Here is a transcript generated by of The Content Mix podcast interview with VeraContent’s Kyler Canastra and Tim Edwards, CMO at QS Quacquarelli Symonds, on leading a global team of higher education marketing experts:

Kyler Canastra 0:03
Hi everyone, I’m Kyler from The Content Mix, and I’m excited to be here with Tim Edwards, Chief Marketing Officer at QS Quacquarelli Symonds, the world’s leading provider of services, analytics and insight to the global higher education sector. The QS World University Rankings portfolio has become the world’s most popular source of comparative data about university performance and their flagship website,, the home of their rankings, was viewed 147 million times last year alone. With over 15 years’ experience in marketing within the higher education sector in the UK, including a five-year stint in the US, Tim is extremely well versed in putting together successful global marketing strategies and leading highly talented marketing teams with a focus on content. His career in the higher education industry started very humbly while completing his postgraduate studies at Cardiff University, where in his spare time he helped the university’s international office by packing brochures into boxes for overseas exhibitions. From there he learned that the very basis of marketing and higher education and following a role as marketing assistant around his studies moved on to various managerial marketing roles at global higher education providers including Navitas and Shorelight, both of which helped pave the way for his current position at QS. So withough further ado, I want to introduce Tim to the show and welcome him. It’s always it’s a pleasure to have you on today’s episode.

Tim Edwards 1:28
Thanks, Kyler. Great to be here.

Kyler Canastra 1:30
Yeah, so I kind of you know, did a nice little introduction from the research that I had, but I would like for you to introduce yourself in your own words. So where are you from? And kind of what’s your connection to content marketing in Europe?

Tim Edwards 1:40
Yeah, great, I’m happy to give a bit of an intro. So I’m from the UK, born in Bristol, I actually live near Bristol now, quite by chance. I’ve lived all over the UK, in Cardiff and London and Southampton and stuff, and sort of quite a bit. It’s funny when I reflect on my time in the last 15 years or so, I’ve actually probably spent more time outside the country than I have inside the country. So it feels like I’ve lived lots of lots of sort of places really around the world, particularly in Asia and South Asia, I spent a lot of time there. My relationship to content marketing. So it’s this kind of visceral relationship from quite a young age really, in terms of what it is to be a content marketer. I may not have labeled it as such when I was younger, or even still at school, but I’m still very aware of it. And you know, I guess my relationship with it, the European sort of lint on it, as well as I’m a big Europhile, as well, I’m lucky enough that where I work now, Europe is a huge market for us, which which is great. I married a European, an Italian, my kids speak Italian, and things like that. So it’s got, it’s got a deeper meaningful sort of relationship beyond just sort of a course of employment.

Kyler Canastra 2:46
Yeah. So you kind of found your way back home, right to Europe. And I’m sure not to get political but Brexit wasn’t…. something you were a fan of.

Tim Edwards 2:55
That’s right. Yeah. Dodging the political bullet. It’s certainly changed things. Let’s say that much. And it’s certainly a hot button topic in our household. Yeah.

Kyler Canastra 3:03
For sure, for sure. Now, I mentioned a bit before that you studied at Cardiff, and you were, had a humble beginning, right with packing the brochures and kind of getting involved in this whole idea of like, higher education marketing. But how did you go from studying ancient languages, history and religion to having this career in marketing? Kind of what I mean, myself, for example, I studied Spanish and history. And now I’m in marketing. And it’s kind of cool to see like how I’ve gotten to that point in my life, but I want to know a bit more how you got there. And how did your studies actually impact your approach to marketing?

Tim Edwards 3:37
Thanks, Kyler. It’s such a great question, because it’s one of those things where people used to make the assumption that oh, you know, where did you study business? Or, where did you do your marketing degree? It’s actually a fun fact, I don’t have a marketing degree. I did my undergrad and postgrad at Cardiff, as you said, in ancient languages, history and religion, of all things. I ended as a second postgraduate in project management and leadership. But really, it’s an interesting connection, because a lot of people sort of had this like, Ha, moment, how come you’re doing this? And there’s always sort of a little bit of Well, well done finding employment after that degree. So it’s a bit of an ongoing joke, but it’s, you know, when I think about why I chose to study, you know, the humanities, the liberal arts, which is what this essentially is, I did so because at the time, I didn’t know what I wanted from my career. But I was passionate about some things and arts and humanities, I had a strong view that actually the arts and humanities contained everything that made life worth living. And so in order to pursue that, I thought, well this isn’t a bad thing to study and spend, you know, four or five years whatever, thinking about it. Then the next follow up question that I always get is, well, how do you use that? So you must have forgotten everything. You know, whilst it’s true, I have forgotten most of ancient languages… I don’t use those at the boardroom, that’s for sure. But do I actually use what I learned? 100%, every single day I use what I learned. How to think critically, how to ask the right questions, how to make informed decisions, how to connect and see things in ways that others cannot as well, how to challenge assumptions. They’re all things that a liberal arts degree teaches you, but also, in any sector, or role that is human centered. And education is, of course, arguably the most human centered sector there is, the ability to communicate effectively, with well placed confidence and clarity of thought is a highly valued skill set. I think every sort of industry in every sector, every boardroom needs that.

