Updated: May 5
Join me in a conversation with Hannah Baldwin, an industry global head of marketing. It's certainly full of giggles, heels, horses, dogs, her inspirational Grandad, reminiscing, delis, key takeaways from Hannah's marketing career and her team she is incredibly proud of. There are even more surprises but we'll leave that for you to find out!
Louise: Welcome everybody. This is our Behind the Fluff podcast and we have a brand-new ‘Inspiring the next CMO series’. We've got lots of great resources that you can find on internationalbunch.com/beinspired. I am absolutely thrilled to have Hannah with me today. Hannah is a Head of Global Marketing in the industry. Now, we have crossed paths with each other several times, at conferences mostly and those sorts of places where we used to meet face to face in the same room.
Hannah : Face-to-face – I can almost remember. Hi. Thanks for having me.
Lou: I’m absolutely delighted. We're going to start with a couple of ice-breaker questions because we want to get to know a bit more about you first. The first thing I want to ask you, we actually do a campaign where every day we send out a word of the day. We like to be inspired about what word of the day we're going to send and we've got this #intbunchwordoftheday. Do you have a favourite word, and what does it mean?
Hannah: I do have a favourite word, it's a really basic word but it means a lot to me. You have to define it because everybody knows, but my favourite word is ‘dog’. The reason that it's my favourite one is because it's such a small little word but it means so much; there’s so much love just packed in a little tiny word, and my dogs inspire me every day.
Lou: I love it. That's so nice. As a fellow dog owner, and look - when I lost Porridge – those are her footprints there, in October someone made this for me and dropped it off and I cried. They are amazing and they do say that if you turn it backwards, it's ‘god’, isn't it?
Hannah: Yes. Well, there you go.
Lou: I love the dog word because that's very personal. What is the best thing that you have discovered in this last amazing year?
Hannah: On a work related note, I think working in slippers is probably my best discovery and it's just brilliant. I've done interviews in slippers. I've done very high-level business meetings in slippers. It's changed my life honestly, and I'm quite nervous about actually having…to I haven't worn heels in a year and anybody who knows me knows that I live in heels usually, so I'm pretty worried about that, but we'll worry about that when we have to.
Lou: Do you have the slippers on right now? I'm very curious to see.
Hannah: I do have the slippers on now. I'm not flexible enough, but they are pink, fluffy, leathery things.
Lou: Nice. I was hoping they were like Homer Simpson or something.
Hannah: No, just the normal kind. The other thing for me has been getting back into horse riding because I used to ride when I was a kid. I hadn’t ridden for about 35 years and when lock down three or whatever number it is happened, I was given the opportunity to loan a horse at our local riding school. I'm loaning a big liver chestnut Gelding called Smurf, and learning to ride again and it's been absolutely brilliant. I get to muck out and groom him. I get to ride him and it has done so much for my general wellbeing during the last crazy, crazy little while, and yes, it's been brilliant.
Lou: Did you say his name was Smurf?
Hannah: Yes. He's gorgeous. He's very stubborn. He's very contrary, quite like me. We bonded quite well, but it's been fabulous.
Lou: Who wins though when you want to go forward and he wants to go backwards, who wins?
Hannah: Usually me, but only because he's a riding school horse. It’s also reminded me of why it's important not to just sit here for many, many, many hours on the job all the time and you have to have that extra focus. It's just been brilliant.
Lou: It clearly makes you smile as well, which is excellent.
Hannah: Very important. Yes.
Lou: So who inspires you?
Hannah: Who inspires me? I don't tend to look to famous people for inspiration, or well-known personalities, because I think there's always something you don't know about them, usually a publicist. I think there's a lot of people that you kind of admire but you don't know them really and often they just have a book to sell. I think for me, my main inspiration is my closest friends. They are a really fiercely talented, really successful, wonderful group of highly intelligent, strong women. They're just amazing. Like everybody, they've had loads of stuff thrown at them. Women, I think, tend to have more to deal with generally and they're smashing through glass ceilings all over the place, but they always do everything and face every challenge with a lot of humour, a lot of grace and in a very professional way, and they inspire me every day.
