, I always mentally note whether they look happy, sad, tired, excited, upset, distressed, anxious etc. so that I can react accordingly. I barely notice the colour of their skin, but I have some lovely friends who proudly celebrate their culture and beliefs and I’m very pleased they can.
Mental Health and Digital Burnout
I don’t think mental health and digital burnout are discussed in the workplace, not at all. Working far too hard for far too long is still sadly seen as a medal of honour in some workplaces that pile more and more on employees who are too afraid to say no for fear of looking incapable or weak. I’ve learnt that the hard way, and I’ve seen friends, former colleagues and family suffer the consequences of stress and pressure.
We try to have a well-being speaker at Charity Meetup for that very reason. It’s good to see attendees using the session to reflect on how they’re feeling mentally, physically and emotionally and get tips on how they can look after themselves better.
When people hear you work for a charity, they always reply with how nice it must be. It undoubtedly is rewarding, but it’s hard dealing with life-threatening illnesses, life-altering injuries, end of life care, human and animal abuse and lots more. It’s a tough sector to be in.
Looking to the Future
I love reading people’s thoughts and predictions and I think with so much online clutter that we may go back to offline ways of promoting businesses, including direct mail and press. As far as social media is concerned, audio is growing as Clubhouse has forced the other channels to explore including it. It was predicted that stories on Instagram would be more consumed than posts on profiles as people are time-poor and just want to see snippets of info. Monetisation is also being talked about at the moment.