Here is a transcript generated by of The Content Mix podcast interview with Tom Livingstone, head of marketing at Talentful, on why marketing is about having conversations:

Carlota Pico 0:14
Hi, everyone, I’m Carlota Pico from The Content Mix. I’m excited to be here today with Tom Livingstone, who is Talentful’s head of marketing and has over six years of experience in marketing and communications. Welcome, Tom, and thank you so much for joining us on the content mix.

Tom Livingstone 0:30
I’m happy to be here. Thanks for having me.

Carlota Pico 0:33
It’s our pleasure. Tom, to get the interview started off, let’s talk about your background, a bit about your company and how you got into your current role.

Tom Livingstone 0:41
Yeah, so I’ll go back to the beginning, I guess. I graduated from university with an English literature and creative writing degree. And I wanted to look for some kind of creative roles, I think kind of naively like a lot of people at the start of my career I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. And I got into some internships kind of in a couple of advertising agencies and doing some blog writing. And I started to take to that a little bit. And then I worked in a couple of startups blog writing there, and then converted to do more of a kind of social media advertising role. And realizing that I could kind of combine a bit of the creativity with with the data of social media advertising as well, and spent quite a few years of my life just kind of making Facebook adverts and Instagram adverts kind of over and over again, slightly one dimensional role, but I did I did really enjoy that for a time and I was quite good at that. So I then managed to kind of take those skills and move into a more kind of broad marketing role. So I became a marketing manager at a big commercial dating app. I spent a couple of years there doing much more general role. So at that point, there were still some social media adverts, but I did everything from content writing, to drafting copy for billboards to some of the more technical things as well. And then after that finally moved on to Talentful, where I am now, where I’m Head of Marketing and have been for almost two years…although I’m starting to lose track of time a little bit, as everyone is at the moment, but almost two years as Head of Marketing at Talentful.

Carlota Pico 2:34
Okay, yeah, I definitely agree with that—I am losing track of time! I’m assuming that you’re referring to Coronavirus and the lockdown and the quarantine that all of us are facing.

Tom Livingstone 2:43
Yeah, it’s somewhere between a year in six months and a year and nine months at Talentful, I think.

Carlota Pico 2:48
Yeah, I’m somewhere in between last year and fast forwarding to the next five years after Coronavirus. I don’t really know… I’ve lost track of the day and time that we currently live in! You went from working at a dating app to now working at an HR company, what does marketing look like at an HR company? What are the different nuances one should be aware of when working in marketing for an HR company?

Tom Livingstone 3:17
Well, in some ways, when I when I switched from the dating app to, to the recruitment company, I felt like there was some synergies, and I think, obviously Talentful, did as well, which is why I’m there. In the…you know…it’s still, it’s still a case of people trying to attract other people. Admittedly, the reasons are a little bit different…you know, one is one is dating and one is slightly more professional, but I think sometimes we can get a little bit bogged down in the nuances of different markets. And ultimately, good marketing is about being able to communicate with people effectively. And so I saw, definitely saw, some synergies there.

Carlota Pico 4:00
Okay, so back in the day you were matching singles and now you’re matching employees to new workspaces.

Tom Livingstone 4:11
Yeah, something like that.

Carlota Pico 4:12
Okay. I will be talking a little bit about Talentful and your role at Talentful. But before moving into that, I’d like to talk about what you think are the challenges and opportunities that come with working in Europe and in the European environment?

Tom Livingstone 4:30
Yeah, so Talentful is a brand is quite sort of UK centric. But within the last year or so we’ve launched both the Berlin office and the San Fran office. And then obviously, in my previous role, that was, I mean, that was an international dating app. So we had lots of different markets. And I learned quite a lot about those different markets in the process. I think what I’ve realized with timeful is that if you can create a really strong tone of voice and and really strong brand, which people buy into—and they seem to have the Talentful brand—I think from that stable foundation, it’s a lot easier to then take that into different markets and sort of start to approach those markets with a sort of softly approach. One thing I’m very cautious of is sort of attempting to jump into a market all at once and try and do a sort of big launch all at once, because I think you have to sort of build your audience slowly.

Carlota Pico 5:33
Okay. Would you also say that adapting your communication to the local audience is also part of that strategy and is also very important. So for example, you’re from the UK, you’re based out of London, I’m from Madrid, Spain, and although we’re both communicating in English, our public holidays are different. Our cultures are different. So the way that for example, Talentful might communicate to a Spanish audience could be completely different to the way that they’re communicating to a UK audience.