Kyler Canastra 5:39
For sure. I feel like that’s very similar to my experience, because I feel like when I, when I graduated, everyone’s like, what are you gonna do with your life? And you know, I studied Spanish, I thought, Okay, well, I like that. But I wanted something that was more like critical thinking. So I studied a history degree as well. And now that I look back, and like those are the two like, the Spanish degree, like even just learning another language helps you really connect with other people, which is so key in marketing, like to be able to understand your target audience and actually be able to switch gears and with history it’s like, being able to communicate effectively, while also problem solving in the workplace. So I feel like that’s something that in Europe, at least, cause I’ve lived in Spain, and Portugal, I feel like they’re still shifting a bit, I feel like in the UK and the US, we’re more open to the idea of Okay, you can study English and then become a lawyer, I don’t know, it’s like we have very much like that mindset. And I think it’s kind of shifting a bit within Europe as well. So it’s really cool to hear how your background and your interests or something, you kind of follow your passion, and then that can lead you to another passion and kind of, I don’t know, I feel like a lot of times we limit ourselves, like, we have to do this in order to get this job and do that. And I feel like you’re an example that you don’t have to do that, which is really cool.

Tim Edwards 6:43
That’s right. And sometimes life experiences sort of nudge you down a particular resource or a sector as well. And you mentioned that it’s not quite the sort of the packing boxes to CMO story. It’d be romantic if it was, but actually, you know, when I was sort of doing some part-time work around my studies and things like that, I became aware that this whole sort of sector and industry existed. And it did start off with packing prospectuses at exhibitions and things like that, which, you know, actually, my first brush with content marketing really was sort of reading some of those and the way in which we were positioning, you know, university I was really passionate about, still am to this day, and how we were sort of promoting that to people around the world, to follow their dreams and actually doing that made me realize that Hmm, this is like a really interesting set to business to operate within. There’s international travel, there’s globalization, there’s economics, there’s marketing, there’s content marketing, and actually something I’m really passionate about. And I’ve spent over 15 years, I guess, in education marketing, I think I might struggle to market you know, sort of lightbulbs or widgets or whatever. My passion is in education marketing, the power that has to change lives.

Kyler Canastra 7:56
But, going on to that now, in talking more about that idea of “I want to change life and do that through marketing,” I want to know a bit more about QS. Like what you guys do at QS? I know for a lot of people, it’s a name a guy, like I was telling you before the interview that I’ve seen that a lot, but never really knew like, yeah, what was this engine behind these rankings, I feel like the US has all these rankings. Everyone knows about that. So I’d like to know more a bit more about what the company does. But also like what you do in your role?

Tim Edwards 8:20
Yeah, yeah, so absolutely. So. So QS, we’re probably best known as you rightly said for our rankings, we’re the world’s most referenced university rankings. And, but we’re also the world’s leading provider of services, analytics and insights to the higher education sector. And our mission is key. And it’s really important, because I’ve only actually ever worked for mission-led organizations, that’s really sort of important to me. And enabling motivated people, anywhere in the world to fulfill their potential, through their careers through their study, through their employment is what QS is actually all about. And it’s on one hand, we have the B2B sort of side of things where we’re sort of helping the global higher education sector – 1500 universities around the world – figure out, you know, what is next, especially after the couple of years that we’ve had is cliché and I try to avoid those as a content marketer. But it’s important nonetheless, like it’s changed everything. And so what does this now mean for a university? What does it mean for that plan we had? What does it mean for Plan B? Or how do we sort of position our university this way? How do we connect with our audiences? Then on the other side, we have the B2C side of stuff, which is where we’re really impacting communicating with students. We have our flagship website,, and it’s one of the biggest of its kind in the world. Last year it was viewed over 147 million times alone. And it’s really impactful because I’ve always considered it an honor and a privilege to be a part of a student’s decision-making journey. Cause you know, through life we buy all sorts of things, sometimes a car or a house or a nice jacket, but you probably need to buy your education once, maybe twice if you do a postgraduate. It’s such a big decision. And there’s a real balance between sort of commoditizing and productizing what is a purchase decision now in most parts of the world, versus sort of an experience and that thing that’s going to shape you, because I sort of lean from within myself and my experience and how that shaped me. I mean, not only did I have an absolutely smashing four years at Cardiff University, I learned a lot of interesting stuff, you know, I just uncovered my career direction. And I actually met my wife there, as well, it really sort of touched me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. So it’s great to be a part of that. And to be a part of that students’ decision-making process and making sure that we’re serving up the right things at the right time at the right point in their journey. So we’re not just, you know, bombarding or being a directory of just content, and we’re sort of splashing it all over them. But we’re really saying you’re at this point in your journey, you probably want to know what it’s like to live in this part of the world. You might be interested to know where the best MBA courses are, or where your qualifications are with your budget, or with what you really, the job you want after, your employability. It’s, it’s great to be able to serve that content, at the right place, at the right time. And I think this is where QS does really, really well. Being with QS, we’re approaching 18 months or so now, I’m really enjoying it. Really, we’ve been really impactful with what we do with innovative forms of content delivery within the higher ed, sort of sector globally, because we take an audience-first approach. And that means making sure we have a comprehensive content strategy that’s aligned to our goals. It’s not an afterthought. It’s not here’s a social post, here’s an article I’ve thought about on the train this morning. It’s actually really how do we lead? How do we lead with content and really build a meaningful, long-lasting relationship that’s not transactional, but really echoes and mirrors the importance of the thing with which they’re thinking about, which is their future, their education.

