My Digital Shed

Lisa McLaughlin
Jun 5, 2017 · 4 min read

My career began in London marketing agencies in the 90s. I enjoyed the fast paced and exhilarating agency life, managing teams to deliver creative and challenging campaigns for major retailers and some of the most exciting youth brands.

Fast forward 10 years and I left London to start a new life in the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside with my husband. Cue Abi, our amazing, funny and always dancing daughter.

Whilst ‘taking time out’ to be a mum, I launched an antique and interiors retail business. Always up for a challenge, it had been a dream of mine and being my own boss allowed flexibility.

Like most, I hadn’t seen the recession coming. Managing a retail business in a challenging economic climate meant that I had to keep the business lean and the hours were long. It became impossible to juggle. I know there are many working mums who will get it when I say I felt like I wasn’t doing anything well.

I decided to go back to my roots and accepted a part time consultancy contract with a fabulous organic baby food brand, with responsibility for product packaging. It was here, working within the marketing team for the next 3 years, that I realized just how quickly the marketing landscape had changed.

To put things into perspective; when I had left the London agency we had just launched a fledgling ‘New Media’ department, Google wasn’t a verb and most of the social activity on line was still in AOL chat rooms. Facebook was a mere twinkle in Mark Zuckerberg’s eye and there was no such thing as a smart phone.

Whilst scanning LinkedIn for the next opportunity, I stumbled across the Digital Mums Strategic Social Media Marketing training programme. I was keen to update my skills and had looked into digital & social media courses before. Digital Mums was different, you are placed with a business or Programme Partner and run a live campaign as part of the training. This was learning whilst on the job — as a kinesthetic learner, this appealed.

I was offered a place and as luck would have it, simultaneously secured a part time consultancy role with the inspiring Clear Sky Children’s Charity, who ultimately became my Digital Mums Programme Partner.

I felt excited and apprehensive. I was not ‘technically minded’ and whilst I’d used Facebook for a few years, I had only just started to dabble on Instagram and Twitter. My 12 year-old daughter had a better grasp than I did.

The training takes place on line and is broken down into lessons and video tutorials, weekly assignments, peer group ‘hangouts’ and weekly interactive sessions with your Programme Partner. Thanks to the Digital Mums Google+ community and the course tutors you are never alone with your queries and feel supported.

It wasn’t easy, but my new girl cave at the bottom of our garden became a digital haven where I could immerse myself in the course. At times I wondered if I’d bitten off more than I could chew as I juggled lessons, assignments, a live campaign, family and a brand new job. But I got such a buzz from the training. I was relieved to find that much of my marketing expertise was still relevant, whilst learning many new skills; from creating user personas and identifying influencers to coming up with a hook and creating a social media campaign and content strategy from scratch. Not to mention getting to grips with analytics, setting KPIs and navigating numerous new apps and tools. I surprised myself (and everyone else).

From the start of the training you have weekly Google hangouts with your Peer Group. We were a real mix of personalities, at varying stages of our career and with a different story to tell but for me, the unfaltering friendship and support from this amazing group was one of the things I loved and appreciated most about the course. We set up a WhatsApp group and talked daily, whether to fire off questions, offer advice and support or to just let off steam and have a giggle. The training gets pretty hairy at times, particularly as your campaign goes live, so this support network is invaluable.

The course was full of highs; the evening spent across two twitter chats simultaneously, the tweet that went viral and achieved weekly KPI targets in under 5 minutes and the influencer engagement that lead to my CEO delivering a talk at a key event. Not to mention, hitting all those KPIs and the hugely positive feedback from Clear Sky. In fact, so positive that I have been asked to continue running their social media and to help them take it to the next level.

It has been an amazing year so far. I can’t believe how much I have learnt, not only about social media, or children’s mental health (you read a lot of articles in your search for great content) but also about myself. I’ve made great friends, created wonderful memories, challenged myself to the nth degree and now I can’t wait to see what the future holds with Clear Sky Children’s Charity.

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