Be Inspired Series
Director of marketing and communications
The MAC, Belfast
What does your role involve?
I once read that to be successful in marketing you had to be comfortable with both the art and science of your role. I think that this sums it up really well. My role involves a lot of creativity in terms of generating campaign ideas, brand management, copyrighting and organising events as well as a lot of research and analysis into market trends and consumer behaviours. To succeed it’s important to have the combination of both.
The MAC is an artistically-led but audience-focused organisation and my primary responsibility is to attract and develop our audience.
How did you get into the position in the first place?
I’d worked in both the private and the charitable sector before starting in OMAC in 2003 as marketing manager. In 2006 I took up the post of deputy director with responsibility for programming live events and then in 2009 I was appointed to my current position as director of marketing and communications.
Did you always want to work in this sector in some capacity?
I’ve always had an interest in the arts, though as an audience member rather than a performer. I consider myself really privileged to combine my interest in the arts with my professional passion. The growth in the creative industries sector, especially film and theatre, means there are many more opportunities for those in art, theatre and dance, film, set-design than ever before. At The MAC we plan to nourish and develop this talent further so that Belfast becomes a global beacon for creativity.
What training or previous experience do you have that has helped you in your current role?
My degree (English Literature) and Masters (Communications, Advertising & Public Relations) have been invaluable for my current role. I have also had access to some really great training through my membership of the Arts Marketing Association. In 2010 I was the only successful applicant from Northern Ireland to win a place on the inaugural AMA retreat - this was a week-long residential developed for established senior marketers responsible for leading strategic direction for their organisation or team. I was able to augment existing, high-level marketing and audience development skills, with business planning, organisational development, leadership, and entrepreneurial skills. Things change and move quickly in marketing and communications and it’s vital to keep up with current trends.
What is your organisation's role in the local community?
The MAC has built and developed strong relationships with our local community and the communities across Northern Ireland. We have a dedicated Learning & Participation programme which works with a range of community partners as well as primary and secondary schools across Northern Ireland. .
The MAC building contains a number of spaces and areas for the professional arts sector as well as community groups and young people who want to kick back and get creative.
One of the projects that we are working on at the moment is the Masterpiece for The MAC which is an art competition for primary school. Last year we had over 900 entries and this year all entries are judged by a panel of experts including leading international artist Neil Shawcross.
In the summer we also launched the first ever art competition for MLAs which saw 44 entries from 36 MLAs. An important aspect of everything we do is imparting an understanding that arts and culture belongs to everyone and the talent on display at Parliament Buildings bore testament to that.
And how does your role fit in as part of this?
As director of marketing and communications my role is to ensure communities right across Northern Ireland are fully aware of what’s on offer and what’s in store. The MAC will have something for all tastes and my job is to make sure everyone knows about it.
What sort of personality and qualities do you need to do your job successfully?
You need to keep a level head, work hard and be flight of foot. My job means reaching and working with artists and audiences and I have full respect for both in equal measure. It’s also important to be open and honest – any projects that I’ve worked on which are successful have always involved good communication and respect. It’s critical to make sure everyone is focussed on driving the project forward – if everyone is focussed on the same goals then things work well.
What are the biggest rewards of the job? And the biggest challenges?
Seeing the development of the design and construction of Belfast’s newest, and most vibrant arts and cultural icon has been hugely rewarding for me and all of the team at The MAC. Bringing the vision of The MAC to fruition has been a long process, especially given we’re in the middle of the most financially challenging times of our generation. In addition, ensuring that our programme is exciting, engaging and reaches as wide an audience as possible is both rewarding and challenging.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
Always be positive
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to do the same job?
You have to be prepared to get as much experience as possible. This sector is hugely competitive when you’re starting out. What I’d say to anyone reading this and wanting to get into the arts is that there are plenty of young companies who would be dying for someone to give them a hand.
What do you enjoy doing outside work?
I have recently taken up running, which is strangely addictive.