The Marketing Institute: What were your key career moves to get to your current role?
Steven Roberts: My first marketing role was with Heritage Island, marketing some of Ireland’s leading visitor attractions. During my time there I was promoted to marketing manager and then director. In 2007, I moved to Tourism Ireland as marketing manager for the Nordic Region, promoting the island of Ireland across Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland. From there I took up a role as Tourism Ireland’s strategy development manager, managing the organisation’s strategy unit. For the past five years I have been head of marketing for Griffith College, Ireland’s largest private third level institution with campuses in Dublin, Cork and Limerick. I oversee all marketing and promotional activity for the College in the UK and Ireland.
MII: What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?
S.R: One of our key audiences is Leaving Cert students who are considering their college course choices. Given the pace of change within digital and social media, a key challenge is ensuring the College understands their journey as consumers and that we are using the best channels to reach what is a very digitally-savvy target market.
MII: What key skills do you need to be effective in your role?
S.R: Good analytical and strategic skills are key to the role. Being comfortable with research and having a deep understanding of branding and positioning. A willingness to learn and to keep innovating are important to ensure the College’s brand, our campaigns and promotional activity remain impactful and compelling. Managing a busy team of 15, strong interpersonal and people skills are key too, as is the ability to build good relationships with a wide variety of internal and external stakeholders.
MII: Describe a typical working day.
S.R: My working day is very varied as I oversee the College’s marketing, PR, digital and social media teams. Communication is key in the role and I have frequent meetings with internal and external stakeholders. This could range from a morning meeting with a faculty to discuss the launch of a new part-time or postgraduate programme, to a strategy and planning session with our web, advertising or brand agencies for an upcoming campaign or project roll-out. The College has three campuses nationally – in Dublin, Cork and Limerick. I am based in our Dublin campus but regularly travel to our Munster campuses to work with the marketing leads in each team.
MII: What do you love most about your role?
S.R: Marketing is fast paced and ideas driven. Seeing a campaign move from the initial idea phase to live in market is very rewarding. The variety of the role – digital, PR, brand, advertising - keeps you on your toes. Griffith College has a strong reputation educationally and values a good work life balance. There are always new and interesting projects on the horizon – for example, 31st March will see Griffith hold its first TEDx event at our Dublin campus. I am also very fortunate to work with a great team.
MII: Looking ahead, where might your career path lead to next?
S.R: My working life up to now has been in heritage, tourism and education. For me it is important to continue to work in sectors which I feel have real and inherent value. In terms of skillsets, I am keen to further develop my digital marketing skills given the pace of change in that area. There is also a real need for marketers to upskill across all aspects of data. This ranges from understanding and working with data analytics, through keeping abreast of the latest data protection legislation such as EU GDPR, which is being introduced in May 2018 and will have significant impact for all marketing professionals.
MII: To whom do you look for professional inspiration in your role?
S.R: I follow a range of blogs and podcasts for inspiration and to keep up to speed with changes within the industry. I particularly like Mark Ritson’s weekly column with Marketing Week and am a long-time fan of Seth Godin. Cialdini’s Influence is one of my favourite marketing books and one I return to regularly. As a manager, I find the Manager Tools podcasts to be both practical and insightful. I have also learned a lot from the line managers who I have worked with during my career.