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Future Market Leader Interview - 5 minutes with...

Sharrie Anderson

Internal Communications & Engagement Manager at Mace

Creativebrief: How has your career path led you to marketing at Mace?

Sharrie Anderson: Seven years ago this July my current employer, Mace - an international construction and consultancy company, took a chance on me and despite having no relevant marketing or construction experience they gave me a job. This meant that early on I had a lot to prove. I joined when the team was quite small which gave me the chance to say yes to every opportunity, learn from my colleagues, ask questions, build my network, grow my portfolio and prove I deserved the chance they once gave me.

I realised quite quickly that I loved it and I worked my way up to marketing manager, responsible for developing and delivering Mace’s public sector marketing strategy. Whilst I enjoyed the work, I knew there was something missing for me…

Queue The Marketing Academy which in just 11 months, three weeks and two days changed everything about my career when they dared me to start thinking about my purpose. The idea of purpose is scary but I decided to use the programme as a great opportunity to start to explore what it might mean for me. I realised that to start, I needed to be very curious and begin saying yes to things I wouldn’t normally have said yes to (both in and out of work). And the most wonderful thing happened. I stumbled upon a piece of work that gave me an incredible buzz – an energy that I’d never experienced before. Working on Mace’s mental health awareness week communications gave me energy instead of taking it away and left me feeling exhilarated.

In 2009 I was diagnosed with clinical depression following a very long depressive episode. I found it difficult to motivate myself to get out of bed. I was exhausted every day. I couldn’t concentrate. I didn’t want to go out and see my friends. I went to a very dark place. Despite getting better at the time, I have still suffered with several depressive episodes since.  I told no one.  Eventually, through counselling and CBT I was able to get myself back on track by reframing my thoughts, spotting my own triggers, signs and symptoms and knowing my own remedies. Essentially, I was able to spend time working on my own resilience and I am now much more mentally strong. I am now able to spot and stop depressive episodes in their tracks and I realise how important mental health is.

Reflecting on this, I realised that the work I was doing on Mental Health Awareness Week combined my passion for people, marketing and most importantly was motivated my own personal experience. I realised I had an opportunity to make a difference in a space I was passionate about. An opportunity to improve people’s lives even if by the tiniest bit. I believed it was then that I found my purpose. The next few months was a whirlwind as I explored the idea of pushing my career in the direction of marketing, health and wellbeing. I had some fantastic support from my boss, director and mentors who all gave me the time, space and inspiration to explore my ideas. The best thing about finding out your purpose is that when you tell people about it, you can speak about it with such passion, authenticity and fire that people want to help you.

A few months later and I had written a business case to change my role to internal communications and engagement manager with a special focus on wellbeing - which is now my current role. In collaboration with the health and safety team I am responsible for delivering Mace’s first ever health and wellbeing strategy which aims to engage and retain Mace’s best talent. 

Creativebrief: Why did you choose a career in marketing?

Sharrie Anderson: I’m a psychology graduate so as you can imagine, I learnt a lot about people and what makes them tick. Pretty early on I realised I loved finding out as much as I could about people – why we do what we do, how we think, act and feel and how the actions of others can affect us. I was also a pretty keen art buff and very nearly went to Art College instead of university. And when I say keen, I mean very keen... If you think people’s Tupperware cupboards are explosive you should see my craft cupboard!

I made a wicked calculation in my head combining my passion for people and art and deciding to pursue a career in marketing.

Creativebrief: What do you think are the main challenges facing marketers today?

Sharrie Anderson: From an internal communications and engagement perspective, I think it’s about cutting through the noise and figuring out how you give campaigns the edge so that employees stop and take notice but without continuously saturating the channels. Internally we are so limited with channels we have so it’s all about how we use them most effectively and in what combination. We are constantly trying to find new and engaging ways to reach our employees.

Creativebrief: How do you keep up with constant stream of innovation in marketing comms?

Sharrie Anderson: I read. I’ve subscribed to lots of different blogs, magazines and industry press. I mark out an hour each morning in my diary to sit down with my breakfast at my desk, drink my tea and read through all the interesting snippets I may have flagged throughout the day before. Realistically, this only happens about twice a week but I still think it’s a great investment of my time.

I also try to attend industry events so that I can find out what others are doing well, what challenges they may have faced and then I try and bring these insights back into Mace. 

Creativebrief: Can you tell us about Mace’s Women of the Future programme?

Sharrie Anderson: At Mace, diversity and inclusion is important. Especially within the construction industry which is a very heavily male dominated environment. Mace recognises that an inclusive business will ensure everyone can give their best. The yearlong programme was a great platform to collaborate with other women across the business to bring innovative and creative solutions to the attention of the Group Board. It also allowed a huge amount of self-development because the programme partners with WISE and Everywoman who both provide lots of tools and resources to help you to be your best. We were also lucky to receive great presentations from clients, industry leaders and inspiring individuals who came to talk to us about their own career journeys. 

Creativebrief: Of your recent work, what makes you particularly proud and why?

Sharrie Anderson: On a professional level this would have to be the business case I put together to campaign for my role change. With the inspiration of my new wellbeing network I was able to interrogate company data and prove not just a morale case but also a robust business case for starting to look at employee engagement and wellbeing.

On a personal note, I am currently using my spare time to try and progress a digital campaign targeted at young people which aims to break down the stigma surrounding ill mental health. I want the campaign to also promote the importance of mental resilience and the steps that young people can take to prevent mental ill-health. I want younger generations to grow up empowered to talk about how they are feeling without fear of judgement or stigma and know where and how to get help when they need it. I already have some great partners involved in the campaign but am now on the lookout for a young person’s brand and a media partner to progress the campaign onto the next stage. 

Creativebrief: How do you think marketers can raise the profile of marketing within their organisations?

Sharrie Anderson: I think it all starts with leadership. If you have a great leader that inspires a real vision in the team, a vision that clearly and resolutely underpins the business objectives you are onto a winner. I’m very lucky to have a director that has worked hard to position herself as a trusted advisor to the board. This means that she is in the board room during decision time and is instrumental in deciding what’s next for targeting our clients. She also empowers each of us to bring our own ideas to the table and recognises that we each can have a unique and powerful perspective on new ways of doing things. This means that the team is incredibly motivated to do good work. In return, good work keeps us well positioned within the business. 

Creativebrief: Do you see yourself as a generalist or a specialist, does it matter?

Sharrie Anderson: I would say that now I am a specialist. I find ways to creatively communicate with employees about their own health and wellbeing with the aim of making them "feel just a little bit more ‘yay!" I think that’s pretty specific. However I started out as a generalist and I think that is incredibly important. I think to be a great marketer you need to have at least had a go at doing lots of different things so that you can understand how things work better. It also allows you to figure out what you enjoy the most! 

About the author

Ben Somerset-How, Client Director

Ben heads-up the brand focused business development team which sees him dedicate time to engaging both new and existing clients of Creativebrief. He is also the driving force behind our Market Leader Interview series and regularly guest-lectures at a variety of university marketing & management courses.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/ben-somerset-how-2a3697a