With the lead up to B&T’s Women in Media, here we have a chat with Lauren Quaintance, head of content at Storyation and regular B&T contributor, about the state of media, what drives her, and why she refuses to eat Thai for lunch…
Describe your average day?
Everyone says there’s no such thing as an average day in these Q&As but truthfully I wouldn’t be doing this job if there was. As the co-owner of a fast-growing content agency it’s generally a mix of client meetings, finance meetings and – the best bit – meetings about upcoming projects with my team of editors, designers and video producers. Oh and a bit of travel to see clients in New Zealand, Melbourne and Brisbane which means too much time in airless planes and cabs.
What’s the most challenging thing about your job?
Getting every stakeholder in a big company on board with the idea that content marketing isn’t a hard sell. Usually the client knows that to really connect with an audience content must entertain, inform or inspire – and that it is a longer term play – but there’s often a colleague waiting in the wings who insists on a product or a price point included.
What drives you?
A Protestant work ethic (without the thriftiness)
What’s the hardest brief you’ve ever received or hardest job to execute?
Before Storyation, I was general manager of Travel at Fairfax Media we were asked by Tourism Australia to help sell Australian travel to Australians at a time when the dollar was at a record high, low cost carriers were entering the market and consumers were looking for more exotic experiences that offered social braggability. Tough gig. “Places in the Heart” saw well-known Australians sharing a photo from their family holiday album and sharing intimate memories of a place in Australia that was meaningful for them. It was so popular with the Fairfax audience (and the client) it ended up running for the best part of a year.
What has been your favourite job in media and why?
I was always a bit addicted to magazine launches when I was managing editor of Fairfax Magazines. There’s nothing quite like creating something from nothing on a deadline.
What’s your quirkiest attribute?
I refuse to eat Thai food before 6pm (Japanese and Cantonese are fine though. Go figure.)
One thing no one knows about you?
I can take shorthand notes at 100 words a minute. I would have fitted right in as a secretary on Mad Men.
What are advertising/marketing’s biggest challenges?
Attracting (and keeping) attention in a distracted world. It’s as simple as that.
What do you think are the most exciting things in the marketing and creative world at the moment?
The opportunity to bring objectivity and creativity together. To use data to inform ideas (but equally we shouldn’t let data stifle creativity.)
Hardest lesson you’ve had to learn (in or out of workforce)?
To accept that sometimes good enough is enough. Perfectionism is a female disease.
What’s your favourite TV programme?
I’ve watched all six seasons of The Sopranos three times which adds up to 258 hours of television viewing so I guess that has to be a contender.
What profession would you not like to do?
So many. I often look at the security guard who does an eight hour shift amidst the fumes on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and think that doesn’t look much fun.
Have you ever felt like giving up?
I’ve felt like giving up on this questionnaire a few times.
What are the pearls of wisdom you know now, that you wish you knew when they were younger?
I don’t wish I knew anything more than I did. The joy of youth is unalloyed self belief. Everything seems obvious when you are young but things get murkier as you age.
What or who inspired you to go into this industry?
My business partner Mimi Cullen and I worked together at Fairfax and we knew that brands needed help to make good on the claim that they were going to become publishers. That knowledge helped inspire me to make the move from media to marketing.
What has been your biggest career achievement to date?
Winning a global award for our work for Tourism New Zealand at the world’s biggest content marketing awards show earlier this year.
If you weren’t doing this particular job, what would you be doing?
I’d be a travel writer. Although I actually still do that – I write for Qantas magazine in my spare time. The best airline magazine on the planet.
If you could change anything about the industry what would it be?
That it wasn’t called content marketing. Content is an awful, generic word that means a lot of different things to different people.
What are your passions both in work and outside of it?
At work my passion is – and always has been – finding a great yarn that moves the audience in some way. At home it’s two small humans called Bella and Hunter.
How do you define leadership?
Hiring good people and then trusting them to do their best work.
What makes you tick?
It would probably take many hours of therapy to answer that question.
How do you get others onboard with your vision?
By being as open and honest as possible. We also give all our staff free coffee – that helps.
What are the qualities you seek in people you want to partner with and work with?
Open mindedness. I figure I’m being paid to give clients my honest opinion. If they wanted someone to agree with them all the time they wouldn’t have hired us.
Who’s your industry hero and why?
I’m a big fan of Shane Snow of Contently in the US. Like me he’s a journalist (we both went to Columbia University Journalism School in New York) and he’s built a great start-up whilst maintaining a career as a writer. That’s no mean feat.