Communications and PR agency Active Profile, are based in Liverpool’s old Exchange Railway Station, which has now been transformed into a luxurious modern office building at the heart of the city. After hearing from their Managing Director at our Meet the Boss panel event, we were eager to find out more about Founder Anna Heyes’ journey into the digital marketing sector.
Get ready to meet the boss…
Can you tell us about the work that Active Profile does?
Founded from a kitchen table in 2004, Active Profile is a PR and growth communications agency that uses a proactive and strategic approach to helping growth businesses achieve their ambitions through creative content and strategies. We work predominantly in the innovation and place sectors, with clients such as AI firm Peak, Sensor City, Sigma Capital and Muse Developments.
Were you interested in tech/digital at school?
My interest in tech and digital started when I chose IT as one of my A-Levels, following which I enrolled on a Computer Science and Business Management course at the University of Liverpool. However, I quickly realised it wasn’t for me as I hadn’t studied maths at A-Level, so swapped to a combined honours with no maths modules and more applied computer science.
When did your journey into digital marketing start?
Having picked up some marketing modules as part of my degree, I went on to do a placement at Reuters in London. I focused largely on project management with a team of engineers, as well-being exposed to marketing and communications. I was lucky to gain that experience so early in my career as it meant that I realised my skill set was more closely aligned to people and communications than the pure tech side.
When I came back up North I went back into my final year course and picked up a few business and marketing modules. I completed a work-based learning project in my last year, which was writing an API. I also set up a little project with my friends at university that ran student nights, so I’d acquired quite a lot of work experience and I was exposed to the digital marketing world early on.
What led you to start-up a business?
I was going to go back to London because that’s where all my friends from university were heading, but I actually wanted to stay up North. I entered a business plan competition during my final year and at the same time started to network locally.
As a result of the network I built, I secured a couple of assignments and things grew from there. I was essentially working on a freelance basis. I do recall seeing a business advisor at the time who said I wasn’t charging enough and the business wasn’t scaleable, so I dug my heels in and went back to see him 3 weeks later with clients. That taught me early on to listen to, and be grateful for good advice.
It was only a couple of years later that I completely recognised I actually had a business and understood the services my clients needed.
What are the core values behind the business?
The values behind Active Profile are still largely the same as when we started, but we often revisit them to ensure they are still very relevant to how we do business and treat each other.
The first value is ‘proactive’. Through my work I’d been exposed to other agencies from a client perspective and the service tended to be very reactive based on what the client wanted. I realised actually being proactive and responsive added so much more value. To this day, this theme runs through everything we do at Active Profile – nobody waits to be told what to do, if there’s a challenge we deal with it proactively. I think in the creative industries you’ve got to be agile in that way now, especially with the rate at which technology is moving.
To ‘challenge with positive intent’ is another value. If we think that things on the table could be better, we’ll challenge it. Likewise, we always challenge ourselves to be as good as we can be.
‘Think commercial’ is about doing exactly what it says – thinking commercially about what we do for clients and understand the commercial drivers in their business. If we understand this, we get under the skin of the communications that will create impact and generate growth for them.
What’s a normal day at Active Profile look like for you?
No day is EVER the same and if it was I wouldn’t enjoy it. We have two offices, so I could be in Liverpool or Manchester depending on the day. My days are often fast-paced and usually start with catching up on emails and Slack messages, then I normally have several meetings throughout the day. Between that I might be reviewing campaign content, preparing a strategy session or signing off forecasts or budget updates.
I also often work on sales and new business, which is a big part of my role. Our business is split into pods, and I lead the commercial pod which is me, the office and finance manager and the office assistant, so I will regularly check in with them too.
Who inspires you?
I’m easily inspired. I heard the Sheryl Sandberg on Desert Island Discs, Radio 4 and she reduced me to tears as she’s so open and that brings with it authenticity, which I admire.
Dame Stephane Shirley is also an inspiration of mine. Her book ‘Let it go’ made me stop on a motorway somewhere at a service station and write. I re-wrote our purpose in this service station because the mood was upon me. Again, a very honest story.
Closer to home, my Nana inspired me. She was very stylish and ran the Preston equivalent for the UN – the local Women’s WI!
Any top tips for those starting out?
Try different things and start as soon as you can. Look at who you know in your network and look at who you have already got access to shadow for a day. It doesn’t have to be weeks and weeks of a big placement – a day will be fine. At least it shows you’ve been exposed to different environments. Finding the right career is a process of elimination for some so start as early as you can and don’t be worried if things don’t go great at first.
There’s so much available online now, so read, research and look at other people’s experiences. So much of the early stages of my business was people just giving me half an hour of their time. Always say thank you and be grateful for anything people do to help you!