‘Set your sights high and put the work in to get where you want’
Small business can
If you think Northern Ireland is lagging behind in the world of digital marketing, Emma Gribben is here to tell you that you’re wrong.
It was when she went to Dubai in 2014 to get some international experience in digital marketing that she realised just how forward-thinking Northern Ireland companies really are.
“When I was there I was quite surprised to learn that digital adaptation was two or three years behind the UK,” she says.
“There are a lot of companies in Northern Ireland who are realising that digital marketing is the future and that they need to know how to do it.”
Emma is addressing the Ulster Bank Boost event this month, aimed at highlighting the many ways in which the bank can help business grow.
She started out in a traditional marketing role, but is one of a new breed that has fallen in love with digital marketing and its potential.
Two years ago, she set up her own global digital marketing consultancy, Digital By Emma, advising brands, agencies, SMEs, start-ups and charities on digital strategies across the UK and Ireland, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Australia — and she’s never looked back.
Co Armagh-born Emma is the daughter of a school teacher and a businessman and she says her ambition has been shaped by their attitude to achievement.
“Throughout my childhood the emphasis was on putting in the hard work and graft, putting in the hours and efforts, setting your sights high, setting your goals and doing what you needed to work towards that,” she says.
Emma studied Communications, Advertising and Marketing at the University of Ulster and did work experience with what was then NIE Energy. She was then offered a full-time position.
“That was a really exciting time because one of the first projects was the rebranding of NI Energy to Power NI. That was communicating the message out to 600,000 customers, literally every household in Northern Ireland at that stage,” she says.
She moved to a digital role in Linwoods Health Foods after a postgraduate course in digital marketing.
“I loved how transparent digital was, how you could see if your campaigns worked or not — there was so much accountability. I decided I wanted to work solely within digital,” she says.
Emma’s work at Linwoods was awarded the Eircom Spiders Best Retail Website and she worked on establishing brand presence in new markets such as the USA, Italy, Spain, Portugal and China.
Fate took a sideways turn when Linwoods nominated her for the world-famous Rose of Tralee competition and she was chosen as the Armagh Rose.
“I really enjoyed it — I started to understand more about the Rose of Tralee and I loved what it stood for. It’s about bringing young people who have dreams and ambitions and plans and they are doing something to make those happen. The ladies who are chosen are agents of change.”
It was when she was in Dubai meeting up with many of her Rose of Tralee friends that Emma decided to take the plunge and go self-employed.
“I decided to call it Digital by Emma and my reasoning for that was understanding the NI market. In Northern Ireland we’re all well connected and people get to know other people by word of mouth and recommendations,” she says.
“I reached out to a number of people in the industry that I had worked with before, and really from there it was a process of meeting hundreds of people for coffee, trying to identify opportunities, marketing myself online, going to events, networking and really getting the word out there.
“I would meet with clients, analyse where they are, identify where they want to be and see how I could get them there through digital marketing. It could be by a redesign, setting up sales by e-commerce, social media, search marketing. From there I educate the client and bring them with me.”
Some of the companies then appointed their own full-time marketing employee.
“I would then play a consultancy role, working with that employee to continue driving that development of the business forward,” Emma says.
“I do training directly with clients and I also have a lot of speaking events and workshops.
“I’m mentoring SMEs and start-ups through some of the councils. I’ve also worked on the Icons festival, an event with a great social media presence that was able to reach five million people around the world. I’ve worked with White’s Oats, helping them to celebrate their 175th anniversary.”
Emma is planning to launch a new business focusing on social media crisis management before the end of the summer.
“My motto is set your sights high and put in the work to get there. I think I am allergic to routine,” she says.