From advertising sales to PR to regional SaaS marketing director, find out how Samantha Marks has used story-telling throughout her career to forge empathy and action from B2B audiences.
Tell us about your role at McCorkell
As the Head of Content, APAC, I’m responsible for running three practices. The first is Strategy; working with our clients on their content readiness. This means we partner with them to consider all the operational and technical requirements involved in becoming a successful brand publisher. The second is Programmes, which covers all the content planning, production and tactics that support field marketing and sales teams. The third is Managed Services, being a force multiplier for our client teams by providing the organisational arms and legs to get large scale, long running or always on content initiatives into market, control the publishing cadences, measure, optimise and report on the performance of that content.
Content is my function, but above all I am a marketer, so I also work closely with our Account Service team in the development of overarching GTM messaging and strategies for key accounts.
What’s your story?
I’m a Political Science and Criminology major that fell in love with the newspaper business, sold Special Reports for The Australian, and accidently ended up in a boutique agency that specialised in technical writing and copy services for broadcast, manufacturing and electronics brands.
Being in your early 20’s and working with chief engineers on nitty gritty technology like process control software or test and measurement equipment meant I really needed to be able to hold my own in technical conversation or I would get hosed out of meetings pretty quickly. Being able to research esoteric topics and synthesise a lot of data to grasp the relevance of a technology to a particular process, function or business was essential.
Through this I realised I had an aptitude for making complex concepts easy to understand and a knack for identifying what a technology buyer would value, which was often different to what the vendors were pitching.
As a result, I was asked to start helping our clients write stories and press releases for the trade media. This developed into a PR division that moved the agency into servicing a range of new clients in the early days of unified communications, IT infrastructure and security. We were there helping some of the first ‘as-a-service’ providers explain their value propositions to the Australian market – it was exciting times.
Since then I’ve been a product marketer, a copywriter, a PR media liaison and a regional marketing director, moving between client side, freelance consulting and agency roles.
What excites you most about your industry?
As a Political Science major, I studied the Overton window, which basically describes the range of policies that the public will find acceptable, and how ideas that might once have been unthinkable and radical can, over time, normalise and become accepted as part of everyday life. In PR, we talk about Thought Leadership as setting an idea that is way far out at the edge of what the public can imagine and then helping to bring an acceptance of that idea into the mainstream. In technology marketing, we are part of the same process – connecting people with a vision for a future state, giving them reasons to believe that future state is desirable and possible, and leading them on a journey to discover like minded vendors, providers and experts that can bring innovation to life.
From a content perspective, I love the challenge of identifying the hidden and often unrealised real value of a brand, technology, product or service, and developing great stories that help companies communicate their core promises effectively, and that help audiences connect with that value.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
1) You will sometimes offer people caviar and find they have an appetite for dog food. This will happen often. Don’t let it deter you from encouraging their palettes to more delightful flavours.
2) You will be asked to build people a 3-legged table. You will be concerned, and note that with only 3 legs, the table will likely fall over. You’ll offer them a four legged table with a lazy susan. They’ll insist on the 3 legged version. Build it well. Build it with good grace. Then stand by with hammer and nails and tools, ready to repair it, when they return.
3) Sometimes you are going to screw up. Own it. Don’t mask. Don’t obfuscate. Take it on the chin, come ready with your thoughts on how to set things right and ask for help to make that happen.
Who inspires you?
It’s soppy but my husband is my hero. He has what I refer to as a personal ‘true north’, a kind of stillness that often comes with having strong self-esteem. He can always elicit the best from his team, is a brilliant manager of people and of situations, negotiates tough but fair and possesses incredible commercial acumen. He’s crazy with a spreadsheet but also wildly creative, he has the whole left-brain, right-brain thing going on. Above all, he is patient and kind.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I was super impressed with a presentation from Shazam recently – the technology has come an incredibly long way from being a music recognition app to being a platform for delivering immersive content experiences. There are so many ways it could be applied for B2B, I was honestly blown away that I didn’t realise how many ways we could use it. That said, I am interested to see whether Apple will foster this revenue potential or choke it, following its acquisition of Shazam. I’m hopeful for the latter, as I really think the APAC Shazam team have been forging some amazing content technology innovation.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have studied Innovation and Design Thinking.
How do you unwind?
Out of home – Hunter Valley getaways. At home, cooking, gardening, mindless games on my iPad or Netflix binging.
Everyone in business should read this book
Stark by Ben Elton or 1984 by George Orwell.