Tom Livingstone 6:05
Yeah, I think so. I absolutely agree. So I think it’s a case of taking that that brand platform you have that stable brand foundation and then and then adapting it for those markets. And I think it’s kind of a case of perspect, isn’t it? I mean, marketing communications, dumbed down to its very simplest form, is you speaking to other people, it’s you as a brand trying to have a conversation with other people. And I think where we quite often go wrong is through forgetting that and trying…trying to approach it differently and not having a conversation. And in the same way, if you are having a conversation with friends, you would you would recognize and respect their different cultures or their beliefs, or whatever it might be. I think as a brand, it’s important to do that as well. Because otherwise the message that people are getting is kind of like ‘I don’t really care enough about you to have done my research and to speak your language’. I guess the challenge in where it becomes more difficult is that when it’s that kind of one to one conversation between peers, it’s a lot easier to then just kind of understand the person you’re speaking to, or ask them questions about the research you want to do. You know, if I’m, If I’m having a conversation with you now, Carlota, and I want to understand a little bit more about your culture, then I might just say to you, you know, what, what are the cultural nuances in Spain, and how do they differ from here? And we can have a conversation around that. Whereas as brands, we find it a bit harder to do that, you know, to get something back from the audience is quite tricky. So I think it’s definitely a case of doing the research upfront, if you can… finding a research partner…you know, there are lots of different research partners out there…whether it’s just sending SurveyMonkey surveys, or even Google surveys, in its kind of very simplest form or there are companies, like Attest or there’s a couple of others…I think that you can kind of sign up to a subscription research partner.

Carlota Pico 8:09
What about listening to your actual audience? So apart from relying on research companies to help you understand the different nuances of local markets, how are you also engaging with your potential local audienc in those markets? Are you relying heavily on social media in order to talk and communicate with your with your target markets and your local audiences?

Tom Livingstone 8:35
Yeah, I think, I think the challenge the challenge again, for brands is that, you know, not only do brand sometimes not necessarily see it as a two way conversation with people but it kind of works both ways. In that, as a brand, you might attempt to have a conversation with your audience and they’ll, they’ll look at you and say, “Okay, this is a brand, I don’t want to interact with a brand”, and obviously, the There’s a lot of research out there, current research into, into how much better sort of peer to peer communications work and how much better it is to rely on individual sort of word of mouth or referrals. And obviously, that’s quite difficult as a brand. And a lot of time, I think we sort of put things out there, you know, the number of times that I’m sure all marketing professionals have gone, “Okay, we’re going to launch this competition, or we’re going to launch this thing…and we’ll wait…we’ll sit back and and wait for the engagements come in and just sort of see what happens. And we can, we can wait for all the organic conversation to grow…” And I think we kind of flatter ourselves a little bit there to think that people will engage in that conversation. And then what inevitably happens is you get one person if you’re lucky, replying a comment that actually doesn’t give you much information. So I realized that that’s the challenge. And there are various different ways that you can sort of get around that. One is, as I say, maybe trying to survey your audience, you know, using different kind of platforms to try and engage with them rather than just sort of immediately assuming that they’re going to engage with your content. Another one that has worked really well for us is promoting our content through the different people within our within our company. So rather than just putting out on the Talenful page, we have a network of really, really engaged recruiters—about 100 recruiters—who, I mean, we’re quite fortunate in that they’re really engaged with Talentful, the mission of what we’re doing, and what we’re trying to achieve through our marketing and social media. So from that sense, it’s really easy to say, hey, we’ve got this content, do you guys mind sharing it out? It’s then really easy to get them involved with that and get them posting and engaging with the Talentful brand. And what you’ll find is they can then sort of start to go and post things out and have have conversations independently with people and then it works because then you do have that peer to peer interaction. And they can come back to you and say “I had this conversation with someone on my post, and they thought this was really interesting…”

Carlota Pico 11:02
That’s super smart. So brand ambassadors basically.

Tom Livingstone 11:05
Brand ambassadors… yeah. And it takes a little bit of trial and error. And I think experiments with different content, experimenting with different ways of trying to get people within your company to be brand ambassadors.

Carlota Pico 11:19
Absolutely, absolutely. Okay. Well, I do want to talk about Insightful I was looking at your LinkedIn profile. And one of the achievements that’s highlighted on there is that you led the launch of your candidate forum, Insightful, which drove 1500 signups in the first month. What is Insightful? And what marketing tools did you use in order to attract those 1500 signups in the very first month of it being live?