Kyler Canastra 12:02
And I think it’s really reassuring to hear that at least as an American, I feel like the topic of conversation when it comes to higher education now, is how much it costs and how much it’s a business and how, you know, we’ve, I guess the general public might think that people who are behind you know, these rankings and all these things are kind of out to get us and like, you know, trick us. And I just think it’s really nice to hear that you care about the experience, I think, for me, like you were saying, with your undergraduate experience, like those four years changed my life. I mean, I didn’t think I was gonna study Spanish, and then I lived in Spain for eight years after I graduated. So it’s like, you know, it changed everything. And it made me, it gave me a different perspective on the world, and what I wanted to do with myself and they’re such integral years, and it’s really cool to hear, like, how you’re passionate about that, how you want to help people, like, embark on that same journey that both you and I have had. And I also, because you brought up the pandemic, and we’re not going to talk about it, but now I’m interested, cause like, what do you think in your opinion, like, how is education going to change? Because we’ve seen it change so much in the past year, and kind of one thing that I think I’ve really enjoyed seeing is accessibility, and how like education has been brought, you know, because everything’s online, a lot of things online, and can be done online, and a lot of people are going to have more access to education. So I don’t know, if you have like, I don’t know if trends that you’re gonna see or things that are happening. But in your opinion, what do you think education will look like in the coming years?

Tim Edwards 13:20
So I mean, that’s the $64 million question, isn’t it? And I think every university, every education provider in the world is asking the same question. Does it look the same? What’s changed? And how do I pivot, as as a higher education institution? As a student, have my options changed? You know, we had sort of locked down and things in different parts of the world and still in some parts of the world forced upon us. And that sort of necessitated us maybe sort of digesting content or education in evermore differing ways. And one of the big questions is, well, how much of that is permanent? How much of that do we think was absolutely awesome? And we want to keep? How much of that do we want to sort of dispose of? And then I think it comes down to, when we break up our audiences into different sort of personas, we think, well, this type of persona, this type of student, who has this set of experiences, and this set of needs and desires, actually thinks this. And then this persona over here, actually, do you know what, can’t wait to jump on a plane and get to that full on-campus experience? And for some, it’s changed, you know, there’s always it’s hard sometimes to separate global events, like a pandemic, from some of the geopolitics and some of the things that we deal with at QS because we have 1500 clients, universities, all over the world from almost every country in the world, and geopolitics play a part. We mentioned Brexit, that had an impact. Government policy of the day has an impact, changes of political administrations have an impact to destination countries’ perceived attractiveness or welcomeness to international students, principally. And I think, you know, going back to your question, the quic answer is we have some great reports on this on They’re free to access, everyone’s welcome to go have a read on it. One of the things, decisions you made really early on, I’m so glad we did, it started at the pandemic, because we have such large volumes of traffic to, we were able to do some really quick pulse surveys and get really broad-based really deep, meaningful survey questions. And we did these multiple points through 2020, 2021 they’re continuing, and so we’re able to do pulse checks on what is student intent, what do students want to do next? And when we serve up that data free to access, it really makes a difference, because then universities have a little bit of a helping hand as to well, you know, should we build this accommodation block? Should we stick to the five-year strategy we had last year? Or does this change everything? What does an MBA seeker in Bhutan, still think about coming on campus in the UK? Does a student from China… how are they going to react if we say that it’s mandatory to be vaccinated to come on our particular campus? And these are all real-world decisions that universities without companies like QS might be operating in a slight silo about. And we’re able to get that really broad line of sight with the sort of the traffic that we have to our sites, and then serve that up to the sector and really be a true partner to the sector in helping them solve that problem and make the right decision.

Kyler Canastra 16:31
That’s fantastic. Now I kind of want to know too, like what makes us different? Like in your experience because you’ve been working with them, I think 11 months, right? And I’m just like, what makes it different than working with other higher education providers, like because you have other experiences with other providers, but kind of what makes it special to you?

Tim Edwards 16:49
Yeah, so I’ve been in my current role about 11 months, and in QS quite a bit longer, coming on 18 months or so now. And so it’s, yeah, it is very different. And in some of the roles in my past, I’ve been campus based. And so when I was at Nativas, I was based on different campuses around the UK, so to many, to a large extent, I kind of lived that life just a little bit as well, of being on campus, brushing shoulders with the professors and, and the university administrations and faculties and things like that. It enables me to see the difference actually working at somewhere like us, because you get to I mentioned our line of sight, it is really broad. We get to see an awful lot, our head is above the trees. Alright, so we get to see the woods. And we serve the entire education industry, which means every possible kind of student, which I personally love, because we we can get, we can trip up over “I must go to this kind of university or I must study this topic. And that’s my my goal. And my vision.” The reality is that we’re all different. And there’s a different university out there for each one of us, depending on what we’re looking to seek, depending on maybe what our qualifications are, maybe on our budget and stuff like that. And from a content marketing perspective, that’s really exciting, because it means that we get to serve all and every kind of student, not just those who are the top 1% of the bell curve, not just those who have, you know, bottomless budgets, and not just those who are restricted to certain geographies either. And that means that we can serve up all different kinds of content to these different audiences. And one of the advantages of doing this is it allows us to pursue engagement rather than just top-line stats on traffic and things like that. It means that if we do pursue that engagement, that brand awareness will come. It’s not just the brand awareness of QS that’s really important to me, it’s QS as CMO, it’s also really important to me that the brand of each individual university has its opportunity to shine through, and its merits seen by its audience, and we help them do that. And it also makes our jobs as marketers a lot easier, we’re able to serve such a wide broad base of students and universities.

