Jenni Day on keeping it simple and going back to basics

Jenni Day on keeping it simple and going back to basics
Jenni Day, senior marketing manager at GS1 UK, joins us for a chat on the necessary skills of a comms professional and challenges she faces in the industry.

Why did you choose to pursue a role in communications? For example, has it always been your passion or was it pure happenstance?

Comms is something I’ve always been fascinated by. When I was a little girl, I used to be absorbed by adverts on TV. I would unpick how they had been put together, whether I thought they were effective, and whether I could remember the actual product afterwards or were they just a beautiful piece of art.

As I got older, my passion grew, particularly when I experienced the business side of communication, both during lessons at school and as part of Young Enterprise projects, where I naturally gravitated towards the marketing roles.

And despite assuming I would eventually end up in a marketing career, it was the comms side that I choose to pursue first, studying English at Uni, and later Politics, as well as writing for university newspaper. This was when I better understood the art of storytelling, writing for a specific audience and getting your point across quickly and efficiently. There is so much work that goes on behind the scenes as a journalist, and it is your job to distill the most salient points – a skill that has helped me throughout my career.

What personal skills or attributes do you think are most important in the communications sphere? Why these skills/attributes in particular?

Communication is all about understanding your audience and being clear about what it is you’re trying to convey. To do this effectively, you need to be:

Empathetic — Recognise that your audience are human beings, with a million things going on in their lives. You need to take the time to listen to their wants and needs to effectively cut through all the other noise in their lives.

Creative — Having the ability to think outside the box, provide fresh ideas and solve problems.

Analytical — Never stop learning or looking for ways to hone your practice. Being obsessed with data and outcomes helps to understand the best channels/methods to reach your audience and improve the effectiveness of your comms.

What sort of challenges do you face in your role? Is there a particular challenge that you experienced in the past that stood out?

Ironically communication can be the biggest challenge in most organisations, particularly in the current hybrid landscape. Within my role I work with a wide variety of different stakeholders and at times it is very noticeable that marketing becomes the conduit between different departments, all working on slightly different, but connected, projects.

Listening carefully, being diplomatic and having the ability to find solutions quickly are all essential to overcoming these challenges, ensuring projects don’t become held up or derailed.

What one thing would make your working life easier?

Dedicated blocks of time for research and planning, without any meetings or other projects demanding your attention.

I really believe most organisations could be so much more effective if they dedicated more time to proper market research and strategic planning before jumping straight into tactical execution. It would allow the wider team to be properly bought into an idea and reduce those last-minute curve balls.

How is the role of communications perceived in your organisation?

I’m fortunate that our CEO is an ex-marketer, so fully understands the importance of clear, effective communication. This was apparent in some of our recent campaigns, which have had a huge impact and illustrated to the wider organisation how we can open previously locked doors.

However, while we’ve come a long way from being seen as the colouring in department, there is still quite a way to go.

What do you think the secret of success is when working in communications?

Keeping things simple.

Our job is to turn the complex, into simple, digestible chunks that create maximum impact.

At React & Share, we’re obsessed with helping our clients measure and report their efforts - what measurements do you think comms teams should be presenting to internal stakeholders?

Measurements should be entirely based upon the original objectives, all of which should be SMART.

If your objective is to increase aided awareness of your company from 58% to 67% by the end of the year, then you need to carrying out regular brand tracking to understand how much your efforts have moved the dial. If you are looking to increase content downloads by 20% you need to be looking at conversion rates from your landing page and promotional comms, using Google Analytics.

By presenting measurements against SMART objectives, internal stakeholders can clearly see you know what you’re doing, are more likely to buy into future initiatives and, importantly, provide additional investment.

Looking into your crystal ball, what do you think will be the next big thing in communications?

Over the past few years, I’ve become a big advocate of Mark Ritson’s Marketing Week column, and in it he makes it clear that rather than chasing “the next big thing” marketers and communication experts need to double down on getting the basics right. Do your research, understand your chosen audience, build the correct strategy for that audience, and execute the right tactics well.

Everything else is a distraction.