Tom Livingstone 11:47
Yeah, so Insightful is a it’s a candidate platform to get matched to different tech companies, some of the best tech companies in the world. And how it works is that they’ll come to our website, they’ll click on to Insightful and they’ll go through a psychometric quiz of I think it’s 32 questions, and be assigned a different personality type based on that. I think we’ve all done different psychometric personality quizzes before and all being given our results for those. But how this one differs is that once you then have your results for that, you will then be given a percentage match with these different companies based on does your personality fit with the teams that you might be joining further down the line. So it’s based on the kind of assumption that good teams should be balanced teams. So if you have, say, a team full of analyst personalities, the assumption there is that you then might want to maybe add more of a kind of a leader personality or an action person or someone a bit more… a bit more creative. So we launched that about a year ago. And as you say, it got really good reception to begin with, and I think our most effective way of marketing it was, again, it comes back to the brand ambassador selling. What we did was, we created a load of different assets for our team, we had some really nice different creative assets of people kind of representing the different personalities. So we would have someone was sort of like multiple different arms coming out of them if they were the adaptable personality. Or we had an entrepreneur who had a kind of astronauts helmet illustrated around their head. So we created assets that we knew our team would enjoy and want to share. And then we coordinated a kind of approach of everyone posting out at the same time. And it works really well because we had, as I say, maybe 100 people on our team, all sort of posting out when we gave them the green light to go ahead with that, or posting out with the assets that we given them and some kind of suggested copy for it. But we made sure we kept it kind of open so that our team could give their take on it. So I think the really effective way of writing it for us was a combination of a coordinated, organized effort of you guys should post with these things at this time, but then also leaving a little bit of creative freedom so that these guys could be the marketers themselves. So that got a kind of initial wave of people in through LinkedIn, I had had sort of connections messaging me saying that Talentful had had covered LinkedIn with posts about Insightful and that it was all they were seeing, which, obviously for a sustained period of time, you don’t want to be spamming people. But I think to be making that kind of initial noise was really effective for us. And then we followed that up, we continued with, after that, lots of different social ads with those with those creative assets that we created. So it was kind of a case of the work that we put in upfront on the creative assets. We just kept reusing them, I mean, obviously a great marketing trick to use and reuse things as much as you possibly can do.

Carlota Pico 15:00
Absolutely! Repurposing is key, not only to keep the budget down, not spend that much, but also in terms of being able to use the same material over and over again and for different reasons for different audiences. I actually took the test myself, I love personality tests, and I’m the innovator! So from your expert opinion…

Tom Livingstone 15:24
Congratulations! I’m the adaptable one.

Carlota Pico 15:26
Thank you. Thank you. You are! So we make a good team.

Tom Livingstone 15:31
I had all the arms coming out of me, doing different things.

Carlota Pico 15:34
Well, I was very happy with the results, because I think it does describe me very well. So congratulations on that. Also, I do want to talk about Insightful and ask about your opinion on what every team needs in order to succeed in new projects. And of course, this would be from your personal experience or from your opinion.

Tom Livingstone 15:58
Yeah, so…I think there’s, there’s a couple of things that jump out to me immediately. So this is gonna sound really obvious, but take it down to the basics: talent, in the first place, and then…and then trust. So, I mean, I guess I would say this working now for a recruitment company, that I think the initial kind of hiring process is so important because if you have the right talent within your teams, and I found this… I’m very lucky to have an amazing team around me that I can work with… I found that, you know, getting the right people in, in the first place is so so crucial, because once you then have that talent, if you know that those people can work to their very best ability, then you can trust them to do so. And if you if you’re confident in your own ability to hire the right people in the first place, and you bring them in knowing that they have that talent, and they’re not working to their to their fullest ability then maybe at that point, it’s a case of saying, “Okay, this person has the ability, but what am I not doing is empowering them to work in the best way?” And that’s when it might come back to that trust of: okay, I know this person has the talent, how can I stop micromanaging them or take off whatever restrictions might be there and allow them to do their best work? So I think ultimately, it boils down to those two things.

Carlota Pico 17:26
Very interesting. We are coming towards the end of our interview. But before we finish up, I have one more section and two questions pertaining to marketing that I really want to ask although our time is limited. So because you are headquartered in London, but have offices in Berlin and also in San Francisco and plus you work for an HR company, I do want to ask you about Brexit and the effect that Brexit had on your marketing strategy.

