Here is a transcript generated by of The Content Mix podcast interview with Mick Smyth, senior marketing and comms manager at Siegel+Gale, on launching a marketing career:

Shaheen Samavati 0:12
Hi everyone, I’m Shaheen from The Content Mix and I’m excited to be here with Mick Smyth, Senior Marketing and Communications Manager for EMEA at brand strategy, design and experience firm, Siegel+Gale. Thanks so much for joining us, Mick.

Mick Smyth 0:25
Hi Shaheen, thanks. It’s great to be here.

Shaheen Samavati 0:27
So where are you joining us from today?

Mick Smyth 0:30
So usually, I’m based in London where our office is, but today I’m in Dublin, back home for a while to try and see some family.

Shaheen Samavati 0:37
Nice, like many of us working remotely, I can definitely relate to that. I’m also not in my usual city right now, i’m in the south of Spain even though we are based in Madrid. So the company is actually American, right?

Mick Smyth 0:51
Yeah, so our HQ is in New York. But we have offices in the West Coast, in La, in San Francisco, London, Dubai, and Asia as well.

Shaheen Samavati 1:00
So it’s quite a global agency.

Mick Smyth 1:03

Shaheen Samavati 1:05
And so, in your role, you’re responsible for the Europe region?

Mick Smyth 1:09
Yeah, exactly. I look after EMEA. So I work really closely with the team in Dubai, and with the team in London, but we will look after that whole region.

Shaheen Samavati 1:17
Okay, so could you take us into your background and how you got to where you are today, and then we can talk a little bit more about your current role?

Mick Smyth 1:27
Sure, yeah. So I started in the creative industries for about 15 years in Dublin. I was a musician for about 10 years, back in Dublin, that’s where I got really interested in messaging and storytelling, as a musician. I was a songwriter in a band. I loved the idea of trying to create a story and trying to explain it to an audience in a unique way and trying to communicate it in a unique way. I suppose I’ve taken the learning from that into my current role or into marketing. Once the band broke up, then I moved to London, and I suppose I don’t have a very linear background. I worked in a bar for about three years, I’ve worked in factories and warehouses for years. I eventually went back to university and studied advertising and the creative economy, based off the fact that I’d been a musician for 10 years and operating within the creative industry for 15. Then from there, I got into an agency with manc&dandy for a couple of years, and then a digital transformation agency called The BIO Agency for a couple of years, and then eventually into Siegel+Gale.

Shaheen Samavati 2:39
So, how would you say your experience as a musician has helped you in your marketing career?

Mick Smyth 2:46
Firstly, I realized how not to do branding, because when I look back at what we were like, I realized that our brand was awful. It was very naive. But I think the key point was about creating a message, knowing that even if you have a piece of content, like a song, and you’re going to sing it or perform it in a different venue, or to a different audience, sometimes it needs to be tailored, sometimes a venue is not suitable for a particular performance of a song. Just like a certain channel is not going to be suitable for a piece of content to be constructed in a certain way. So I realized quite early that a lot of times you need to tailor this content, or this music or song or whatever it is that you’re putting together, for whatever audience or whatever channel it’s going to be put into, or it’s going to be shared within. How you get that message across to people as well in a unique way. Sometimes it’s easy to go off on a tangent and try and explain something in an overly complex way, it’s more difficult to try and keep it simplified and unique.

Shaheen Samavati 4:05
Absolutely. I was curious, of all the things you could have gone back to school for why did you choose marketing?

Mick Smyth 4:14
Yeah, I guess it’s just because of the interest I had in understanding people. You know, I love things like design thinking and content creation. I love that you can take a topic and delve into it and understand it, and then try to explain it to people in a way that they’ll find interesting and that they’ll find useful. So I just felt it was a good draw for me. Plus, the role itself, marketing as a role is quite diverse, you’re never doing the same thing every day, there’s always something different within within the job so I find that really interesting. I think if I was to do the same thing every day, I’d probably struggle a little bit. So I like that it’s a bit of pressure and it’s a little bit fast paced, and that changes all the time.

Shaheen Samavati 4:59
Yeah, absolutely. How did you find breaking into the industry after your studies? Was it easy to get your first opportunity?

Mick Smyth 5:07
I mean, I was in my early 30s when I went back to university, so I could say it wasn’t too difficult to get into it but really, I mean, it took me 10 years, from the point of when I was playing music. It’s had its ups and downs, for sure. I was really lucky to be able to do the Masters that I did, because I don’t have a degree. I sort of jumped a couple of grades going from being a musician to doing a Masters, which helped me a lot. Just trying to navigate my way through my career, to try and jump a couple of steps whenever I can, has helped as well. London is a great city and it’s full of opportunity. If you’re willing to work hard, those opportunities are there to take advantage of. So I’ve been fortunate in that sense, you know?

