'Go with your gut,' urges Channel 4's Laura Ward #NxtGen

Marketing reveals its list of 10 Nxt Gen marketers. Here, Channel 4's Laura Ward and her mentor discuss knowing what is right and operating with openness and fairness.

Ward: Optimistic, collaborative, opinionated
Ward: Optimistic, collaborative, opinionated

Laura Ward, 31, Channel 4 Television

Group marketing manager, drama, acquisitions & Film4

Describe yourself in three words.

Optimistic, collaborative, opinionated.

What attracted you to marketing?

I liked the idea of working in a field that has a mix of strategic and creative challenges. I have also always had a strong interest in what makes people tick and why they make the decisions they do.

What are your biggest marketing challenges?

The TV landscape is changing so fast. There are so many more places to consume content now, whether that’s the hundreds of digital channels, on-demand services like Netflix or online video platforms. So it’s increasingly hard to reach consumers and cut through the noise. But this makes being a loved and trusted brand all the more important.

Are there any trends or media platforms you believe are overrated?

I’d never rule anything out – it depends on the brief. But I have seen over the past couple of years a lot of calls to action with very complicated user journeys, for which consumers don’t have the patience. For example, if using outdoor media, it might be better to have a URL linking to a well-optimised mobile site, rather than ask consumers to download then launch an app on the go.

Your gut instinct is often your best guide to what is the right thing for your brand.

What are the biggest trends affecting your business?

Increasingly our viewers expect to get our programmes as and when it suits them. As a business we’re very focused on meeting that need, but it’s tricky to predict what the balance between live TV and on-demand consumption will be in the future.

What are the traits that make your boss James Walker such an inspiration?

James sometimes has to make very tough decisions, but because he operates with fairness and openness he always has the respect of the people he works with.

How has he most helped you in relation to your job?

James is very good at knowing when to give advice and support and when to leave us to make our own decisions. He is willing to let us take risks that may or may not pay off, which is something I really value.

What is the best piece of advice he has given you?

The value of trusting your instincts – and this is definitely something I’d pass on to others. It’s important to really take stock of all the research and data available and listen to experts, but when it comes to the question "Is this the right thing for the brand?", often your gut instinct will be your best guide.

James Walker, mentor

Head of marketing, Channel 4 Television

What made Laura stand out among the young marketers you work with?

Laura is the complete marketing manager. She has an instinctive understanding of marketing, coupled with creative vision and great people skills. On top of this she keeps calm under pressure and knows how to make things happen very quickly (something that is very important in TV marketing).

What attributes does she have that mean she deserves her place in the Power 100 Next Generation?

Energy, passion, commitment and integrity.

What specific marketing insight or skills has Laura brought to the company?

Laura has a great understanding of broadcast brands and knows instinctively what will appeal to audiences.

What has been your major piece of advice to any young marketer?

Patience is key. You can’t do everything in the first few years of your career and you may need to make a few mistakes to get to where you want to be. Learn from people you work with – and when you start out you can afford to take a few risks with job choices.

What training do you think is most important for young marketers today?

There are some great courses and brilliant marketing books around, but I still think the best training is immersing yourself in the world and popular culture. Being hungry to understand what makes people tick is essential to the job. I don’t believe people have changed that much. They are still driven by the same needs as people have ever been. It’s just that there are many more ways of talking to people, and infinitely more choice.

What are the secrets to nurturing young talent?

You get the best out of people when they feel trusted to make their own decisions, but, at the same time, you need to have their back when they need you. Rewarding creative ambition is also key. Striving to do something great may not always get the right results, but it’s better than always doing something average.