Tom Livingstone 17:55
Brexit has been kind of looming over the UK while and, you know, the impact has been looming over the whole of Europe for for a while now, and I think we would certainly say that it has an impact, but we’ve been able to track ourselves step by step. And from a marketing point of view for Talentful, we’ve done a lot of in the last couple of years a lot of kind of foundational brand marketing work. So a lot of it is a little bit more high levels…what we believe in… what our mission is…those sorts of things. And, you know, we really stick to those, so they don’t necessarily get changed by a situation like Brexit. So we believe in empowering people to do their best work. We believe that putting them in the right companies will enable them to do so. And although Brexit might sort of impact on that slightly, it might make it slightly harder to do so… I’m sure there are plenty of people in the recruitment teams within Talentful that will tell you it’s definitely impacting that, but I don’t think overall it impacts on that heavily. And as I say, because we’ve had time to prepare for that, I don’t think it’s had as much of an impact as, say the current situation has where things change pretty much overnight and then it’s really a case of “Okay, how can we how can we pivot our marketing to make sure that we’re supporting Talentful in the best way?”

Carlota Pico 19:24
And by current you’re referring to COVID-19, the current situation being COVID-19, that has completely interfered with our life and our strategies literally from night to day. So…

Tom Livingstone 19:37
The situation that-must-not-be-named. I feel like… we’ve found a way of referring to it as “this current situation” or “these unprecedent times” or “the new normal” almost to avoid, as you say, saying the words COVID.

Carlota Pico 19:51
Yeah… scary times… we’re gonna have to see how the new normal is defined going forward. We are at the end of this section where we’ve been talking about marketing. Before we move on, I do want to quote the CEO of HubSpot who said the following: “What separates good content from great content is a willingness to take risks and push the envelope.” Taking it to a marketing level, what do you think separates good marketing from great marketing?

Tom Livingstone 20:26
Yeah, I think one of the things that I’ve learned definitely over the last few years of my career is that the temptation to keep making noise is always there. But that that kind of good marketing can just be things that people are posting for the sake of it, and certainly at Talentful recently, we’ve tried to focus a little bit more on the quality of what we’re saying rather than just the quantity of putting things out there over and over. And you know, that should be balanced with the consistency of making sure that people have a brand that they can engage with. I mean, if you start talking to them, and then you drop off the next day, because you’re spending so long perfecting your next columns, obviously, then they’re going to forget about you and you’re not going to be top of mind anymore. I think finding a rhythm to get into where you know what your tone of voices, you know how you can make people remember you and you know how you can do it on a consistent basis, but making sure that you’re not just putting out generic waffle for the sake of it, I think is definitely the way forward.

Carlota Pico 21:32
So creating a lasting impression?

Tom Livingstone 21:34
I think so, yeah. And I think that comes down to creativity. And I think the HubSpot CEO referencing, referencing taking risks there. I think creativity will often lead you to take risks and do something a little bit different. It doesn’t mean you have to take risks and I don’t think that needs to be interpreted as “Okay, everything we do has to be really dangerous or really out there!” There are certain brands that do that really well, BrewDog, for example, are really out there with their marketing. There are a couple of others… Oatly had a really clearly defined tone of voice. But it doesn’t mean that everyone has to take the same sort of really ballsy approach to their marketing. I think it’s more about being creative in the first place.

Carlota Pico 22:19
Right. Definitely. It’s more about testing things out… seeing how strategies… and also giving enough time for a strategy to actually work because, as I often say, “Rome wasn’t created overnight!”, and things don’t just happen overnight, either. And sometimes it takes a lot of patience to actually see if something’s going to work out according to what one wants.

Tom Livingstone 22:44
Yeah, and I think, to be quite honest, I think as marketers we quite often get bogged down in the kind of technicalities. You know, who is the exact audience? And when is this going out? What are my best times for posting? And we forget to trust our creative instincts a little bit. And I think the first marker point of are you putting out good content should be: “Am I really excited about this?” When i when i draft something I always try and make sure that I’m happy with it. Because I think sometimes we ignore that. And then we see, have we ticked all the other boxes? You know, is it going at the right time? Yes. Is it going to the right audience? Technically, yes. So, technically, I can’t fault it. But there’s just something not quite right that I can’t put my finger on. I think if you have that feeling, then that should be your first marker point, really.

Carlota Pico 23:29
Yeah. It’s like the feeling of an entrepreneur, right? When they’re launching a new idea, and they just have that excitement boiling inside them, but they don’t really know if it’s going to work or not. And so it’s about testing it out and making sure that you’re ticking off the right boxes. But beyond that, that it also is very exciting and that you feel very positive that it’s going to make other people feel as excited as you’re feeling at that very moment.