Shaheen Samavati 6:02
So, can you tell us more about your day to day and your current role, what your responsibilities are?

Mick Smyth 6:09
Yeah, sure. So I look after marketing for EMEA and that will cover everything from outreach and outbound to awards, events, strategy planning, and of course, content creation. It will be a super collaborative role as well. We’re a global firm, so we’re used to working across all geographies. But I work very closely with the sales and the practitioners and the team in the US. I see the marketing role as being that intersection between sales and the practitioners. To some degree, you’re sort of translating what the practitioners are thinking and what they do into something consumable, something that the sales team can take and bring to the audience. That can be palatable for the audience as well. So you’re taking three perspectives into account when you’re creating this content. But I guess, with the role itself, there’s been huge changes, over the last six months, or seven months, as there has been for everybody. Everything we’re doing now at the moment is virtual and we’re facing things like travel bans across the group of Omnicom, we’ve had to pivot everything that we do in a really rapid time. Our entire strategy had to change very, very quickly from a local and a global perspective. But it’s been a big learning curve for us, there’s been a few negatives of course, you’re always going to have negatives in situations like this. But there’s been a lot of positives in how we operate as marketers and how we operate as a business, in making us work better together, across all the offices. As I mentioned, we’re global and we have been doing it, but I think we’ve just gotten better at it. I feel like I’m a better marketer for how things have been in the last six months. Being forced to jump into the deep end and just improve, I think maybe i’ve taken a good two years worth of skills on in the last six months, probably most people have. It’s a case of trying to make the most of it. I think one area that we’ve managed to improve things ourselves is just in our events, it’s given us an opportunity to expand our events program. Bringing in virtual means that we’re now working across multiple time zones with one panel and we’ve had situations where we’ve had maybe four panelists across four different time zones, out of five, so I think it makes the conversations richer with people and it gives us more diverse perspectives. When we go to an audience with a piece of content based off these events, we’re offering more unique insights.

Shaheen Samavati 8:45
So the bar must be pretty high for content creation, when you’re working for a company that specializes in branding. I mean everything you do has to be great quality.

Mick Smyth 8:57
Yeah, of course.

Shaheen Samavati 8:58
It has to represent the brand, which is the brand that represents other brands?

Mick Smyth 8:58
Yeah, I think for each organization, it depends on their hiring strategy. Our values in Siegel+Gale are smart, nice and unstoppable. Everybody that the company hires has to possess those values to work there. I think the key point here is unstoppable. So when you’re trying to create a piece of content, you’re doing it because you want to make it to the best of your ability. I think that’s key in the people that we have around us. I know, with my colleagues, everybody that works in their role, they do it to the level that they want to do it to. They do it to the best of their ability because that’s how they want to operate. So, I suppose the pressure probably comes from each other, we put the pressure on ourselves to create something of high level rather than coming from the top. I think it’s based upon the fact that we hire people with those values.

Shaheen Samavati 10:00
Yeah and those high standards across the team. So speaking of that, I wanted to know if you could share any examples of projects or campaigns that you’re especially proud of.

Mick Smyth 10:11
Yeah, sure. So a CMO study that we’ve done recently is really nice. It’s basically a qualitative interview with maybe 15 to 20, senior marketing executives from, really big brands. CMOs, basically, from, really big brands, the likes of Microsoft and SAP, NTT was the most recent one. I think it’s really nice, it just gives us a really unique perspective on the challenges that those people are facing. It gives us a really clear viewpoint on how we can help people of similar position, in similar organizations. It justifies or confirms some of the thinking that we have or some of the hypotheses that we would have. For example, we believe that purpose is key in pretty much everything in an organization and from our last CMO study, we heard that most people feel that purpose has been central in navigating the complexities and the challenges of COVID-19. A nice example of that is, if you consider Dyson, they’re a company, that focuses on innovation and technology, with the circulation of air. So when COVID-19 hit, they started to put things in place to try and make ventilators. I don’t think they actually did it in the end, I don’t think it was needed. But as a company, they were well placed to do it, based on what they do, based on their purpose and as a company how they operate. It made sense, you could see why they were doing it, and you could see them continuing to do it after COVID-19 if they wanted to go in that direction. So it’s like purpose gives you a place in the world, and is your guiding light or your North Star when you’re trying to traverse these challenges. So getting that valuable information from these CMO studies has been really, really useful to us when we create content and when we do go to speak to clients out in the real world.

Shaheen Samavati 12:16
Yes, very good point. So I wanted to also ask you about how marketing ties into the b2b sales process and what work you do on that side of things?

Mick Smyth 12:34
Do you mean the connection between sales and marketing to some degree?

