Leaders

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Helen Brain on setting your own challenges

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Fiction or reality, the best leaders are the ones who always pursue knowledge. Ambition is but a piece of the puzzle – without passion and determination, you are unlikely to get anywhere without having a really hard time.

And having passion and determination also means setting your own challenges to overcome. Every time MediaCom London strategist Helen Brain felt like she wasn't being challenged anymore, she was brave enough to raise her hand and ask for the next big thing.

This week we're Getting to Know an energetic creative with unparalleled love for knowledge, change, growth and sustainability.

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Tell us a bit about your current role.

I’m a strategist at MediaCom London working across a couple of our largest clients. My role is to identify growth opportunities for their businesses and creative ways to deliver that growth through communications. 

I’m Joint Head of MediaCom’s Social Change Hub, supporting brand leaders in creating positive social change and a sustainable future. Lastly, I’m also a contributor at the Purpose Disruptors – a network of advertising insiders working to reshape the industry to tackle climate change.

How did you get to your current position? What was the biggest challenge?

I asked nicely, and sometimes repeatedly, whenever I was ready for a new challenge. I started out running paid search and affiliates programmes, then took a winding road through digital, direct response, social media and content strategy to get to where I am today. 

Whenever I felt like I wasn’t being challenged anymore, or I could see a better way of doing things, I put my hand up and asked for the next role, and I’m lucky to have had managers who supported me. 

What is your personal background and what role did it play in your career?

I studied Marketing at university, mainly because I didn’t know what else to do with myself and to be honest, I fell into digital media after that. I’ve always had a love of learning new things however and the constant change within our industry is what’s kept me engaged.

If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?

I would probably be running a book shop that has a wine bar on the side!

What is one top marketing tip you learned in your job?

It’s important to listen before you form an opinion. Don’t let your desire to have an answer quickly prevent you from getting to the right one. I still need to remind myself of this one!

What is the one advice you would give to aspiring marketers looking to be successful?

Be curious about the world around you. Marketing is about understanding people and culture, and the role for brands within that; spending all your time reading articles from marketers about marketing, will eventually reach a point of diminishing returns. And most likely bore you to tears.

It’s also important to stop calling people consumers and think about them as citizens instead. This shift has been key to the thinking within the Purpose Disruptors team and is required if we want to ensure that marketing makes a positive contribution to society. 

Tell us something about your professional life we don’t already know

Whilst on maternity leave last year, I played a small role in running Climate Summits with the Purpose Disruptors over the summer. Seeing the industry come together to tackle the climate crisis was one of the most inspiring moments of the last year. Plus – if anyone ever tells you it’s not possible to attend a conference and then facilitate a workshop with a 6-month-old in tow – they’re wrong! 

What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?

I’m particularly proud of helping to build MediaCom’s Social Change Hub and ensuring we can help our clients to prepare for a somewhat scary and uncertain, but hopefully better, future.

How do you recharge away from the office?

I read a lot, and I try to go for a long walk every day to keep myself from bouncing off the walls! 

What’s your one big dream for the future of marketing?

That we’ll grab the opportunity to help create a more human-centred, sustainable future with both hands. If you like the sound of that, take a look at the brilliant work that The Great Reset is looking to achieve in championing sustainability following the coronavirus lockdown. 

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