Tom Livingstone 23:54
Exactly. And I think in marketing as a field, there’s a lot of imposter syndrome because we have a lot of soft skills that take time to build. And they’re not necessarily as easily demonstrable, worse as some other skills in other fields. So we don’t necessarily believe in ourselves. But I think in the situations we’re putting copy out that feeling comes from the creative instincts that are built over time. You know, you don’t just wake up with creative instincts. I think, through years of working in marketing and understanding what works and what doesn’t… understanding different audiences… you hone those instincts. And so if you have a feeling about something, it’s probably coming from, from somewhere good.

Carlota Pico 24:33
Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. Well, we are moving towards the last section of our interview today, which is a set of rapid fire questions. To get the section started off, I’d like to ask you for an app or tool that you can’t work without or that you can’t live without, because that’s completely valid as well.

Tom Livingstone 24:52
So I will, I’ll give you three here, actually, three for the price of one! So right now, it’s Slack. I feel like I have to say Slack because now that we’re all working remotely, we have to be in touch with each other constantly… so how could we live without something like Slack? So Slack is one of them. Grammarly is another one that I use. So I really believe in the power of good language. And I think I’m quite good with language but there’s always there’s always things that can slip through the net. So it’s good to have a little grammar checker like Grammarly installed on things. That’s another one. And another one is Adobe Spark. We have quite a lean, small team. And we don’t have a lot of design resources in house and Adobe released a program called Spark which some people may know, some may not, but it is basically like a Photoshop for dummies and it helps you put together designs really easily. And someone like myself who doesn’t actually have any design training can actually use it and make templates, so, it’s a godsend.

Carlota Pico 25:57
That’s a very good tip! I didn’t know that that existed. I tend to use Canva for all of my design work, which I’m assuming is similar to Adobe Spark as well.

Tom Livingstone 26:09
Yeah, Spark has saved my life.

Carlota Pico 26:12
So, what about a marketing influencer in Europe that you follow and that inspires you?

Tom Livingstone 26:21
So I follow a guy called Steven Bartlett, who a lot of people might have heard of. He’s the founder of the agency Social Chain, and particularly on LinkedIn, he’s very vocal… posts quite consistently…and has a lot of really interesting things to share. So I’d recommend him.

Carlota Pico 26:39
Okay, excellent. And the last question of today’s interview will be a valuable European group, or event, that you feel provides you with a lot of good information but also a good return on investment.

Tom Livingstone 26:55
Yeah, yes…so a couple of…I think they’re quite UK based ones here. I went to an event not so long ago, back when we could go to events, called One Question of which was that there was one question that was consistently asked to various different fields. So the question for that one was: Does purpose drive profit? Which I think is really interesting question. And they asked it to various different fields, so experts in marketing, experts in media, political experts, various different… I think they even had someone from the it’s really nice to get different kind of perspectives on the same question. So I thought that was a good format. And then there’s another one quite small event currently think but it’s called Inspired. And they run some really interesting workshops and talks…they invited me along to, to one of their marketing events. And so I thought that was really good.

Carlota Pico 27:50
Awesome. So…does purpose drive profits?

Tom Livingstone 27:55
The answer was mixed.

Carlota Pico 27:57

Tom Livingstone 27:58
It was a really… it was a really interesting one. But I think the answer is if as a company, you have a very strong purpose already, then great, that’s going to integrate into everything you do. But the real danger is if you don’t have a really clearly defined purpose⁠—and by purpose, we’re talking about something good, you know, you stand for sustainability…stand for…you might be a charity, whatever, whatever else it is. If you don’t have one, then shoehorning a purpose in afterwards because you think it might be good for your profit is probably not a good idea.

Carlota Pico 28:33
Okay. And could you remind me what that event is called?

Tom Livingstone 28:38
That’s One Question.

Carlota Pico 28:39
One Question. Okay. For all the people that are tuning in to our podcast today. That’s One Question and Insights…or Inspire?

Tom Livingstone 28:48
Inspired Business Media, I think it is.

Carlota Pico 28:51
Okay. Wonderful. Well, thank you so much, Tom, for joining us today on The Content Mix. You provided great insights, very valuable tips, and I thoroughly enjoyed our interview.

Tom Livingstone 29:03
Thank you for having me. I’ve enjoyed it too.

Carlota Pico 29:05
Awesome. I’m hoping that perhaps we’ll have a follow up interview sometime in the near future, and we can keep on talking about purpose, because that’s a topic that I’m sure that our listeners would love to learn more about.

Tom Livingstone 29:17
Let’s do it!

Carlota Pico 29:18
And for everybody listening in today, thank you so much for joining us on The Content Mix. For more perspectives on the content marketing industry in Europe, check out wwwThe Content We’ll be publishing interviews just like this one every week, so keep on tuning in. And until next time, stay well and stay safe. Bye!

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