Shaheen Samavati 12:37
Yeah, exactly. I mean it kind of ties into this example that you mentioned about these reports with the CMOs. I mean, I guess these are your potential clients and this is the way to connect with them. Right? Then that is also creating content that’s really relevant for that audience?

Mick Smyth 12:56
Yeah, I guess the key is understanding firstly, the journey of the client, I mean, we’re all aware of the whole awareness, consideration, conversion, customer journey, but the reality is, is that people are not linear, they don’t operate across these journeys in the way that we want them to. It’s easy to think that we can create a piece of content for that awareness stage and that’ll drive somebody down that journey on our website, and we can say, Oh, they visited this page, just like we wanted them to, and now they’ve done this just like we expected them to, and now they’re going to convert. But people are not linear, things happen, we see now COVID-19, we see Brexit, we see civil unrest in the world. They’re the macro challenges, we have micro challenges as well, or priorities within an organization change, you have restructures within an organization, you have budget constraints. So the truth is that while you as a marketer may see a need for your brand to maybe look at your purpose, or your values or whatever it is that you need within the business, but something might happen where you need to refocus and focus on some other priority right now. The difficulty is that sometimes as a sales and marketing team, or as a business development team, you may feel pressured, or, like an opportunity is getting away from you, and you feel like you need to chase that and you constantly try and force content in front of these people. But the truth is, you don’t need to. People will be ready to speak to you when the need arises. All you can do is just make sure that you’re creating the right content for where they are, when they need it. When they’re ready, they’ll reach out or when they’re ready, you’ll be in a position to reach out, you know, when you see that they are engaging with your content again and they are looking at specific things again. So I think it’s really just about making sure that you’re positioned in the right place at the right time, rather than trying to force yourself into conversation.

Shaheen Samavati 14:58
Yeah, that’s a really good point, it’s like selling by not selling.

Mick Smyth 15:04
Yeah, because people buy from people. they don’t buy from organizations. I don’t like being sold to, and I’m sure you don’t, I’m sure most people don’t, and we see it coming a mile away, people are not stupid, we understand when it’s happening. For me, when an organization tries to strong army into something, I tend to pull away from them a little bit. I much prefer to operate or deal with an organization that I know I can trust. When I feel like I can trust somebody, then I’m more open to speaking with them. It’s the same both ways, if you can operate in a way that you’re just trying to create trust with clients, or with readers or with your audience. Then I think that will resonate, you know?

Shaheen Samavati 15:51
Absolutely. So people don’t like to feel like they’re being sold to, they like to buy things that they feel like they need.

Mick Smyth 15:58
Yeah, exactly.

Shaheen Samavati 16:02
So we were talking before that, in terms of marketing for EMEA, you work with a lot of different European markets. I was just curious, like, what do you find most challenging about working in Europe?

Mick Smyth 16:17
There’s lots of positives and negatives about working across different borders, there’s huge amounts of diversity when you work within different regions, you’ve got different cultures, different languages, there’s different social challenges. Working with the Middle East, somebody from the west could look at the Middle East and think this region is all the same, it’s all very, very similar. But the truth is if you look at Oman, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, India, these are vastly different regions, vastly different places, with different cultures. Just like it is in Europe and just like it is in Africa. I think the challenge there is that you need to be able to tailor your content, you need to have a local understanding, which you can get from your local offices but you also need that global reach and that experience that you can share across different teams from the different offices. So I think it’s about having that, micro and macro understanding, when you do create a piece of content so it’s going to resonate locally. For somebody that’s maybe in a global organization, they need to consider both perspectives. Of course, there’s always practical challenges as well, if you consider things like list building and knowing who’s operating in what market so you can know, what kind of content you should be creating, for what type of sector and for what type of region. Then even just, the things like traveling to places and logistics and getting your content to places for a physical event is challenging. But there’s lots of opportunities and lots of new business opportunities, if you’re in a region where there’s vastly different cultures and languages, then there’s green pastures to move into and I think people are open to the effort that you put in. So if you’re physically in a place for a couple of days that you’re not usually based in, I think when you reach out to people and say, look I’m here, I’d love to have a chat and show you this white paper that we’ve created, this bit of thinking around this topic that we’ve put together, people are quite open to it because they know you’ve made the effort and they tend to meet you halfway. But I think just working with different cultures in such diverse places is really exciting. It’s an incredible experience for me.

Shaheen Samavati 18:33
So, how old is the company Siegel+Gale? And how long have you guys been operating globally in the EMEA market?

Mick Smyth 18:44
I don’t think it’s that old actually. I’m not exactly sure the number or how long we’ve been working in EMEA, but I know the company itself was founded in 69. So we celebrated our 50th year last year. So it’s been around for some time, it was founded by Alan Siegel in the US. So we have a lot of history, we actually designed the NBA logo, that’s one of the more famous things that we did. So it’s got abit of heritage, and some really quite famous work that we’ve done that I think has stood the test of time as well.

