Face To Face With The Head of Digital

Introducing Alexandra Coutts, our Head of Digital. Let’s find out some more about her job, how she got here and her likes and dislikes as a digital marketer and manager.

Alexander Coutts
Alexandra Coutts – ThoughtShift’s Head of Digital

1. Please describe your job: What do you do?

Hmmm, that’s a long one! As Head of Digital I wear several hats. My primary function within the business is to make sure that the team at ThoughtShift are delivering the best possible service to all of our clients. I am responsible for making sure that as there are changes within the digital marketing industry we make the necessary changes to the way that we work so that we are always delivering our services to Best Practice standards and staying on Google (and Bing and Facebook’s) good side! I also:

  • Support the team in delivering digital marketing strategies across a range of clients
  • Line Manage key team members
  • Run key account digital marketing campaigns
  • Create and train digital marketing processes
  • Am a member of the Strategy Team who support our Owners in running the business

2. What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?

In my current role the essential skills are:

  • Being organised
  • Being a clear communicator
  • Being able to quickly interpret information and make decisions
  • Being a calm and effective problem solver
  • Understanding broadly how businesses operate and then being able to quite quickly deduce how a particular business that I am working with operates
  • Understanding people/audiences; what motivates them to make different decisions
  • Digital marketing broadly

3. How did you get where you are today?

I started my career as a Sales and Marketing Intern 3 days per week at another digital marketing agency in Brighton. Over a 3-month internship I learned some basic marketing principles and supported in lead generation, lead management and other sales support. At the end of the 3 months I was hired as a Sales Coordinator and built upon the work that I had completed in my internship.

Over time I gained the opportunity to move into the digital marketing production team. My first role was… (quickly checking LinkedIn) as a Digital Marketing Trainee. After 3 months of learning all about Search Engine Optimisation and honing my content skills I was promoted to Digital Marketing Consultant and began running SEO and Social Media Marketing campaigns for clients as well as delivering SEO work across a number of big clients for the agency. 3 months on I was promoted again, to Senior Digital Marketing Consultant. In this role I was given larger client campaigns to manage which involved building relationships with client contacts, understanding their digital marketing priorities, creating digital marketing strategies to deliver against those priorities and deliver a range of digital marketing work.

After about 6 months I moved on for a brief stint client-side as an SEO Project Manager for a large Travel company in their new eCommerce division. I supported Senior team members in the creation of SEO processes for the planning, management and implementation of SEO work on internal client brands. I also led a big project rolling-out the adoption of a digital marketing monitoring and reporting tool across brands in the UK, Europe and the USA. This was a new challenge for me and I had to work hard on understanding the tool, assessing the levels of knowledge of the people I was training and guiding them on how to best use the tool. I created guides and ran web-ex training sessions which was very nerve wracking at first!

After only 6 months the founders of ThoughtShift; AJ and Helen, approached me about joining their growing agency and I couldn’t wait to get involved. I had worked with them both at my first agency and learned a great deal from them, so knew it would be great to work with them again. I started at ThoughtShift in September 2011 as a Digital Marketing Architect, the very first one in fact! I spent 3 and a half years working as a Digital Marketing Architect in a growing agency, frankly doing what needed to be done. I ran digital marketing campaigns, I created processes and trained them, I updated processes (a lot), I recruited new team members and trained them up, I took on line management responsibility, I supported more junior team members in delivering their client campaigns, built Ikea desks when we moved offices and whatever else needed to be done that I can’t remember!

AJ and Helen generously recognised my level of contribution to the business in 2015, promoting me to my current role of Head of Digital and giving me more goals and responsibilities at the same time!

Phew, so I got here by learning my trade, working hard and making myself indispensable to my bosses

4. What do you love about your job? What sucks?

I really do love digital marketing. I love being creative with my words, I love analysing competitors and finding juicy opportunities and as a starter-finisher I absolutely love completing a piece of work and knowing that it is great! The best thing about working agency-side (in my opinion) is the variety, you can be working on a Solicitor’s digital marketing campaign in the morning and a interiors online store in the afternoon. I also love collaborating with my colleagues in the broader team on digital marketing campaigns and with the Strategy Team on handling more challenging situations. I think the most rewarding aspect of my Head of Digital role is the opportunities to support team members in overcoming challenges. I love problem solving but helping others to see their way through a challenge and come out the other side is fantastic.

I think the most frustrating thing about my job is that there is often not enough time for me to do the things that I love because I am being pulled in multiple directions with all the hats I have to wear (see Q1!).

5. What kind of goals do you have? How do you measure your success?

Within my role I do set goals on a 6 monthly basis but they tend to be more of a To-Do list. Things that I know will be valuable to the business but the impact of them is not clearly measurable. For example, in my current 6 month plan I still need to review all the new Paid Social work templates. This will increase the quality of documentation we provide to clients which should help make them happy.

6. What are you favourite tools to help you get the job done?

Supporting image - a pen on a pad
Photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

My day-per-page diary is very important to me. Admittedly not as important as it is to Christina! But I plan my week every Monday and I would struggle to cope with all the things I have to handle without it. Other than that, our time management system Intervals is pretty good.

7. Do you have any advice for people who want to work for a Digital Marketing agency?

If you are looking to start your career in digital marketing, then I strongly recommend starting-out agency side. It is a very different pace and working-style to being an in-house digital marketer. You will learn a great deal in your first 6-12 months as the agency will want to get your skills to a good standard as quickly as possible. You will also be surrounded by experts working within their field of digital marketing every day. In my experience from recruiting a fair few people over the years people who start out in-house struggle to adjust to the much faster pace agency-side. Whereas you can easily move the other way.

If you are looking to move from in-house to agency side then I suggest that you look at a project you are delivering in your current role. Break it into multiple tasks which could be; content research, competitor analysis, content briefing, content creation and publication for example. How long do you spend on each of those tasks? Time yourself and make a note. If the pressure of timing yourself is unpalatable to you then agency life may not be for you.

8. What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

My mum always said (and still does) “the harder you work, the luckier you will get”.

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