Kyler Canastra 18:58
That’s fantastic. And I wanted to ask you too, like what kind of content are you working on at the moment at QS?

Tim Edwards 19:04
Yeah, I mean, it’s a really great question, because, as you would have guessed, and by virtue of that I’m here, we’re really passionate about content. And we’ve learned so much over the last 18 months about what we do. So a few examples of things that we’re working on. So you’ve got the, we pump out an awful lot of great editorial content. We have some guest writers, we have universities writing there for us, we have our own in-house editorial team. We use all sorts of data. SEO, earch intent and stuff like that, to really make sure that our fingers are on the pulse of what is it that students are asking? What is it that we can make sure that we are answering? Primarily through our editorial content and things that we’re doing in that particular rhelm. In the social media space as well, we’ve got a couple of things that we’re cooking up that I look forward to sharing with you maybe next time, but in terms of the different platforms that we need to be on, making sure that that we’re sort of saying the right things, I often use, I love analogies. Everyone on my team will tell you that I got an analogy for everything, about nine out of 10 of them work, one of them is a flop and I try and learn from it. But the analogy I use with our, with our social media, is that we got to make sure that if we are sort of hosting a house party, that we’re playing the right music that appeals to the audience that wants to come to our house party, we don’t just sit there listening to like 90s hits that I may enjoy, and expect someone who’s really into acid house to really kind of join into the fun I’m having in my house party, because ultimately, they’ll just go to the house party next door. And what we really need to do is meet our audience where they are. So if they’ve got their own house party, and they’ve got acid house play, and that’s what they’re into, we need to get into that. And we need to make sure that we’re they’re not in an awkward dad dancing kind of moment, trying to sort of like be synthetically into it. But there’s an authenticity that we have to reach with our marketing and our content marketing to ensure that we are appealing to a generation now that you know, have about a six-second attention span on videos, there’s no point in us putting like a 12-minute video on something that, you know, after six seconds, they’re used to digesting it in other forums in other ways. We need to be right where they are. So not just when they are purposefully looking for problems to their educational, sorry, answer to their educational problems. But actually, when they’re searching for anything else they’re searching in their lives, that we’re also there as a trusted brand serving up the right content that’s not just sort of nice to nose, but actually really meaningful, rich, and all encompassing, and the stuff that you and I kind of probably both follow on our socials that, you know, we’re into stuff and I’ve got this weird fascination with maps. I love learning about geography and maps. And I probably don’t go to National Geographic, and I don’t really sort of Google show me interesting maps when I get five seconds. But when I do have a couple of minutes, and I’m just on Insta or Tick Tock or whatever, and I’m browsing through the map stuff I find interesting organically sort of comes up. And that’s where I’m digesting that content. And it’s really entertaining to me in an education space. So I coined the phrase of edutainment, because it’s really, really important that we’re not just educating our audiences and as educators in the industry, that sometimes your go-to, your safe place, but we’re actually entertaining as well. And it’s actually really sort of keeping our users engaged, plugged in. So that when we do want to say something to them, that that’s really poignant. And it could be that, you know, we’ve got an event coming up, that they’re going to find really fascinating, or we’ve just written a white paper that really is going to solve all their problems with a B2B context, where we’re speaking to universities, and we’re delivering seminars and things like that, that we when we have something to say, we’re in a trusted place, and they’ll listen to us because we serve up so much interesting stuff, the rest of the time.

Kyler Canastra 22:54
Fantastic. I’m glad to note I’m not the only one that likes map stuff on Instagram, I love. geography too. I’m glad I’m not alone. It’s really interesting and like knowing how you have to adapt really, and things change so fast. I think now especially like, I think the other day, I was thinking about like social media and like in 2007 we’re still in myspace and doing all these things that now we have Instagram and Tik Tok and all these things like, it’s just crazy to think about what’s going to happen 10 years from now. And this is cool to see how you guys are adapting to that and working on trying to really connect with your target audience. And that’s a very diverse group of people. It’s not… Everyone’s not going to be in the same position.

Tim Edwards 23:32
It really is and throw into there the culture and geography differences that we have. So you know, whilst we’re in the sort of the English-speaking world right now, you know, we could say you know, in the UK, our user demographic, so they have a propensity to be on Tik Tok and Snapchat, Instagram, to a lesser extent Facebook, actually Facebook, still really big in India. That’s a big part of our demographic. Tik Tok is at different stages of its life in different markets. And then of course, we got China. So we have a whole team in China that’s managing our socials there where we serve up content on an almost hourly, daily basis, through WeChat, and Weibo and other things, other ways in which we dive in, where we want to reach our target audience there and it’s a different target audience. Well, similar type of audience, I guess, but you know, very different cultural contexts. And so making sure that we’re serving up, you know, to use my house party analogy, where they are, and that it’s impactful and means something. to them. It’s just yeah, it’s critical.

Kyler Canastra 24:34
It is very important. And now, cause you’re talking about you have teams in Asia and all around the world, I need to know how do you like manage a team of 70 marketers as CMO, which I found very impressive, and how do you like, Do you have any tips for managing such a big team? And I also wanted to ask just kind of what’s your typical day like? You’re based it seems like you’re at home, so you’re managing a whole team around the world from the comfort of home so I just wanted to know, a bit more.

