Hello Yolanda, please tell us about your journey from being a Political journalist at Diario El Universal to becoming the Head of Digital Engagement, Ocado Group, and how did you navigate from Journalism to Corporate Communications?
A rollercoaster! For better or worse, I started to work as a journalist at a very young age. The timing could not have been more perfect for a budding and keen reporter, as Venezuela was at the doors of a very turbulent period: coups, a deposed president judged and sentenced for corruption, large-scale economic crisis, social unrest, multiple elections, you name it. No wonder I was exhausted after a few years and looking to move into Academia – so I won a scholarship and came to the UK.
As luck would have it, I landed a job at the BBC World Service with the Spanish section, one of the first to explore digital in earnest. One thing of big organizations like the BBC is the opportunity to move horizontally and try your hand at many different jobs, picking up skills by the bucketful. After a few years, I had been a radio producer and presenter, online writer, reporter, international correspondent, digital video producer desk editor, planning editor, social media editor. Leading onto a job as a digital consultant for all 41 languages and Head of Social Media.
At that point, I felt that I had done everything that I ever wanted to do in journalism, bar getting a piece commissioned on the circus so that I could spend a month learning the trapeze (I tried – not given up just yet).
I think the planning stage is crucial for this. We have a framework that we call PAVE that is crucial to our commissioning process, be it for individual pieces or entire campaigns. It stands for Purpose, Audience, Value, and Execution and seeks to marry what you want to convey as a business with what the intended recipient may find valuable via understanding the needs of the audience.
By following that framework, we make sure we identify the key elements. Based on PAVE, we may not need a fancy campaign, costing a lot of money. But if we do, we have a solid foundation to justify and argue for it. As you can see, “Execution” only comes after we have figured out “pav”.
Oh, you have just caught the fiercely independent person, the inevitably curious, the outgoing, and the introvert in me fighting off this question amongst themselves. I do like to get to know people – I enjoy working closely at a very human level with my colleagues. But at the same time, I hate crowding anyone, as I hate being crowded myself. I think there are things that I consider more important, more specifically mutual trust. For that, I offer an unequivocal deal: what you see is what you get, and what you get is straight and to the point. And has the best interest of the business and the team at heart.
First, overcoming impostor syndrome. After all, I made a big jump. Secondly, navigating a completely different world and learning the subtleties of its unspoken rules. I think I have now accepted that I will probably be an outsider for a long time, which is ok, so I just need to be mindful of that. Thirdly, breaking up the actual task in my hands, which is big, complex, and requires significant support.
Honestly, I think it is about going back to basics. Such questions often seem conducive to “let’s use VR” or “making automation work”, as people tend to focus on the latest trend, the latest tech, the latest gadget. The clue is right there: it is about connecting with potential customers, aka real people, who need to be at the center of any optimization effort—telling them a better story, connecting with their experience better, solving their problem. That is the optimization needed at this point, first and foremost.
The ones that focused on the above. The email from the CEO of a small gloves company saying that he was keeping prices down despite pressures. The donuts chain that offered free products to those who would take a vaccine. Positioning your brand as genuinely existing on planet Earth, and figuring out how they could be helpful, is something that proved positive. I think the time when the purpose of a company was “to make money” is well and truly gone. The problem is, that does not equate to virtual signaling. Soul searching needs to be deep and authentic.
Enjoy it. Life is too short ☺
Uzma Abdulla is an Editorial & Content Coordinator for The Media Bulletin. Experienced with a demonstrated history of working in the marketing space. Skilled in strong program and project management. Master of Arts (M.A.) in Archaeology and Pursuing Post Graduate Diploma in Counselling. She likes to be on her toes when it comes to facilitating events and collaborating with people.