10 questions with... Cat Leaver, director of brand Scotland, Visit Scotland

10 questions with... Cat Leaver, director of brand Scotland, Visit Scotland

To showcase the personalities of the people behind the media and marketing sector, The Drum speaks to individuals who are bringing something a little different to the industry and talks to them about what insights and life experience they can offer the rest of us. This week's 10 Questions are put to Cat Leaver, director of brand Scotland, at Visit Scotland.

What was your first-ever job?

My first job was as a kitchen porter in a local hotel at the age of 14. It wasn't exactly glamorous but it paid for the trainers I'd always wanted and I enjoyed the energy and buzz of the kitchen. From there I became a waitress, shop attendant, bar steward, shop assistant, supervisor and at one point a medical PA.

My first industry job was looking after all the marketing and sales activity for a family-run manufacturing company who specialised in ribbons. Who knew there were so many applications of ribbon?!

Which industry buzzword annoys you most?

We all pretend we're not guilty of using jargon but it has a habit of infiltrating our lives. The term that probably tops my list of annoying buzzwords is the acronym BAU (business as usual). It undermines core business functions and disciplines that require considerable expertise and energy to conduct effectively.

From an operational perspective, I understand where it has come from but when you’re talking about marketing or brand it doesn’t really feel accurate. These functions are not simply repeating the same task in order to achieve the same output. Semantics have a considerable impact on perception and motivation, so these things are important.

Who do you find most interesting to follow on social media?

Aside from The Drum... Depending on the platform I tend to keep an eye on different accounts. On Twitter and YouTube I’m a massive TED fan and so look to their updates for a daily dose of inspiration. I love the philosophy that ideas can change the world and that TED and TEDx provide a platform for people from all walks of life to meet, share, debate and be curious. Netflix is good for a bit of light relief - they've got their finger on the pulse, aren’t afraid to push the boundaries and empower their teams to be topical and reactive.

On LinkedIn I gravitate towards the Famous Campaigns and The Female Lead accounts, as they capture the zeitgeist and provide digestable updates that can positively interrupt your thinking that day.

Highlight of your career (so far?)

Cross Creative Special Edition 2013/14! I was lucky enough to be selected as one of nine inaugural female business women to be part of this year-long leadership programme that included monthly training/contact days with the very best in the business and concluded with a five-day fact-finding mission to San Francisco, where we organised meetings with everyone from Google and Waze to Facebook, Wired, Skype, Patty McCord (hero) and some of our all-time favourite agencies like Fantasy Interactive.

Undoubtedly, the best part of the whole experience was the close-knit group of peers that went on to become friends. We still meet regularly and call on each other's counsel when we encounter hurdles - they're a fantastic support network and a truly inspirational bunch!

What piece of tech can you not live without? ​

I rely far too heavily on my phone. I try not to get too hooked but whether it’s calling family and friends, messages, social media, work emails, taking notes or using it as a camera, it’s never far from my grasp.

Today's mobile phone is a masterclass in user design creating whole new behaviour patterns (who'd have thought we'd' all be photographing our dinners?) and an absurd level of reliance. But, it also enables connectivity and efficiency like never before.

Who or what did you have posters of on your bedroom wall as a teenager?

Perhaps a bit weirdly I never had posters up on my bedroom wall. Having older brothers who would happily take the mick out of any crush or 'lame' move, I guess it never even crossed my mind. My walls instead were covered in murals of photos and the odd abstract piece of cut-out art that had inspired me like album covers.

In advertising, what needs to change soon?

I think it depends on what area of advertising you work in. From my perspective, there’s a real need for marketers to recognise the difference between performance and brand marketing. And to put more focus and energy on the latter.

Building brand requires long-term strategic thinking, endurance and solid principles. You need to truly understand your value proposition and consistently focus on authenticity.

What is (in your opinion) the greatest film of your life?

Big question... the film that I always revert back to is Forrest Gump. Mirroring its famous quote "life is like a box of chocolates", the film offers up a range of emotion and surprises, all underpinned by strong cultural and historical references. It's a true classic.

Which industry event can you not afford to miss each year and why?

We're lucky to have so many great events in our industry. Top of the list is TEDxGlasgow (for obvious reasons) and, in more recent years, DataFest. Both provide the opportunity to meet old and new contacts and keep up to date with all the latest in an environment that transcends agendas and focuses on big thinking.

What's the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

It came from a boss quite early on in my career - learn when to say no. You need to know your own limits and not just be a people pleaser if you want to do the best possible job.

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