Tim Edwards 24:59
Yeah. So it It’s a great question. And as you know, we’re a fairly large marketing team. We have a huge focus on events marketing, as well as QS which probably means we have more hands than the average marketing team, because it’s quite a tactical operation, sometimes putting on events, marketing and things like that. To answer your direct question, how do we do it? You do it by having truly amazing direct reports. So I’ve got seven teams that report to me. And I have seven truly amazing reports that lead those teams. And someone early on in my career always said to me, a very humble person. And I think humility is such a, such a gift. And this person said to me, just always hire and aim to hire people that are smarter than you. Like, be curious, like, Don’t Bluff, like, ask questions. Never stop being curious. And the moment you stop asking questions, you’ve lost your zest. Like, you want to understand why does that work? Right? Sometimes you walk down the street and like, I’m just not satisfied like, like, how does that how does that electric car actually work? And I’d be with someone more often than not my wife and they’ll be like, but why do you care? But I’m just curious, I want to know, like, I’m not qualified, I’m not a mechanic, but kind of curious how that works. I’m fascinated by it. And it’s really important that you know, you don’t, you don’t bluff. Because if you bluff, you’re found out. And it’s embarrassing. And so authenticity and being in that safe place where if you don’t know, say you don’t know. If you’re in a meeting, and someone asks you, you know, what’s our, What’s our latest report on blah, blah, blah, you know, I don’t know, but I’ll find out, I’ll get back to you rather than Well, it’s, you know, 85% behind or ahead of curve and you start bluffing and then people lose faith. And so having that authenticity is really, really important. That emotional intelligence is really, really key, and no one’s nailed it. I haven’t nailed it. But I believe in it. I strongly believe in the power of EQ. And someone said to me recently, actually, and sometimes it goes on gender lines, as well. And as a man, certainly, if I just use my marriage as an example, when my wife comes to me with a problem, or she says something about her day, I instantly want to fix it. Okay, so we’ll do this. And we’ll do that. And then we’ll solve that problem by just doing this. And then I’ll do that, does that make you feel better. She’s like, no, I don’t actually want you to fix my problems, I want you just to listen, and just to hear them. And I’m a very typical man in that sense. And it’s not always on gender lines, but it sometimes can be, and one of the things I’ve learned is to make sure that we develop that a ability to feel not necessarily heal. And so and that’s really, really important, because sometimes people just need to be listened to, people need to be understood, that doesn’t mean you have to fix their problem straightaway. And that’s my go-to. My go-to is to, I need to fix this for you one way or another. I’m a fixer. I’m a doer. But people don’t often need that. So when you lead a large team, you need to be able to make yourself accessible, make yourself authentic. So the Tim you’re talking to now is the Tim, you would experience if I was talking to the CEO, of one of my junior marketing executives, or my family, because I truly believe that there’s just this authenticity. It also makes life a lot easier if you don’t have to put on a mask every time you go to a work environment. So having great people around me, is really, really important, because looping back to being a liberal arts graduate, you know, I’m not a specialist in a particular area. I’m a T-shaped marketer, we can go into that. But I’m not sort of a qualified automation expert with a master’s degree in that I have someone on my team, I have actually three people on my team who are, which is great. And that’s really what we need. But we need people that can synthesize those ideas, that can bring together different parts of the marketing spectrum. So across my team, you know, we have a content team, a creative team, a public relations team, acquisition and engagement, a regional team, and marketing operations on a performance-paid marketing team, as well. And in each one of those areas we have experts, they’re truly master craftsmen and women of their field. But ultimately, it’s quite hard sometimes if you’re a master craftsman, getting across to a CEO or an Executive Leader or a stakeholder, on what it is about that thing that you’re really, really skilled in, that is important and affects the wider business? And that’s my role as a CMO to synthesize that. Now, in terms of a typical day, you’re right, I’m sitting in my house at the moment. QS is one of the many companies that adopts a hybrid working model, which is great, we found it great for inclusivity, diversity, work-life balance and things like that. And we proved through the pandemic, actually, that we can be really productive, really effective whilst adopting this model. So I was in the office in London yesterday, we’re headquartered in London. We hosted some people there, it was great, it was buzz. We had coffee with people, we spent time. We did whiteboarding, and then it’s about finding out, you know, what’s really important to do when you’re in the office, when you need that sort of face to face and what’s really, really important to do when you don’t necessarily need that? And then what are the tools that you need in order to do that? So we also have a remote workforce as well. And some of the best people I’ve hired in the last 18 months are actually remote workers. And it’s wonderful. You just got to make sure we have the right tools to collaborate and the right way to track engagement and make sure that people feel engaged and feel a part of it. And a typical day, for me. So my role is really broad. As I sort of just shared with those different teams I have with me. We’re going through a challenging year, just globally speaking, with a pandemic, and people’s sort of buying habits and where they digest their content and things like that. So there’s always stuff for me to do and to and to help with. Actually, this morning straight before this call, we had our monthly executive leadership team meeting, and we were looking at a whole bunch of stuff I can’t really share here, but really exciting things. And they all require that marketing sort of input, and it’s great that QS marketing has a seat at the at the top table, which means that we’re able to influence. We’re able to really bring why it is important that we serve up content marketing, to our audiences. And then with a global marketing team. So we have sort of boots on the ground to coin a phrase in countries all over the world, which is just so important, because if we’re talking to a student in Algeria, then it doesn’t half help if you’ve got someone in Algeria that understands the context, the culture, and the way in which that particular persona digests their marketing and their content. And that’s across the company, and not just in marketing. So it’s a busy role. It’s a fun role. It’s a fulfilling role, ultimately, and you really get to cross a whole spectrum of marketing, which is, you know, a pleasure.

