Mark Carroll | Pinterest (Part I)
October 10, 2020

InterviewsMark Carroll | Pinterest (Part I)

Meet Mark - he's a creative strategist at Pinterest, and formerly Snapchat. He talks to us about all things creative x business.

Mark At Work

You’ve worked in both fast paced, big city agencies, and you’ve also gone in-house to global social media companies. What would your advice be to anyone considering a move from agency to in-house, or vice versa?

I’ve had a conversations with several people around this exact topic over the last 4-5 months, they’ve asked for advice or ideas as they’re thinking about a change. My consistent answer has been around understanding the landscape and potential of what is out there because it’s not all obvious and is evolving rapidly. Job titles are far more complicated and diverse than they once were.

I felt like Creative Strategy is a very linear move from agency world into a platform – it’s the role where you work on advertising and creative campaigns for brands, coming up with ideas and educating – but there are also so many exciting and relevant roles I didn’t know existed until I was where I am:

  • Marketing / Brand creative teams – a majority of platforms and start ups all have in-house marketing teams and some of them developing their own creative and ad campaigns internally. They’ll have a mix of doing the work internally but also working with some of the biggest and best agencies to help do the brand planning work too. You’re part of defining and building the company.
  • Product managers / marketing – anything with ‘product’ in the title people instantly jump to the technical developer side of things – but there are teams who help translate that technical innovation into material which can educate other internal teams and the wider world about what is available. This puts you at the forefront of new technology and processes.
  • Growth Marketing – slightly different to the advertising consumer marketing, these teams are trying to raise the profile of the product and services within specific countries or regions – new use cases, onboarding high profile users, events to help educate / recruit new users, educate agencies / publishers / creators / users about new features. 

Also consider the wider skills you have to offer, quite often people jump to the projects and work they have done for the portfolio. The accomplishments. But don’t forget how important your agency or client network could be, exposure to other markets, not just the UK, your presentation skills and now in the current world, your experiences and successes in remote working.

What’s the biggest learning you’ve had in your professional life to date? Good or bad.

You do have limits and burnout is sh!t… I think there has been two instances where I’ve experienced burnout within my career, not because of where I was and culture but my own sense of wanting ‘to do’ and solve a problem.

The first time I experienced burnout, it just about set in and I brushed it off fairly quickly and transitioned to something new… The second time it fundamentally changed my mindset and clouded my judgement. If you find yourself in that situation, take time out, figure out what caused it and what needs to change. It’s very easy to think cutting everything off will solve it – but you need to do the work to recharge and recover.

Ideally, identify the signs of potential burnout early and avoid it altogether. It does feel like the ‘sleep when you’re dead’ hustle culture and mindsets are starting to dissolve, even those that made their millions from it realising it can be toxic to the way businesses grow at the sacrifice of staff.

If you could give startups 3 rules of thumb to use for their creative strategy on social, what would they be?

Before even posting, have a vision – the simple succinct thing you want to achieve with this brand / product / service. It’s there to keep you focused, filtering and making decisions in order to head in the right direction and create the right content…  and that ideally isn’t as superficial as  ‘to be famous’  or ‘to make millions and retire’. 

Understand why you’re relevant, useful or entertaining to your audience – give them more of that. Don’t just sit and say what you want to say in the hope they will listen. The good old saying – don’t tell me you’re a comedian, make me laugh. On top of that, bring personality, character, empathy, respect to your work..

Scale, scale, scale… Social media really changed how advertisers thought and what brands and agencies chase – likes, RTs, followers, micro targeting, contextual advertisements, first to market, earned media. Yes, all of that is great. But the metrics need to be substantial and reaching the right audience. Have fun and do exciting things, but for the right reasons and audience.

Mark After Hours

Can you take us through your morning routine? How do you make sure you start off your days and weeks right?

Sunday evening I do like to take a glimpse at the week ahead, make sure I haven’t overlooked or forgotten about something. Try not to be drawn into emails, just the calendar at that point. That way I feel assured I can enter it relaxed, no surprises first thing on a Monday morning, worst time for them.

I’m more of a Night Owl, so my morning routine has always been to get as much time in bed as possible before getting up, getting ready and heading off to where I need to be. During lockdown I have tried to change that a little – making sure I get up close to the time where I would have previously, see my son off to Nursery, have breakfast and coffee (not at the desk), shower and fill the time until start of the day, which I’m still treating as 9am no matter what time meeting or calls start.

As a family man and a pro in the world of social media and creative strategy, how do you make time to balance work alongside your family and friends?

I had always been one of those people who went the ‘wrong’ way on the work life balance scale, far too much towards the work side, because I enjoy  what I do, mostly surrounded by good people I like and I’ve also always looked for new challenges or opportunities to grow. When Rex (my now 2 year old son) came along it became a challenge to try and bring that balance back towards life, however, I think any parent will admit you instantly re-prioritise and end up being more conscious and sensible on where you spend your time and energy. 

I was still guilty of working late, and in a strange way, lockdown has really ramped up the family time and responsibilities, and perhaps made me a better and more present dad than I would have been without being forced to change some of my working habits or time I spent at work. 

As someone working in social media you spend a lot of time on it too – it takes effort, but I consciously try to be more present and not checking it as often. Same goes for emails in the evening or at weekends, I was never a fan of working from home, but I did let email on the phone creep into every available hour. A new habit I developed was waiting until I’m at a desk or in work mode to check email. It’s so easy to wake up, notice an email and the cogs start moving before you’ve even showered – which means instantly your work day has crept forward to 7am. Working for US companies it’s very easy to also see emails piling up in the evening, luckily I’m the furthest you can get from an Inbox Zero mindset (332,234 unread bubble on personal inbox).

Friends is probably the hardest part of the equation when it comes to parenting and also this pandemic. I have started to fit in more around activities. Needing to book a bike ride or a camping trip in the calendar to make sure we do bother to visit each other, as time just flies by and there’s always a looming excuse that means last minute plans just don’t happen like it used to. 

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