Virgin head of insight and Channel 4 development manager of creative diversity reveal how you can achieve your creative potential

Don’t be afraid to take risks, surround yourself with people who have similar ideals and re-evaluate where you are in your career often are three key pieces of advice for achieving your potential creatively according to Virgin head of insight and co-founder of career development business Amazing If, Helen Tupper, and Lara Akeju, development manager of creative diversity at Channel 4.

With both ladies poised to speak at professional network for women in communications Bloom UK’s next event ‘Achieving your potential...creatively’ alongside Laura Jordan Bambach, creative partner at Mr President, co-founder of SheSays and current president of D&AD and David Wheldon, head of brand, reputation, citizenship and marketing at Barclays Group, Tupper and Akeju spoke with The Drum to share their insights on the subject.

Bloom UK regularly holds talks to discuss its three pillars; networking, mentoring and fundraising.

Having begun her career on a graduate scheme Tupper has worked with brands including Boots, Britvic, Procter & Gamble, Capital One, e-On and BP over the years, ultimately landing the role of head of insight for Virgin.

Of her biggest career challenge to date, Tupper cites her time with BP when she moved from the B2C to B2B arena. “It was a sales and marketing challenge,” she said, with more value placed on sales at the time and marketers seen as “the people that made brochures”.

“The biggest challenge was trying to shift perceptions about the value of marketing and its relevance to B2B. I couldn’t just apply what I had learnt at other companies as I could be talking about industrial lubricant on ships but though I had a lot to learn about the environment I knew marketing. It was a heated and hard two years but we implemented some big changes,” Tupper added.

Working her way up in a different field altogether Akeju’s background comes from broadcast starting out in production 17 years ago as a runner at the BBC before becoming a producer and director of documentaries and factual television programmes. After a spell as a freelancer Akeju moved to Channel 4 making what she called a “significant move from production to working at a broadcaster on the commissioning side of television” and her “biggest career challenge”.

Her role as development manager of creative diversity sees Akeju ensuring Channel 4 works with companies out with the South East of England and those run by black, minority and ethnic people or other underrepresented groups.

On Wednesday 17 September the Bloom event at Facebook’s Brock Street office will see Tupper, Akeju, Wheldon and Bambach share their experiences and offer advice on how to achieve success creatively.

For Akeju she claims you have to “love what you do” and be passionate about it. “I genuinely care about the television industry,” she explained. “I subscribe to industry magazines and have done for many years. I go to screenings and events and I enjoy meeting other filmmakers and the process of the industry.”

Akeju says shows like Gogglebox are helping Channel 4 take steps other broadcasters wouldn't

With Channel 4 hailed as a brand that takes creative risks to achieve its potential Akeju told The Drum she believes Channel 4 is standing alone in that respect in the broadcast space. “There are not many broadcasters who would do what we do,” she said referencing ‘Live from Space’ and ‘Gogglebox’ as genre-breaking examples. “Channel 4 is a really positive, risk taking brand, it’s in our DNA and it’s what we’re all about and this is so important for reaching your potential”.

A sentiment Tupper agreed with and looking more widely at brands in the consumer space added “I worry that many brands aren’t doing things right to reach their potential”.

Brands like Airbnb are creating a 'collaborative economy' according to Tupper

Speaking of the emerging “collaborative economy” brought about by brands such as Airbnb, Tupper said: “Brands need to think about working with their consumers if they want to achieve their potential. Consumers want choice, control and transparency and brands will achieve their potential when they no longer view that as a threat...These smaller organisations have a community that creates trust in them so it doesn’t matter how long they have been established or how many millions of customers they have. It’s about how smart they are and how quickly they meet consumer needs.”

Of how they personally push themselves to achieve their potential Akeju thanks the “episodic nature of television” to allow her time to “stop and think ‘what’s next and where do I want to be?’ every few months”. Whereas Tupper believes surrounding herself with “people who have the same appreciation for what a good brand should be” helps her.

“It’s constantly challenging to be around people who are asking ‘what’s your purpose?’ and ‘what is the purpose that’s bigger than you and me?’. When it comes down to ‘what are you ultimately trying to do in the world?’ for me it comes when I’m surrounded by people who want to make a difference and have a brand that’s really relevant and adapts.”

More information on Bloom UK’s ‘Achieving your potential...Creatively’ event and ticket information can be found online via The Drum’s ‘What’s On’ section.

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