Shaheen Samavati 19:21
Wow, those are some cool facts. So I’d like to move into the recommendations part of the interview. So just ask you a few questions of things you recommend to other content marketers or professionals. So first of all, what’s your favorite app at the moment?

Mick Smyth 19:40
Favorite app would be either wallapop or Depop, anything that’s around the circular economy.

Shaheen Samavati 19:47
Anything that has ‘pop’ in the name?

Mick Smyth 19:54
Something that’s supporting the circular economy and helping with sustainability and removing things like planned obsolescence. Disrupting the industry a little bit and forcing brands into the conversation, forcing them to take a stand. We’ve seen this week, IKEA has announced that they’re taking back old furniture, they’re buying back old furniture from customers and paying them in store credit. I think it’s an amazing thing that IKEA is doing, why they’re doing it, I don’t know, whether it’s because they really do feel that they have a responsibility to do it, or whether it’s because they know that the market is moving in that direction. Whichever it is, it’s irrelevant right now, because it’s a good move for everybody. I think it’s apps like Wallapop and Depop that are forcing that C2C sales process. That’s kind of removing the brand out of it for that second phase, and then having to force themselves back into the conversation.

Shaheen Samavati 20:53
So next, I just wanted to ask you about a book or a publication that’s helped you in your career.

Mick Smyth 20:58
Yeah, I really like Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelley from IDEO. So I’m a huge design thinking fan, I love the idea of creating something or designing something with the end user in mind. Whether it’s a piece of content, or whether it’s a physical product or a service, I think when you see things from the users perspective, or from the consumer perspective, it makes it easier to understand what should be what you need, rather than what you should create because you want to create it. You can create the best product in the world but if people don’t need it or people don’t want it, it’s useless. If Henry Ford had asked his customers what they wanted, at the time when he was, you know, putting together the Model T, they probably would have said faster horses, so not every customer really knows what they want, because it’s about trying to get into the mindset and trying to understand how people operate and what will help the situation, rather than trying to assume things.

Shaheen Samavati 22:01
Finally, I just want to ask you about a hashtag that you recommend people follow?

Mick Smyth 22:05
I’m going to shamelessly plug our events hashtag, which is #FutureofBranding, where all of our physical and online owned events follow the hashtag, which is just our conversation with CMOs and senior marketing executives across major brands around the world. From everyone from the likes of Microsoft, to Pão de Açúcar in Brazil or NTT. So we get to have some conversations with some really top brands with this hashtag as well.

Shaheen Samavati 22:37
That sounds super relevant for our audience of marketers so I’m sure people will like checking that out. Just to finish off, do you have any final parting advice for other content marketers in Europe?

Mick Smyth 22:50
Yeah, so I think there’d be five things that I would focus on. One is simplicity. Keep it simple, where you can, don’t overcomplicate things. I think some organizations try to overcomplicate things to try and sound smart and all it really does is confuse the conversation. The truth is, simple is difficult but it’s smart. So be simple where you can. Consistency as well, I think sometimes when you’re constantly focusing on the same topics and the same messaging, you can lose sight of the wood for the trees. You might think that you’re starting to talk about them too much but the truth is, your audience is not hearing it near as much as you are. So I think trust in the fact that you’ve based your strategy on something that’s robust and stick with it. I would say focus on what’s important as well, streamline your content in the buckets and the ones that are most important for you, based on the resources that you have. You really don’t need a million different content tracks, even if it’s three or four that you’re focusing on, do them well, and do them properly. Understand who’s your audience and why they need you and who the hero is in the story, is it the practitioner, is the CMO? Just offer value for your audience and have focus on the market that you’re operating within, if you’re operating within some core sectors, focus on the market so that the locations and sectors make sense. You don’t need to try and cover the entire region, you’re just going to make life too difficult for yourself. So have a focal point to grow from, if you have a city in Germany and a city in Switzerland that you want to focus on, you can bridge the gap between those two at some later point. So just focus when you can. Then finally just don’t sell to people you know, people are smart, offer value and just create trust and be in the right place at the right time when they need you.

Shaheen Samavati 24:45
That’s very thorough, complete advice. That’s awesome. Thank you so much, got me thinking. Well, thanks so much, Mick, for being on the podcast. I really enjoyed speaking with you today.

Mick Smyth 25:00
Thanks Shaheen, I really enjoyed it!

Shaheen Samavati 25:02
And thanks everybody for listening in. For more perspectives on the content marketing industry in Europe, check out the content, calm and keep tuning into the podcast for daily interviews with content experts. See you next time.

Transcribed by