When I walked into Anne’s office for our interview, I immediately gained an understanding of the company’s personality. Clean, organized, personable, and unique. This is how I would describe the professional, yet comfortable space that is home to Richardson Media Group. Having met Anne a few times before our interview, I expected her to have a creative workspace that represents her individuality. Anne’s office did just this. Polite, professional, and friendly, Anne invited me to join her at a green drop leaf table she’d found at a local consignment shop. We wrapped up our small talk and I began our interview.
What is your professional background? After graduating from Bowdoin College, I moved to Portland, Maine and found my first job in advertising as a receptionist for a medium-sized agency in the Old Port. From answering the phones, I quickly moved into the media department and started learning the ropes from the agency’s media director who became and still is like a mentor to me. Eventually, I moved back to my home territory of Boston, and continued my media planning and buying work at a series of shops in and around the city. All total, I’ve worked in advertising for over 20 years. I did take a break from advertising for a little while to earn my M.Ed. and become a classroom teacher, a job that I truly loved. But my heart has always been in the business world, and I am much happier working in the ad business.
How did you get started with your own company? I opened Richardson Media Group in August 2014. Being an entrepreneur had always been a goal but it wasn’t until I had accumulated enough life and business experience that I felt ready to make a go of it. Instead of using my skills on behalf of an employer, I wanted to start applying them to running my own business. Owning my own company has been a very good fit for me.
What is media buying and planning? Otherwise known as paid media advertising, media buying is a form of outbound marketing. It starts with a strategic recommendation of where to spend advertising budgets to reach a desired target audience/audiences, with the end goal being a measurable return on investment.
How has the landscape of media buying and planning changed during your career? The landscape has changed drastically. I wrote a piece about this on my blog called, Media Planning: Looking Back to Appreciate Today in which I talk about how things are so much different now from when I started in the business 20+ years ago. The biggest transformation I’ve seen is the sheer number of platforms available for paid media and the opportunities media buyers have to target very specific audiences. It’s crazy how narrowly focused you can get with paid media today. Earlier in my media career, the media vehicles were more like blunt instruments, compared to the current mix that is much more finely tuned. The ultimate goal has remained the same: to reach your target audience with a particular level of frequency in order to achieve a desired action. How you go about doing that involves many choices. Added to that, there is a much higher level of accountability involved in a media investment today. With media so much easier to measure, and so many tracking tools available, advertisers are looking for more and more proof that their ads are “working.”
What are the pros and cons of owning your own business? Having my own company is challenging because it’s always there and it never turns off. My wheels are always spinning. Also, there is a certain level of risk to being an entrepreneur, both personally and financially. Because I have created a situation where I am ultimately responsible for everything, there can be a lot of stress attached to that. However, for me, the pros far outweigh those cons. If you’re a person who really enjoys independence and if you have a strong skill set, then it’s a great fit. You’re either all in or you’re not. Part of why this works well at this point in my life is that both my family and I were ready. Having a strong support system made up of my family and friends outside of the office has turned out to be incredibly important as I’ve taken on this type of endeavor.
Would you say your education prepared you for this job? Yes! Absolutely! My liberal arts education has been the foundation for everything I’ve done in my career: writing, organization, project management, research, presentation skills, and questioning. I majored in Government and French and later on earned my M.Ed. and taught English and History. Both my undergrad and grad programs set the foundation for the kind of businessperson, writer, planner and business owner that I am today. Ironically, while it’s true that my formal education has been crucial to my success, all the technical details I know about the advertising industry I learned on the job.
What degree(s), coursework, and skills are most helpful to persons entering this field? I recommend students take any kind of class that encourages reading, writing and gives them practice with analyzing and synthesizing data. Becoming a critical thinker is essential. It’s helpful to know a second language, although not required. As a French student, I have been able to pull my understanding of the structure of language into my approach to drafting different types of content. A strong language background also helps my writing by giving me a more robust vocabulary.
Because there are so many disciplines in the field of advertising, any and all of those types of skills will come in handy once you start working in the industry.
If you don’t go to a liberal arts school, and have chosen to do a professional program of study, you can still get the basics from the Gen. Ed. requirements. I don’t think you should leave college without studying English, writing, psychology, history, math—these core studies give you a reference point for everything that comes after them, and you may even enjoy them. When I was teaching, I used to encourage my students to use their schema, or past learnings and experiences to better understand the content we were studying. College is such a valuable time to build that schema and you will bring it with you into your future over and over, again.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from your experience in running a business so far? I didn’t expect that networking would be so important when I started my business. Now I give networking a top priority. It takes a lot of energy to attend different functions and I am out a little more than I’d like, but it has been incredibly rewarding for me. Something else I’ve learned is how important it is to collaborate with other professionals. I’ve met so many new people along this journey so far, some who I am interested in working with and others who have given me new perspectives on running my small business. It’s rare that I don’t get something valuable out of every business connection and I try to pass it along by doing the same for others.
Earlier this year, I sat down with Endicott College marketing student, Caleigh Crocker for a question and answer session. Caleigh has graciously offered to let me publish our interview here. Thank you, Caleigh and all the best to you as you continue your studies!