5 Minutes with Kathy Koomson

We sat down (virtually) with Kathy Koomson, Head of Brand and Marketing at Core Talent, to find out more about marketing in the world of recruitment, the changes the industry has seen over the past ten years, and what the future holds.

Hi Kathy, thanks for chatting with Colour Me Social! Tell us about your background before joining Core Talent?

I’ve been in marketing for over 20 years and just been elected as a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing. Before I joined Core Talent, I worked as a Commercial Manager and Head of Product for an English manufacturer – that role gave me an excellent insight into Engineering & Manufacturing. Before that, I was at Bank of America/MBNA for 10 years and held various positions in marketing. During my last role, I was Head of Retail Strategy and managed the Retail Strategy Team, which was financially results-driven and creative.

What prompted you to move into recruitment marketing?

Core Talent asked me to come in on a contract basis and help initially as they wanted a new website. However, the further I got into the business, it became clear that it was an exciting growing business. A new website would not do it justice, so we completely rebranded and repositioned the company with a new logo, colour palette, and imagery. We even developed our values with input from clients, candidates, and employees. I have been with Core Talent for almost five years now. Recruitment Marketing is exciting and fast-paced; you need to be creative to appeal to candidates with job opportunities, informative to clients, and persuasive to potential employees. It’s a very stimulating company to be part of.

How does Core Talent help businesses?

We’re a specialist, engineering & manufacturing, construction, and consultancy business, and now we work globally across the UK, Europe, the USA and China. Our Directors actually transitioned from engineering and purchasing into recruitment, so they worked in the industries we recruit, adding significant value to technical knowledge and ability. We’re not a generalist recruiter – we really understand our clients’ needs.

We have consultants working in very niche markets, and they get to understand the client, the candidates, and the actual market incredibly well, so we’ve got some excellent knowledge. 

We recently developed our consultancy division, Tactical Consultancy. So we offer more than a recruitment service. We can re-engineer recruitment processes, manage a temporary workforce down to the payroll, provide competitor intelligence, support social media activity all support and improve our client’s recruitment processes. So we help clients in a lot of different ways. 

What does your role entail? 

My remit is the internal and external brand. So I’m looking at anything related to communications, branding, our messages, external brand, and internally. I am also responsible for introducing new products and innovation in the business and managing performance and spend on job boards and advertising platforms. As our consultancy division grows, I support clients with their social media and marketing, which is an exciting new angle to my role.

What does an average day as Head of Brand and Marketing look like?

On a typical day for me, I’ll come in and check my emails, and then I develop social media posts. I will also review the current performance of Core Talent and our client’s social media activities. As I manage the website and job boards, I will also analyse performance and ensure the consultants are supported with any queries.

I will also produce collateral, presentations, and pitches for new clients. Or I could be briefing our creative agencies or be speaking to Phil at Colour Me Social about social media activity. I often attend various meetings with consultants or the Directors who’ve got a particular challenge or particular piece of support they need. 

So, it’s pretty well rounded – it’s not just about the marketing. It’s about supporting the business, clients, and candidates using my expertise and experience. 

How would you say recruitment differs from other industries when it comes to marketing?

With recruitment, three key audiences are always at the centre of what we do – candidates, clients and employees/ potential employees.

We moved from a candidate-rich, job-short market to a job-rich, candidate-short market, so we have to work even harder to get exactly the right people for our top jobs.

With clients – it’s about bringing new ones in and supporting the clients we have. For the other audiences, our people, it’s essential to keep them engaged and happy at work. We are on a recruitment drive and always looking for new employees. This could be experienced recruitment consultants, trainees, or graduates – we want to attract those kinds of people into the business, so we need to demonstrate what it’s like to work for us. Everything we do needs to ensure that all of those audiences are considered.

How has the role of marketing within recruitment changed in the last ten years?

Years ago, you could put a job on a job board, and you’d probably more or less fill that job from that advert. But now, it’s about a lot more than that. You can’t just put a job on a job board and think it’s gonna drive people; you have to have an online presence, offer a variety of services and have an extensive network. So it’s critical, now, I think, to have a marketer within a recruitment business to support recruitment activities and the company. So it’s a lot more popular now to find experienced marketers and agencies than ever because recruitment really does need it. 

What marketing trends can you see happening in recruitment?

LinkedIn has become more and more popular for many recruiters; I see a lot of firms invest a lot more in terms of LinkedIn. They’re also changing how they communicate on social platforms – it’s much more creative, whether it’s white papers or explainer videos. This is true of Twitter, as well, but to a lesser degree. So there’s a lot more investment going into social media now than there was before. 

Also, as we see in other industries, a lot more digital technology is coming into the recruitment market that supports consultants and candidates. Video interviews, for example, have been invaluable over the last 15 months. However, I don’t think human contact should or will ever be replaced in the processes, but there will be many more shifts in the next few years with these great new technologies being introduced.

How has Core Talent changed in the Covid-era?

It has been difficult, as it has for everyone. We had to rebuild our workforce and restructure to enhance our offering in the US and Europe. Business areas like international construction and data centre construction continued to perform really well, as mission-critical projects were still ongoing. In contrast, other markets went a lot quieter during the first lockdown. So as a business, we’ve spent the last 12 months really looking at our markets, expanding further in the areas where we see more significant growth, like E-mobility, autonomous vehicles and AI, and dealing with our usual fields of construction and manufacturing.

