Marketing leaders find common ground during first-ever Community Conversation 

Hosted by CFO & CHRO SA, top marketers discussed the power of presence with expert Lori Milner.

"It is great to realise that we are not alone and we are all going through the same things, especially during these uncertain times of lockdown and Covid-19.” That was the common thread during the online gathering of 15 marketing experts from some of South Africa’s greatest companies on 23 April 2020.

The first-ever SA Marketers Community Conversation was an initiative from the community-building experts from CFO South Africa and CHRO South Africa. It was such a great success that the next online gathering is already being scheduled for 7 May with even more marketing leaders expected to join.

“There is such unique value in meeting like-minded peers from other industries and businesses, we know this from our CFO and CHRO communities,” says CFO & CHRO South Africa MD Joël Roerig, who joined the conversation organised by CFO & CHRO SA’s Tamara Bell, Nick Smith and John Deane.

“Lori Milner is a world-class expert when it comes to thinking about your presence, productivity and stress. We really wanted to share her practical and helpful thinking with the marketing experts we work with on a regular basis,” said Joël. “What I noticed is that there is a real hunger to share at the moment, which is why we would love to bring the marketing community together again.”

Marketing leaders who attended included: Alet Opperman (Treasury ONE), Caroline Dibakaone (Sanlam), Cindy Sotywambe (Futuresense), Claire Asman (SAP Concur), Jenny Grimmer (SAIBA), Juliette Krige (Nedbank), Karen Nicholls (Workday), Mahlodi Kgatle (Momentum), Mandy Jones (Adcorp), Phuti Shale (Santam), Samantha Durkin (Altron Karabina), Sarah Snyman (Adapt IT), Sihle Cengimbo (SNG Grant Thornton), Sonja Nel (PwC) and Sylvia Stockhammer (BCX). 

Lori kicked off the event and had the marketers on the edge of their seats, albeit in their own homes. Among Lori’s many suggestions, she explained how marketers can remain consistent about their brands’ messaging throughout lockdown, while also using the time to up their game professionally. She also said that it was important to learn stress management techniques and ways of ensuring they are able to always deliver work they are proud of without having to sacrifice quality time with their families. Achieving this balance is about boundary management. This means setting a starting time and a quitting time and making a commitment to switch off whether the work is done or not – because the work is never really done. 

With people working from home on lockdown with every member of the family in the same house, however, this might prove easier said than done, the group agreed.

Workday regional marketing manager Karen Nicholls: 

“Having a three-year-old running around the house is difficult and I often feel guilty because I can’t be 100 percent present when I’m with my child nor when I’m busy with work.”

Nedbank CIB marketing manager Juliette Krige shared that she had been struggling to set boundaries because of the uncertainty surrounding the Covid-19. With many organisations struggling financially and potential job cuts on the horizon, she was worried because marketing budgets are often the first to be cut. 

“Marketing is sometimes referred to as being the least ‘required’ department because client-facing divisions are the revenue-generating areas of the business. And that has caused some anxiety for me… I have been making sure I am always available, responding to emails as soon as I get them, even if it’s 8 pm on a Friday night.”

Lori also said that, instead of making a to-do list at the beginning of every day, the marketing executives should focus on having weekly goals because days can ‘run away with you, leaving you feeling guilty of not completing the tasks you had set out to complete on that specific day. But if your list is has a weekly deadline, you can try to execute that task on another day,”

She also said it would be helpful to write a to-be list. Then, instead of writing tasks to complete, marketing leaders should write down what they want to feel and who they want to be.

Said Lori: “Make sure the way you allocate your time is founded on values you hold dear. Whether you value health or your relationships with your clients, make sure that is reflected in your calendar. And when you write your to-be list, focus on how you want to feel at the end of the day. Do you want to feel overwhelmed, stressed, and fatigued or do you want to feel content, energised, and relieved?”

The conversion also covered tricks for overcoming procrastination and helpful ways to connect with team members. The overwhelming consensus from participants was that the lockdown would see stronger marketing teams emerge on the other side.