Kyler Canastra 31:45
Yeah, it seems really interesting and something I would like love. It’s so cool that like you have all these people around the world collaborating together to really like get a good message across. And it is really refreshing to hear that, you know, your company really is invested in content and marketing in general, because sometimes a lot of people don’t appreciate that as much as we think, I think they should. So it’s really nice to hear. Now, I kind of wanted, because you have this experience, you know, doing marketing for a global audience. Now, what do you think some companies nowadays get wrong when it comes to doing this? To implementing and executing a good, you know, marketing campaign or strategy across like a world audience?

Tim Edwards 32:21
Yeah, it’s really interesting. I guess, there’s probably two parts to this one is the one size fits all, because that’s the most efficient. We all, you know, most of us, unless we’re working for a public institution, even then you have a budget, we’re on a budget, and we want to get the most bang from our budget, ultimately, and so that naturally leads itself towards efficiency, but efficiency at what cost? I’ve seen organizations that have this sort of one size fits all that’s naturally, you know, it can be quite introverted: I feel this, I sit in this part of the world, my experience of the world is x, therefore, my marketing campaign looks like that. And or know, my focus now 70% of our customers are in the US, therefore, I’m gonna make this a US centric campaign and the other 30% Well, they’re be all right, they can read English or whatever. And that’s a real problem. That’s the first problem is making sure that you know, we regionalize our content so that it speaks to the person. And there’s a limit, you know, we can’t regionalize to every particular district and every particular time in every country, we’d need a bazillion marketers to do that. But so far as is practical, if you want to meet people, on their on their level, and a way in which they digest the rest of their content. The other challenge, where I see other companies getting it wrong, is they focus on vanity metrics, and optimizing for the algorithm, which can bring sort of businesses the top line metrics that they want, but it doesn’t say much about their meaningful engagement with their audiences. So likes are no longer enough really to understand how your content is resonating. So one of the things that I’ve led with my wonderful team here at QS is shifting from that mindset of chasing volume to nurturing engagement. Because in the medium to long term, that means that you know, you’re gonna get far more meaningful connections and relationships. And you’re not that just a one hit wonder. We’re not selling chocolate bars, we’re not selling, you know, something that people consume on a daily basis and can hop between those different things. We’re selling something so meaningful, so important, not that chocolate bars aren’t important, they are. But education, we need to foster a trusted relationship. That means engagement. The top line metrics then tend to follow, don’t get me wrong, which is great. We have so much traffic, it’s wonderful, but it’s about having meaningful traffic, and what what does that mean to us. So that’s where I see others, maybe not doing it quite the way that we would do it. And we’re getting great results from our engagement, in our editorial, our social, our content, our white papers, and through a crisis which, such as the pandemic, it means that we are the industries’ go-to. They trust us, we don’t have to sort of necessarily bombard them with ads. The effort and the hard yards we put into content means that they know we know what we’re talking about. And we’re a trusted source of insights and data.

Kyler Canastra 35:12
And just they feel like you know, transparency and honesty are something that drive you know these things as well, like, really trying to put out content that you stand by and believe in, instead of having just like pumping out content just for content sake, and trying to get more numbers. Now, throughout the entire interview, you’ve given us so much great insights. It’s been amazing. And we talked about different skills, I think that you mentioned, like, you know, being curious to learn and not being transparent. Also being able to like, understand and validate people’s feelings and listen and kind of bring people together till you can have great collaboration, which I think are really important skills nowadays. But a lot of people on the show, too, who are listening, I always say that we have people who are, you know, like yourself with a lot of experience in the field, but also people who are just interested in starting off. So besides these skills that you’ve mentioned already, do you have any advice for someone who wanted to start off in the world of marketing and how they could get their foot in the door?

