Isn't all this called change management?
I remember it as if it were yesterday. I was downstairs with our COO, having a coffee break and talking about how our career moves were always attracted by disasters.
Of course, I dramatize by calling every project or company I worked with a disaster, but they were all in some sort of transition, transformation phase, or just stuck.
She had a lot more years of experience in bigger companies, spent in management teams, but she said something that still haunts me. It felt very accurate for my own experience at that moment, and it still does.
"I come in when there's something to be fixed and there's potential for growth. And I will leave once I know I put it on the right track and others can take over."
That's what marketing is about. From my perspective, and from how I got involved in projects, that's why I still love to "do" marketing.
You probably already know the most recent part of my story of how I worked from Bali, after convincing my employer that remote work is possible... But I wasn't a rebel by definition, I built up this character mostly driven by change, by "what if's" and "Why not's", baked up by research and interdisciplinary ideas. I worked with many types of people, from various backgrounds, which helped me see more perspectives and adapt strategies that worked in one place to others where the approach wasn't as usual.
When I first started out, what I was doing was called "social media management", but because it was in 2009 in Eastern Europe, it was the whole onboarding process of companies who had almost nothing when it comes to an online presence. Some maybe had websites, but most of them were in the process of getting one and thinking about also selling online. My role was to guide them, present the possibilities and hold their hands in the process of change, making steps from offline to online.
But what I found more challenging, was to convince them that it's an important step to make, that change arrived, and they have to hop on, but with a valid ticket, aka strategy.
Digital transformation is very much a behavioral transformation so it’s super important to be proactive and persuasive, make people get on board identify abstract correlations and causal connections.
Branding and other strategies
I just loved making strategies, translating some of their offline activities into online or even better, connecting them, helping the customers also realize that there's change. For example, they won something online but got the present on a stage offline, or they had to hunt for offline clues and upload them online.
I helped the biggest shopping mall in the city, which called itself a lifestyle mall, to start having activities online. If the before-mentioned contests on Facebook were easier to sell to the management, investing time in producing content for a blog wasn't an easy task.
But, I managed to convince shops that they need more exposure, and together we created content that was useful for all stakeholders involved. Invited well-known stylists to browse for their favourite pieces, snapped some "shopping mall looks", cast the spell of a voting challenge, and there it was, the beginning of something beautiful that actually attracted people to the website, produced content for the newsletter and traffic in the shops.
Trends can be too trendy, but communities never go out of trend.
The fashion world was easier to conquer because I already had a project that backed me up. I created a platform that managed to change how designers and brands were creating their content and promoting their image.
Those were the most intense and satisfying 4 years of my twenties. If I had made money out of it, I could have even called myself an entrepreneur, but I started things too soon. Brands were not ready to pay for collaborations. I'm pretty satisfied with what I managed to do on a barter basis, and at least I know that my partners were the first ones who eventually decided to evolve visually and invest in the type of services we used to offer.
Change is not an easy process, but every step towards it has to be considered a success.
Through this project, called Flashme, stories behind a flash - my team and I managed to come up with clever projects that formed communities, that supported the new bread of style and beauty bloggers, who eventually became today's influencers. I was happy to be able to get to know them, help them get popular by inviting them to the bigger events/conferences that I was in charge of producing. The public had the chance to meet offline the people who they followed online or started following after understanding more of their work.
Events of integration
Oh, the events I was involved in! Those were my favourite type of changes.
Putting together a B2C or B2B type of offline event is a virgin playground for change, for changing "the why" behind the gathering of the people, to changing the type of people who get on stages, to choose the type of subject which will be the talk of the town afterward.
Fashion e-commerce, the shy little sister of today's #fashiontech. I introduced a conference I named Hotspot Fashion, where we had in 2013 the first 3D modeling project, bloggers on stage interviewed by the traditional fashion press, and entertainment moments in the form of fashion shows at a business event.
Change was happening as envisioned by me, and later more and more such "brand activations" were "the thing" at music festivals. Sponsoring became easier with more and more happenings in the portfolio that were sustained by numbers adding up online where communities grew and engaged.
Corporate can also be moved with empathy
"These walls are too white, we should do something about them."
"But our CEO likes it classy and simple."
A few months later, after I already transformed a space dedicated to an IT school sponsored by the company, the CEO from above asked me nicely to do the same for the whole company. I changed not only the color of the walls but increased the engagement of the employees, who were actively involved in decisions and even making their hands dirty in the process. Yes, developers can hit with a hammer, not only keyboards. All this was part of a big rebranding process that helped HR with acquisition and retention, and sales with new business. It took active listening and knowing how to connect people and make everyone work for a bigger scope. It definitely took a team to make changes, and I loved being part of it and transforming it into family.
The COO from the beginning was one of the partners in crime, that allowed me to lead some transformation, and will be forever thankful for having such leaders around me.
Looking back to all of these memories and changes I pushed to happen or helped to tame, these are what made me resilient.
Everything learned along the way made me embrace more easily remote work, consultancy for various strong characters, integrating into new cultures and teams. Even facing the Covid-19 induced changes. It did kill the industry I was in here, in Switzerland, but I didn't give up until translating some offline events to webinars. I didn't fear becoming a host of webinars, nor trying to work out new scenarios with all people affected.
Change is something that will never stop changing. And that is something I can work with.