Finally, what is the best marketing campaign you’ve seen?

There have been so many excellent campaigns I have seen and experienced over the years. I admire the teams who have created the current public health campaigns we have all been exposed to over the last 15 months. They have had to get the information and strategy out to the whole country in a short space of time and ensure that the core message is memorable and easy to follow.

There are also two above-the-line advertising campaigns that I have always loved. The Guinness Surfer/Horses advert and the Dairy Milk Gorilla advert. The mix of cinematography, the characters, the straplines ‘good things come to those who wait’ and ‘a glass and a half full of joy’ set against the musical score all contribute to these adverts being some of the greatest and most memorable of all time.

5 Minutes with Michael Gegg

What was your background prior to South Thames Marketing?

Immediately prior to setting up South Thames Marketing, I was head of global marketing for two of Hay Group’s (a management consulting firm) four business divisions. I left Hay after four wonderful years following its acquisition by Korn Ferry. Prior to that, I was head of international marketing and events for several years at Kenexa (now part of IBM). And back in the early days, I held marketing roles at a couple of psychometric testing and recruitment firms. So, my background has always been within the professional services space.

What inspired you to set up South Thames Marketing?

As with a lot of things in life, it was circumstance! I’d left Korn Ferry and was weighing up my next move. I’d always passionately wanted to launch my own consultancy and it felt this was the right time. Three years on, I wouldn’t look back. What inspired me? Having worked my entire career in professional services, I wanted to give back; supporting firms to just get better at their marketing. Working with clients of all different sizes gives me some great diversity, but actually working with an independent consultant or a big four management consulting firm, they have similar marketing challenges, just on a different scale.

How does South Thames Marketing help professional services businesses?

We support firms in several ways. Firstly from a strategy and planning perspective. Getting under the skin of what they are currently doing, assessing what they want to achieve brand and lead-gen wise and developing a strategy accordingly. From there we either hand that over for them to implement, or clients may ask us to support in certain areas (content creation, social media, creative design, campaign development etc) because they haven’t the internal resource themselves, or in some instances outsource their marketing in its entirety to us. We also support several international firms with European expansion or expansion into Asia. But in the first instance, we get to know the client and what they are looking to achieve and build from there.

What are the main marketing challenges professional services companies face?

Great question. There are several. But I think for me the biggest is staying relevant. The web is awash with content: white papers, blogs, videos all addressing a topic – it could be Brexit, it could be productivity, it could be attracting and retaining the best talent. The challenge is getting their voice heard over everyone else who is trying to have a say on that topic. Relevance is so important.

How can professional services professionals/companies stand out from the crowd?

Being human. Too many firms will try and cram every buzzword they know into a piece because they believe it adds credence. But at the end of the day you are writing (or presenting to) another human being –  I guess it could be a robot in the future! – so you need to write accordingly. My biggest tip always is when you’ve written something, read it back to yourself and then ask the question ‘if you’re sitting opposite that person in a business meeting or pitch’ is that how you would speak? If not, then start again. We’re all humans, including your clients!

How would you say professional services companies differ from other industries when it comes to marketing?

I’m probably biased here, but I think if you can succeed in professional services marketing, you can succeed in any industry. Working in professional services you are challenged every day. That could be with the quality of content/materials you have to produce to stay relevant or stakeholders you have to manage in-house, who all have an opinion that is apparently right! Succeed in this market and you’ll succeed in others. Yes, I know every sector will probably say similar, but come and spend a month in professional services and let’s have a conversation after!

What trends can you see happening in professional services marketing?

It’s already happening. More and more firms are adopting the new exciting digital technologies that are out there. The key is integrating your tech stack and maximising the insights you gain from the data.

What’s the best marketing campaign you have been involved in?

One of the last campaigns we rolled out at Hay Group was a campaign that explored the connection between employee and customer engagement. At its core was a report, where we’d undertaken an in-depth survey, but we’d then managed to interview and involve several of our clients from around the world. This was important as it added credence to our voice, but also allowed us to offer some incredibly interesting global insights plus the opportunity to create a number of supporting assets: extended case studies, blogs, videos etc. We rolled out the campaign in a crazy number of countries around the world, working with our local marketing colleagues, who we had to influence that this campaign would work in their particular market. In our planning we fully involved our local marketers, so we adapted versions of the report for different markets – this is so important. We held webinars together with in-person Forums in a number of cities. I attended the London, New York, Madrid and Sao Paulo Forums in person and seeing the report in multiple languages, speakers talking so passionately and importantly just seeing it resonate with every audience member was fantastic. The ROI we achieved was outstanding. Because we had involved clients and worked closely with them in the final report, we also managed to partner with the internal PR departments of some of them, which gave us huge traction when approaching the media. But, I cannot take the full credit, my marketing manager at the time, Louise Shaw, who is now doing fantastic stuff at Deloitte in Australia – I’m really, really proud of her, drove it and the success was 100 per cent down to her. As a leader, there is no better feeling than seeing someone on your team really thrive.

What is the best marketing campaign you’ve seen?

I’m not sure the best, but I love the Adobe marketing cloud ads – if you’ve not seen them definitely check them out!

Do you have any final words of advice for professional services companies wanting to tell their story/better their marketing efforts?

I just refer to what I said earlier, please, please remember your clients and prospective clients are human beings!