5 MINUTES WITH ALICJA LLOYD
Alicja Lloyd, CEO of digital marketing agency, FEED, talks to Communicate magazine about effective leadership strategy, supporting employees through the pandemic and why human is still king over AI.
What is the most important part of your leadership strategy as CEO at Feed?
As a business, Feed’s approach is built on trust, knowledge, authenticity and creativity and we like to echo that in our leadership strategy. We recognise that leaders shouldn’t be carbon copies of each other, and we encourage our leaders to have their own style, and play to their strengths.
A leader isn’t an island and it is always going to be important that they are working in tight partnership with other people in the organisation. Matt Lynch, Feed’s executive chair, and I have very different working styles and complement each other; together we become more than the sum of our parts, which benefits the business and our teams. I am consciously building a leadership team that echoes the direction I’m setting, regardless of discipline - be it Creative, Strategy, Client Services etc. They are helping me become a better leader too.
As well as the general ethos, our leadership strategy is focussed on a set of universal principles that outline core traits we believe our leaders should embody, with flex to allow leaders to adopt their most authentic approach. These include consistency, active listening, accountability, clarity, flexibility, promoting diversity and empathy. And it is so important as a leader to be human. Admit mistakes when you make them and be always-on when it comes to tuning into what your employees may be thinking and feeling in their whole lives - not just in the office. Lead by example and be as empathetic as possible.
How has the pandemic changed the way you work at Feed? Did remote working impact creativity and collaboration?
As a global digital marketing agency, Feed is designed to work as one unified team uninhibited by geography, so we were already set-up for remote working. Virtual collaboration and connection across offices has always been a part of our ways of working, with teams coming together across projects and time zones. So on the surface, you could say we just needed to build on an already existing way of working.
Although, after a major client win, we did have to hire and onboard an entirely new office in a new country, during lockdown, which presented the unique challenge of preserving our values and culture within a completely remote team. So in some ways, nothing changed, but in reality everything changed. We have a strong team ethos, and people thrive on real life social interaction, from creative brainstorms, serendipitous coffee machine chats and a drink at the pub. So the nuts and bolts of the business were absolutely fine – and indeed we became busier than ever because digital businesses thrived in the pandemic and our ability to deliver agile, multi-country, multi-language, marketing solutions at speed and scale was in high demand.
But a business is so much more than what you do - it’s who you are, and a business can only be ever as good as its people. We had to be able to reach across borders during a time when people were isolated, worried about their health and their futures, and nurture the trust of our existing team and our new colleagues to show them that Feed as a company (and their co-workers) would be available to support them no matter what was thrown their way. We embraced the value of personal, tailored approaches to make sure that every employee’s needs were met, from management to development to wellness, and beyond.
We have several programmes to help nurture the Feed culture under the banner of Feed x You to help our teams thrive, learn and develop - whether in or out of lockdown - as well as encourage the connectivity we've learnt is vital to wellbeing while teams are separated. Our challenge now is to create a roadmap for a return to the offices which recognises the different needs of different people – some will want to stay working from home, some will be champing on the bit to get back into the office. I’ll be looking at hybrid solutions that can bring teams together but be empathetic to differing needs and personality types.
How have client needs and conversion changed over the past year in terms of value and importance to brands?
The shift to digital and ecommerce was huge during lockdown and many traditional or bricks and mortar businesses have undergone a rapid transition, with necessity driving fast-paced change which in normal times would have been unthinkable. The surge in at-home work, forced by the pandemic, saw the use of gaming consoles, streaming services, and video conferencing platforms increase across the market, and even brands who already had multi-device content marketing strategies in place must now take into consideration a broader channel mix.
It is not an overstatement to say nothing will ever be the same again. People will return to physical businesses, but not with its previous dominance. All brands now need to be able to communicate directly with customers and must be able to understand how to do this successfully in the digital space, creating frictionless, inclusive experiences. And there is no one size fits all. Brands must develop their customer relationship management channels to offer relevant and personalised experiences – a value exchange which puts consumers in control of their experience, based on mindset, preferences and interests. Smart brands can drive customer loyalty by listening to their customers, drawing out insight and creating tailored experiences.
How do you see the future of digital marketing and comms in terms of data and AI?
AI is an incredible tool – but, thankfully, the human will still be king. AI use will surge for enhanced logic, testing, and analysis of data, which frees the human to use their brain for what it does best – to think creatively and innovate. We have already seen digital personalisation transforming the consumer experience, and this will continue to evolve into “mass personalisation” – the ability for brands to appear to be talking one-on-one with consumers on a huge scale, in different languages at the same time across the globe.
Mass personalisation will be augmented by data-driven micro-moments (those moments in time when the brand is actually connecting individually with a consumer) in order to inject the much-needed human element into a fully automated process. Brands that get this right will see their loyalty surge. Companies will need to hire and develop talented teams who can interpret data into meaningful consumer experiences and use design thinking to solve customer pain points and predict unmet needs.
What project or achievement are you most proud of at Feed in recent years?
I’m proud of how Feed has extended its capabilities from the agile creation of digital comms at scale, to delivering digital platform experiences too. We’ve seen consistent growth, all in service of our clients - in fact we arrived at the end of 2020 with the agency’s largest headcount in history. And as mentioned, we managed to onboard and build a team in Toronto entirely virtually during lockdown!
But, hands down, I’m most proud simply of how the team has pulled together during the most challenging time of our lives. I’ve been so inspired by their attitude, commitment and drive, across all levels throughout the pandemic. The dedication to keeping the internal Feed cultural spirit thriving, as well as ensuring our clients feel fully supported as they themselves navigate the uncertainty is truly something I will forever be energised by. I’m so excited by the next chapter.