Tim Edwards 36:06
Yeah, so totally so. So I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that someone studies ancient languages and religion and history to become a marketer. I think that’s sometimes a byproduct that you kind of discover as you go through. And there’s lots of really good reasons why a marketing degree is an excellent thing to do as well. And ultimately, a blend of of all sorts and diversity across all sorts of forms, actually gives you the real sort of rounded mix you need in the room when making a decision. There, my advice is to ask questions, stake curious. Find out more. You will naturally find where you are most interested in being. For me, that’s brand and content, that’s my thing, that’s what I’m really into, it’s what I’m really passionate about. But then it becomes a question of being a T-shaped marketer. You can’t be a CMO and only know one thing, you can’t be be senior in any marketing organization and only know one particular thing. So being a T-shaped marketer means that you know, sort of quite a bit about sort of the seven to 10, depending how you cut it, areas of marketing, you can be in that room, you can understand what people are saying, you can add insights, but you’re ultimately probably not executing on that. And then you’ve got the T bit, where this bit where you have deep knowledge, deep understanding, and you really add value yourself in that bit. But the trick as a CMO is not getting in the way and knowing when to let people deliver. And to be that sort of counsel, that’s useful, not not a hindrance. So the worst thing I could do is get involved in everything, and throw myself in the way of every campaign, and things like that. You’ve got to trust people, and hire smart people. Fire people that are going to flight you when things aren’t going well, as well. Not just good news people again, and fostering an environment where people feel safe to do that is really important to me. And I guess that leads me on to, you know, what would I say to someone you know entering marketing is making sure that you have a healthy relationship with work. And that work doesn’t become this relationship, it’s like, in our other lives and our personal lives, you want to have a good friendship, a good relationship with your spouse, your partner, your loved one, your children, your parents, whatever. And it’s the same with work. And it’s about having that sort of control mechanism. That means that you have a good work-life balance or integration are two different things, but actually both have that their merits and allow you to lead the life that ultimately you want to leave and work is a big part of that. But also, so that you have this sort of this resting pulse that if you have a bad day at work, that’s okay, they will happen. And if you have a good day at work, that’s that’s also great. But you don’t want to live and die by whether you have a good or a bad day at work because both will come and in your personal professional lives, they will make you quite difficult to work with if you’re sort of this, this pendulum between great days and bad days. So finding that resting steady and being sort of cool, calm, collected, but authentic. My number one thing is authenticity. Be yourself and learn about emotional intelligence, because that will really that will teach you so much more than IQ can can ever teach you.

Kyler Canastra 39:08
For sure. I 100% agree and just like being like creating a space that you know, it’s okay to fail sometimes, and it’s okay, and you’re gonna move forward and that’s how you learn. Now, you did talk about a bit more about like, you know, work-life balance and work integration. And I kinda want to pick your brain a bit more about your kind of work-life balance and what you do on a daily, like basis. Now, do you have any habits that you attribute to your success that you could share with our audience? Like daily habit?

Tim Edwards 39:34
Yeah, yeah, that’s right. I’m kind of reflective sort of lifelong learner. So I’ve tried most things. And I said at the start, I think but you know, I kind of negatively react to cliches and stuff. I’ve got a very sensitive cringeometer so I’ve tried mostly sort of the business books and things like that. I tried the 5am Club and I’m naturally an early riser. So I actually thought that should be really easy thing to do. Not an early riser, because I sort of want to check my emails at 5am, I just think the mornings are great and I want to be productive in a personal capacity as much as a professional capacity. But I think there are a few go-tos I have. So there’s a few blogs. The HubSpot marketing blog, I think is great. I mean we’re a customer of HubSpot as well which makes it even more impactful but really just the content that they serve up is applicable regardless of whether you’re a customer or not is really really helpful. You know, I I tend to think that I can write fairly well but I’m, you know, just a graduate. I’m not a copywriter. Actually, since I arrived at QS we’ve hired copywriters, and really the discipline is so important. So when I’m writing copy, I mean I could write a coherent sentence which is great. But actually, if I need some help, Grammarly and Contently can really help me make sure that I’m just refining and getting it absolutely right. Because when you’re fast paced, when you’re when you’re running and you’re multitasking and things that you know, the best of us can, can trip up. But actually, at QS, we put on a whole bunch of webinars and white papers that are really interesting to professional learners and you know, and postgraduate students and stuff like that. So some of the stuff we produce is actually really really useful. I find myself attending our own webinars on all sorts of topics and stuff like that. But I think it’s also really important not to get overwhelmed and to not feel every waking minute, I must be on a self improvement journey, I must you know, that downtime, that reflection, my best ideas such that they are, happened when I’m out running so you know, when I’m you know, my wife and I, we run marathons, you probably don’t believe me when you look at me, but we do, not very well myself at least. But I try and actually running that whether it’s an hour in the morning, and I’m just doing a mental to-do list in my head, or I’m processing something in my head, I find that so impactful and so useful for setting the tempo and my mental health for the rest of the day. And then you sort of pepper in some of those snippets of content, you know, the HBR articles, the HubSpots, and maybe the book you’re reading at the moment, or the podcast you listening to. I’ve tried both of them, I tried most of the sort of the typical podcasts. Ones that stick with me, Masters of Scale, Reed Hoffman, I find it really, really interesting. It’s a really should and startups and things like that. One of my biggest takeaways I use it, probably on a daily basis, my team are probably sick to death. But it’s really important because, you know, they talk about, and it was when they had the guests from Airbnb, about how you start at an 11-star solution, and then work downwards if you need to, and you probably sort of settled somewhere around a six or seven star, which if I was to sort of say to you, I come to a six or seven star hotel, you’d be like, hell yeah, that sounds amazing. Whereas if you start from the bottom, go: what can we afford? What does that budget allow? What do we think we’re capable of, and you build up from a one star, a two star, you may get to a three star and if I said to you, hey, college want to come to dinner at three star hotel, you probably Okay, sounds okay. You know, so actually, that’s one of the main takeaways that I took from that particular podcast.

Kyler Canastra 42:58
It’s kind of like the idea of limiting thoughts, no? If you limit yourself in the beginning, then you’re never gonna grow to potentially you could, which I think is really interesting. I definitely want to listen to that podcast, I’m in the market for it. Even though I host the podcast, I’m in the market for some, some new ones for my own personal listening. Now, you talked a bit too about how like you, like being humble, and how you let people in your team, like you hire people who are smarter than you and kind of get inspiration from them, as well and learn from them. But I wanted to know, if you have like a professional role model or another source of inspiration that kind of drives you in your daily.

