Brighter Directions work as a remote expert marketing team for its clients, and emphasise the huge impact of being a ‘people based’ company, and one that is exclusively focused on relationships and partnerships. We spoke to Managing Director, Claire Curzon who tells us about the company and her own role in its ongoing success.
Established in 2006, Brighter Directions has expanded at an impressive rate, with the ethos of the film being built around the personal relationships it has developed, both internally and with its clients and contacts. Claire comments on how the company keeps things simple and traditional, working with clients to understand their needs and trying out new innovative techniques which benefit both Brighter Directions and the client.
“Here at Brighter Directions, our core services fit within the traditional marketing tactics, such as PR & Media relations communications and new marketing including Social Media marketing, where we work for our clients to manage their external reputations and brand position across hard and digital channels.
“Typically, we work with all types of organisations across a range of sectors, from innovative startups, through to SME’s where we mainly work on a retained basis as their head of marketing, through to global and blue-chip organisations where we work with their own marketing teams as an expert, or to assist in launching a new product or service on an ad-hoc basis. We predominately focus our efforts within the UK, but also work overseas, and of course we are never ones to shy away from a work trip. Honestly, I cannot say it is any less stressful than my corporate career was, but it is certainly more rewarding on a personal level – for me, and my team, as well as the clients we deliver for.”
Choosing to leave her stressful and hectic corporate career behind, Claire started Brighter Directions and worked with some of the world’s largest media. She outlines some of her previous experience, discussing which opportunities she targeted and what avenues Brighter Directions has enabled her to explore.
“Essentially, the company was built on my previous experience that aligned the gap between sales and marketing, we found a real gap in the market, not just for relationship and KPI focused services, but also as a woman leading and managing a marketing agency that truly understands the symbiotic relationship between marketing and sales.
“Officially, I work as Managing Director, but I am passionate about my business and my clients, therefore I very much lead from the front in the company. I am head of operations, staff development and productivity, alongside running the sales team and managing my own client accounts, plus I develop our own commercial strategy for business innovation.”
Since starting her career, Claire has overseen many changes within both her company and the marketing industry as a whole, particularly in regards to women.
“The marketing industry has seen major transformation and growth since I started in it over 20 years ago, but this is not a bad thing, as there has been significant inspiring and innovative changes including flexible working, which allows more talented women into the profession. Furthermore, there have been changes in the law which make it much harder for amateurs to maintain a service offering, but it has been technology that has really enforced change within the industry. The rise of social media marketing has been noteworthy, which was a very new tactic when I started in the industry, and it has now become a global must-have phenomenon, as well as more advanced tracking and technical tools such as AI, digital marketing and software. However, this is a plus, as all of these now help our industry to provide better feedback to clients, and provide much more productivity all round.
“As a company, the main changes we have seen have been around service offering and developing our solutions to model the changing marketplace and need of the clients. For example, in the early years training was a real dominated area of our services, and over the years we have seen our outsourced solutions take over this, and they now represent over 80% of our business model.”
Giving us an insight into her skills and experience, Claire believes that her previous roles have helped her to thrive in her current role. With her team fully trained, Claire is able to focus on results and managing the agency on a day to day basis, and she is quick to praise the motivation and ability of her team at Brighter Directions.
“Essentially, my specific skills lie between sales, traditional media marketing and digital development. In the latter stages of my career, I was responsible for moving media channels onto a digital platform, and these transferable skills, and knowledge within a huge identity have been directly mapped to the services we provide today.
“All of my team are fully trained in all areas, both internally and externally which allows us to focus on the key principles that we model through our service provision, sales, marketing and digital. Furthermore, it allows my team not only a greater understanding of how departments map together, but also an agile way of thinking so that we can truly collaborate with our clients and understand what measures and impact they are looking to achieve.
“Another skill which has carried forward to my company today, is the management methodology. We are not a huge agency, yet we compete at a global commercial level. we don’t pay staff huge wages, have huge plush buildings mortgages, or provide extensive staff benefits, but we have some of the best staff in the country for passion, motivation and skill-set – which I consider to be fundamental to our position. Our management structure is lean and not hierarchy led, which means that everyone within the company is treated equally, valued highly and supported fiercely, both in an operational sense, but also by being aware when it comes to who we take on as clients.”
Operating within a corporate environment, there are many challenges which one would expect to face, especially if starting up a new company. Claire discusses what issues she has faced, and importantly how she has managed to overcome then.
“Throughout my career, I’m pleased to say there have been many challenges, not only as a woman, but in my corporate role more generally. There tends to be a lot of politics in a large company role, the motivational aspects are usually self-derived, unless you have a fantastic management tier above you, this can be the difference between loving your job every day and hating it.
“In terms of my own personal experience, I would be lying if I said I never experienced sexism or a lack of progression opportunities within my corporate role. Nevertheless, I never let these encounters get me down, in fact I was the absolute opposite and used these challenges to help me learn and construct myself more effectively, so if anything, these situations always gave me more passion, enthusiasm and grit to move further forward and calve myself the career I wanted. Looking back, and also seeing our own sales teams now, I would say that this particularly characteristic was developed during my sales roles, in which persistence is certainly something you need to be great. In my mind, challenges sound be seen as a constructive opportunity to get better, improve and innovative, whether it’s your way of thinking, processors or on a personal level.”
Having told us personally what challenges she has had to overcome personally, Claire shares what advice she would give to someone else who is also looking to make a success of their career.
“Fundamentally, the biggest statement which impacted my career, was received from a fellow C-Suite woman who made me realise that women are not here to compete and outperform men, but do things that men cannot. Basically, we think in a different way, act in a different way, and bring a whole new set of skills to the organisation be in it developing new methodology, management tactics or commercial success. That one statement has followed me throughout my career, and is often one I use in presentations and my own female staff coming up through the company, it really resonated with me. “Interestingly, I think the skills to success in marketing are the same, regardless if you are male or female. To succeed in the industry, a person must be resilient, operate with a strong personality, be prepared to take criticism but most importantly learn from it – and love the job you do, you can always clearly see those who have a natural passion, in comparison to those that come to work and clocking off as soon as the ticks strike five.
“Alongside this, successful business built leaders need essential sales skills and a good sense of humour, particularly when dealing with clients and staff. General characteristics should be around being proactive rather than reactive, a person must have skills which are specific to each role they undertake. Within my team, I suggest they look at tasks that they love doing and are great at, and focusing attention on building those specific skills and build these up to an impressive nature. You may want to develop into a Social Media Manager role, and so digital skills are the way forward. In this case, you will need a friendly personality, social knowledge of the different platforms, and a keen interest in emerging technology and software, as well as the ability to be analytical, but marketing is a wide and varied career path with different skills, characteristics and knowledge needed for each element. I find the best marketing people tend to fit within four categories: strategic, technical, creative or content based.
Last but not least, you have to be a team player. Team cohesion and a happy working environment are just some of the attributes which make a successful (and profitable) company, and a collaborative approach to work usually brings about the best results, with ideas being shared and discussed.” Ultimately, regarding the future of Brighter Directions and herself personally, there is still room for development but if the company is able to continue on this upward curve that it has experienced, then a lot more success is ready to come for Claire and her team. She is excited to conclude that growth and innovation are always high on the agenda.
“Moving forward, we are merely looking for growth in two areas, grow the range of services we deliver to our existing clients and enhance those with new emerging technologies and the second is areas and markets we access. Eventually it comes down to growing profitability and positioning our company in the best place possible for the future.”