In preparing for this year’s customer experience event with the Emplifi community, we had conversations with each of our guest keynote speakers. This is the second in a multi-part series that will be published in the weeks leading up to Emplifi Summit ’22.
As the former managing director of Social Chain and newly appointed CEO of Relentless Media, Katy Leeson has developed a strong voice around openness in the workplace and building a positive corporate culture to prevent burnout. We’re delighted that she is bringing her strong voice to the agenda for Emplifi Summit ’22.
We met with Katy over the summer to discuss the important topic of authenticity and how company culture informs brand purpose.
You’ve become a respected thought leader on work-life balance and an inspiration to many who find themselves in
"always-on" digital marketing roles. What is it about working in social media that makes these issues especially difficult?
The pandemic really brought this question to the fore since, for many of us, the division between work and home disappeared, and we found ourselves stuck behind a screen for most of the day.
Then, if you add the layer of working in social media, where you’re often the first line of contact between a brand and its community and have the pressure of needing to be connected to do your job, that brings another level of stress.
How did you first become aware of the need to talk about trends like imposter syndrome and burnout?
In my previous position, I was part of one of the fastest-growing companies in the UK. Social Chain grew from 30 to over 1000 employees in the 5 years I was there. I put my whole self into the role of managing director and lost track of my own purpose as an individual. Burnout came, perhaps inevitably, after a challenging couple of years. I was experiencing the feeling of imposter syndrome, where you think you shouldn’t be in the place you are, and you’re afraid of getting called out for it. I realized that, for me, it was an unrealistic way of working.
How did you come up with the idea to start your podcast, “I Shouldn’t Say This, But…”
I thought that if I could talk honestly about working life, and also highlight the importance of having priorities outside of work, maybe that would help other people, and then I would find my “why.”
The “I Shouldn’t Say This, But…” podcast has become a space for me to talk about so-called taboo topics — things you wouldn’t expect an MD to say. I’ve produced episodes about crying in the shower, feeling like I should conform, and times when I’ve had no motivation. My guests and I try to be exceptionally open about our experiences.
What advice do you have for how we can better manage relationships in our professions to strengthen internal company culture?
For starters, I think we need to stop glamorizing burnout in social media and other professions. We shouldn’t applaud the absence of sleep, good diet, exercise, relaxation, and time with friends and family. Too many people wear their burnout as a badge of honor, and I believe this needs to change. The best thing you can do is to find your purpose as an individual and make time for what you enjoy. For me, that was rediscovering my creative side, getting into yoga, and spending more time with friends.
To bring this around to our Emplifi Summit ‘22 theme of making every experience unforgettable, how do you think these ideas of authenticity and honesty apply to brands in their communication with customers?
Brands need to be authentic, now more than ever. If they are doing something that doesn’t feel right, or if they are saying one thing and doing another, people notice. We’ve all reevaluated what’s important to us, and that includes what we buy. Brands need to communicate a clear purpose to their customers, and then live up to it. They can’t hide their true colors.