Tim Edwards 43:32
Yeah, she’ll say, I have mentors, I’m a big believer in in having a mentor, whatever stage of the career, your career you are in however young or old, have a mentor, that’s so important. We have a mentorship scheme at QS which is brilliant. And we make sure that we pair people outside of their normal sort of productive silence or somebody marketing actually might be mentored by someone in product or a different area of our business. For me, I have two mentors. So one of my mentors is actually a retired former president of a very prestigious US college university. And our professional paths crossed about seven years ago. And since then, I’ve just felt and he’s also a biggest proponent of the liberal arts you’ll ever me, and he helped me sort of identify why it was a benefit, not a negative that I was a liberal arts graduate and what to take from that. And, you know, we connect, we’re on different sides of the ponds. He’s in the US and I’m here in the UK. So we don’t connect in person as much as I would like, especially more recently, but just really important, especially in the education space, as well, because he’s a bit of a visionary. He’s a well-known author, writer, as well. And the insights, the simplicity of the threads of simplicity, which he can deliver to my life is really impactful. I’ll always be grateful. The second mentor I have is actually more of a business mentor. And it was someone, you know, she really helped me understand that it was okay to be me. Because there are some things which you know, I think I’m pretty good at. There are a lot of things that I think I’m not good at that. Llike, keep me away from that. I’m just not gonna add any value. And sometimes in hands-on roles. I find out early on that actually I sometimes get in the way of execution and actually keep me away from the execution because that’s not where my skill set necessarily is. And I used to feel really bad about that, oh, my goodness, like, What do you mean? Like, I can’t help build that landing page, or I can’t help write to that particular piece of content, or it’s best that I didn’t. And it was actually about empowering people who are really smart, and it was a craft to do that, and how and knowing how to pull together those pieces of string, those threads of simplicity, that sinew between the different pieces that we’re trying to do, that’s where I really sort of operated well, and it’s not the person who’s who’s, she’s really, really senior. She’s based in Australia. And she was the first person I sort of looked at, we are quite like each other. So how do you cope with being you? And how do you operate in a really intense business environment, being you? And sshe’s really helped me over the past few years with understanding, you know, what my secret sources, what I bring to the table and where I add value, where to shut up and get out of the way. But also where to trust your gut and think actually, I know that I’ve got a strong opinion on this. This is where I’m at. So those are the two sort of mentors that really are a big role in my life.

Kyler Canastra 46:21
Fantastic. Yeah. But it’s really nice to like, hear how you still like look up to people and have people that guide you. And I think like, what you’re talking about with those people and relationships that you have with them is what you’re doing with us today on the show. And it’s really good. We’re grateful to have you here because you’re also you know, you’re passing along some great knowledge and kind of these great messages of like being yourself and being humble and I think it’s really important for us and also you’re a big proponent of the liberal arts, which I am a graduate as well. So it’s really nice to hear, to know that our degrees are very valid in this world. Now we’ve come to the end of the interview unfortunately, I feel like we could have kept talking more and more and I’d love to learn way more about everything that you do, whether at work and also just like in your life experience. But do you have any like final takeaways or a piece of parting advice that you’d like to share with our audience before we sign off?

Tim Edwards 47:11
Yeah, I guess I was thinking about this. I thought you’d ask me something similar. And it’s really in it I spent all my days thinking about our marketing tech stack and how we can automate stuff and how it can be efficient but I always have to watch myself because actually in an age of automation, it’s people. It’s people, there will never be a replacement for originality and creativity then from talented content creators. I’m very fortunate at QS, I have 10 people who are you are wholly and solely content creators and we’re going to continue to grow because it’s what’s making the difference for us and it’s. People is the main thing for me, valuing people, making sure that they’re in a place where they can deliver. Doing right by people always. Always do right by people. Value them. Everyone has a story. Listen to it. Read up on emotional intelligence. It’s you know, I’m a student of that. Celebrate the differences and you know don’t work in an echo chamber. Because if you’re working in an echo chamber you’re just gonna have self validation and a circle. You’re never going to be challenged you’re never actually going to do anything that impressive. Actually, having people disagree with you closer to you, creating a safe place where that’s okay is my goal. So being people focused.

Kyler Canastra 48:27
That’s awesome. Now if anyone wanted to, I know I’m sure your LinkedIn is like, you probably get requests all the time, but if people wanted to follow you on and kind of get in touch with you or learn more about what you’re doing at QS, is the best platform LinkedIn?

Tim Edwards 48:40
Yeah, absolutely. You say yep, look me up on LinkedIn. I shouldn’t be too hard to find with a name like QS corporations. But my handle is Tim S Edwards. You can find me on there. You can always drop me a line, one of the shortest emails in the world. And I really love making connections. I’m a big believer in networking and having people on hand who can help you, give you advice, and I seek that myself. So

Kyler Canastra 49:03
Fantastic, and we’re very grateful for connecting with you today. Just want to thank you again, Tim, for sharing your insights with us today on The Content Mix. And I also want to thank everyone for listening in. As always, for more perspectives in the content marketing industry in Europe, check out and keep tuning into the podcast for more interviews with content experts like Tim. So we’ll see you next time. Thanks again, Tim.

Tim Edwards 49:25
Thanks, Kyler.

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