Shaping the Future of Women in Business | A Q&A with Amy Thomson
Amy Thomson founded SEEN, now a global marketing agency working with brands such as Nike Microsoft and RBS. Amy is also the co-founder of a business school for future female leaders called Future Girl Corp, which has a simple mission to inspire the new generation of female leaders. We spoke to Amy to find out more.
You say that SEEN was set up in response to a gap in the market – what was the gap, and how did SEEN meet the needs of this new market?
We founded the agency around six years ago. Essentially I had been running the PR department at another agency. Social media was becoming more relevant to brands, and most brands were creating events and experiences just to drive PR. We realised that there was a huge gap to create events and experiences that create user-generated content, where audiences would engage with the brand and create their own content. This would get a good reach and really drive authentic engagement through social platforms.
The gap was really around creating content rather than events, but using events as a content platform. One our first clients was HBO, and we went from a UK base to pan-European, and then global. It was a very exciting time.
You speak to audiences about the practical tips to set up businesses, beyond just the idea – what sort of ideas do you think someone with a great idea needs to take into account when setting up their own company?
The biggest thing to understand is that, if you have a service-based business, your company is reliant on both people and you as an individual. More often than not, when people start agencies, they are doing that because they already have a great relationship with clients and people that they have worked with, and it’s all focussed on them as an individual.
What we did at SEEN, from an event proposition point of view, really focusses on using the science. We look at different ways in which people engage, we examine the data, and we always think about how we are driving value and a product from anything that we are producing so that we can always deliver. This means that, as you scale the business, you can always deliver against what you say you are going to deliver against, rather than being all ‘jazz hands about the idea’’ and then not being able to monetize it.
You also need to think about your investment strategy. Rather than just ‘we want to work with the coolest biggest brands in the world’, you need to think about how you will actually drive a return on investment for those brands as well. You need to show your value to them.
And can you tell us a little about Future Girl Corp?
I founded the agency 6 years ago, and I was probably younger than most - I look like a child! I was aware of the fact that I was a woman, but was not really aware of the issues that women were facing because the creative industry, specifically within the UK, is quite well-populated with women. There are some really inspirational women that I have been exposed to. My first boss was a woman, so I’d never been exposed to this huge divide from a leadership perspective, particularly in other industries.
I heard this statistic which was really shocking to me, as I had been more focused on trying to look a bit older, and not focus on the fact that I was a woman! 4.4% of CEO positions are held by women in 2016! My peers, my colleagues and I realised that rather than going into organisations and trying to say ‘Give women senior jobs’, we need to start at the bottom.
We need to think about the girls that are graduating and the girls that are in junior jobs. How can we get them to be future leaders? Because the worst thing you can do with issues of authority is to just become a quota system. This will skew perception and essentially you end up with bias, which isn’t the right way to make change.
We decided to set up FutureGirlCorp, which is essentially a business school for girls and is based around using peer-to-peer and senior women who have done really amazing inspirational things. We create talks, workshops, and events which people can view online for free in order to see what can be learnt from these women, and that applies to both start-ups and large organisations.
We launched last year in October with a small starter event which was sponsored by Johnny Walker. We just wanted to test the market and to see whether we could get a brand involved and whether there was an appetite for it.
We’ve now built the social to 3000 and developed a clear business model around how this free school could operate. Our relationship with brands is really strong so we are looking to collaborate with brands to fund the organisation so that all the content is free.
It isn’t about filling quotas. It's about trying to change the perception of what girls feel about themselves and how they can achieve within their careers. We’ve all heard of things like imposter syndrome, lean in etc., - all the things that say 'Should I be doing this'. There’s the emotional and psychological side - we are looking to change what girls think about themselves.
One of your areas of expertise is predicting trends – so what do you think event organisers need to be doing to predict trends in events?
Look at youth culture and subculture. What are people consuming at and engaging in? Look at new agendas and start to create! The point of events is that you’re driving talkability; you’re driving experience which profiles a product, a proposition or even a message. If you can create a profile of the type of audience that you want to engage with by looking at what they’re reading and what they’re listening to, then you can build experiences and brand perspective around their consumption. You can then start to engage with a really clear audience-first approach. That’s how you predict and also engage with an audience on a much deeper level. It’s all about audience profile.
That’s how you predict and also engage with an audience on a much deeper level. It’s all about audience profile.
And lastly, what’s next for you?
FurtureGirlCorp is not just a content platform; it’s a series of events.
We launched last year, so this year we have month-to-month mini events and a big summit event in November – we are taking over Kings Cross and we’re turning it into a knowledge campus! We will host workshops and seminars and build the content for 2018, and then we'll take it, not just to London, but to pan-European and global levels.
We can now create our own events. FutureGirl is definitely going to the next phase!
For further information call us on +44 (0)20 7607 7070 or email email@example.com.
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