Stacey Kehoe is the Founder & Director of Communications, Brandlective. She's a podcast host and editor of the SME marketing magazine The Vault, which has gained her media recognition and award nominations. Since establishing her first business, digital agency Brandlective Communications Ltd, in 2012, Stacey has built over 500 websites, brands, and marketing campaigns. Stacey is the author of 'Get Online: 6 simple steps to launching a digital marketing strategy for the non-tech savvy' and leads a movement called #1MillionDays: An initiative to reduce inequality through social, economic, and political inclusion of all people.

Stacey, there are many stereotypes surrounding diversity and inclusion. What does diversity mean to you?

Often, diversity is associated with someone’s origin, skin color, ethnic name or accent. However, diversity doesn’t stop there. To me, it is about giving equal visibility online to entrepreneurs and small business so they can grow and thrive. It is hard to compete on a small marketing budget with companies having big brands and lots of cash. On the good side, quite often, it is the strategy and know-how that can take a business off the ground, not just money. Building unique products and sustainable business models that can differentiate the new venture from its big competitors are the keys to success. It’s important to achieve that diversity and have a big number of successful new ventures.

I absolutely agree with you. Transformify operates globally and we have already faced challenges adapting our marketing strategy to different cultures and preferences. What is your advice on addressing diverse markets and cultures?

Usually, small companies and startups tend to repeat what’s working in their home market. However, simply replicating a strategy without understanding the culture of your potential buyers and their preferences is a recipe for disaster. When I speak with clients, I can hear their excitement when they say ‘’ We have a strong presence on Linkedin and Instagram and will leverage these platforms to enter the Chinese market.’’ My advice in such cases would be ‘’Don’t leverage a platform or a channel because you already have a presence there. Instead, speak with as many potential clients as possible and understand which platforms they use, which newsletters they read daily and what language resonates well with them’’.

Diversity comes from different life and work experiences and it’s crucial to have on board people who have the knowledge and resources to conduct market research and leverage the results to strategize. It’s also the openness and the ability to listen without prejudice and let the audience dictate what the strategy should be. It’s never about our own understanding and experiences and what worked for us before. Every audience is unique and that’s why it’s important to recruit a diverse team if you run a marketing agency. Do we have someone on our team who can understand that audience? Just coming from that target country is not enough, having prior experience with strategizing and running successful campaigns there is what’s needed. I come from New Zealand but doesn’t necessarily mean that by default I understand each and every audience there.

Many thanks for the insights! When it comes to hiring, what are your criteria? Is it around personalities, skills, personal experiences, people skills or something else? By people skills, I mean the ability to communicate with clients and ask the right questions to understand the client’s needs.

Whenever I am hiring for a new role, I ask myself what’s the core responsibility of this person is going to be. Also, it's important what other areas this person will depend on or will have to provide support to. We have a very diverse team when it comes to ethnicities, backgrounds and life experience and I wouldn’t say that this is necessarily intentional. It is more about what we need in terms of an attitude and communication with our clients and bringing new fresh ideas.

Back to your question, I would say that we are not looking for degrees in marketing or theoretical knowledge. Rather than that, we look for people who have experience on the job and a different point of view to complement our team.  The ability to see that we need to go from ‘’A’’ to ‘’B’’ to ‘’C’’ and to understand what we need to do for this to happen. What is important to me is candidate’s passion and genuine interest in our industry, what the latest trends are and how we can leverage them to add value to our clients. In our industry, attitude is everything. The right attitude can win a new client or result in losing a long-term client. When I look back, to me is clear that each time we didn’t win a client it was because we didn’t have the right attitude, we didn’t listen well.

Speaking about theoretical knowledge, I would say that there are some basic skills that are required to have a strong foundation and be able to learn on the job. If I have two candidates and one has the theoretical and practical experience but the other has the passion enthusiasm and right attitude, I would go for the later. Enthusiasm and willingness to learn are more important to me than theoretical knowledge. I am very open to training, educating and coaching those candidates who have the right attitude as attitude is hard to change.

It’s amazing to see that lots of companies put values and attitude first. Atlassian even got rid of the concept of cultural fit. However, selecting candidates who have the right attitude and values is never easy. What about unconscious bias?

It’s so difficult, I’ve definitely made mistakes in the past. The first team that I’ve ever built was not a balanced team. They were just like me. They talked like me, had the same perceptions and world views as me. It worked at the beginning when there were just two or three of us, but later as the business grew, it was just not enough. Everyone had the same skill set and to grow a business this is not enough. In a small business, the challenge is to have diversity of thought in a small team. If everyone is too different and people challenge each other all the time, productivity and efficiency will suffer.

What I’ve done in the last five years was introducing psychometric tests in our hiring process. I look at the skills sets we need in our business and still don’t have and the personalities of the candidates and how those are aligned with the skills sets and personalities we already have on our team. Psychometric tests help me to identify things I don’t necessarily spot in an interview. During an interview, people put their best face on and are not necessarily honest about their skills and attitude. Put simply, candidates tell you what you want to hear and that can be very challenging later on when you realize that the skills and attitude are not what they were supposed to be. Relying on data removes unconscious bias and provides insights that are hard to obtain otherwise.

Introducing psychometric tests in our hiring process was a real game-changer for us.