Lou: That is so lovely. Can I be your friend? I want to be friends with your friends, they sound amazing! I actually have amazing friends too, I don’t want to discount my own friends here.
Hannah: It’s important to have people that are real people to model yourself on and take inspiration from, otherwise, you don’t know people.
Lou: I absolutely agree. Even though you really value friends when you're younger, for me personally, I used to have so many friends when I was younger and then as I’ve got older I actually have fewer friends that I'm closer to now, but they are incredibly valuable friends to me. I think you value friendships a lot more as you get older.
Hannah: I think you're absolutely right and I think you suddenly go past that point where you've known people for longer than you haven't. You celebrate things together. You commiserate things together, you support each other and I'm so proud of them all. I know they're proud of me. I don't think they really know what I do and I don't pretend to know what half of them do for a career, but they're amazing.
Lou: Lovely. I hope that they hear this or see this?
Hannah: I'll make sure they do.
Lou: That's a really, really lovely thing for them to hear.
When you were young, what did you do to be?
Hannah: I wanted to be anything to do with horses, which didn't quite pan out, or a volcanologist because I was obsessed with volcanoes. But unfortunately, when I was at school careers advice wasn't quite what it is today. I love my job. I love my career now, but I think had I had different advice I may have chosen a different route. But you know, it’s never too late.
Lou: My mother retrained in her 50s, I think it was, and did an Open University course in law and became a solicitor. So we have many, many, many years left. The world is definitely still your oyster.
If you were to have dinner tonight with anybody in the world, whether alive or dead, whoever they are, who would they be?
Hannah: My Granddad because he was so… you would have loved him. He was wonderful. He was really wise. He was interesting. He was a cracking storyteller, most of it from a great imagination. I think he should have written a book, so there was never a dull moment and he always believed in me and always encouraged me and probably spoilt me. He was always very clear that he thought I could be whatever I wanted to be and that's really valuable when you are a kid growing up; to know that people believe in you, but he did it in a very bombastic sort of way. He died many years ago, but I still miss him. He used to do an amazing roast from his own vegetables and he would talk for hours and put the world to rights.
Alongside him, it would probably be Monty Don. I love Monty - my guilty secret. I'd love to pick his brains on gardening. I love gardening, so that would be good, and I think we'd have Rick Stein to cook for us.
Lou: In the kitchen, he can stay there.
Hannah: Yes, he could potter in with a little glass of wine. It would be fabulous.
Lou: That's fantastic. I love it. And I love that you went for a family member as well because as you were saying that, you made me think of a few people in my family who have passed away. A little solitary tear just started and got me thinking: they have an amazing impact on our lives and it's lovely that we still treasure and think about them today.
Hannah: Yes. He was even proud of me when he realized I could drink a pint. He took me to the workingmen's club and showed me off and made me drink a pint in front of all his friends. That's him. So sweet.
Lou: At least he didn't make you do a yard of ale - my goodness. So let's talk about your career: tell us about your career and how you got to where you are today.
Hannah: I think my career started out quite interestingly. I read modern languages at university and had no idea what I wanted to do with that. So when I graduated I then went to be a Ski Rep in France for a couple of years, which was fabulous.
Lou: Ooh, we must have a chat about that off-air.
Hannah: Yes, and in the summer I temped for a septic tank company with my best friends, which was brilliant, but I wasn't really going anywhere. After a couple of years I kind of thought, or was told by my father probably, that I ought to get a proper job. I worked for a while in Customer Services at a telecoms company, then a manager at one of the companies decided I would probably be quite good at marketing, so they offered me a promotion into a marketing role. I had no experience in marketing, but they put me through my CIM and they gave me a lot of encouragement, trust and support. That was pretty good.
After a couple of years, I thought that I really needed to see the other side of the coin and get some experience in sales, which was kind of a brave thing to do in your twenties. I got a job in sales for a language travel company based in Switzerland with offices in London. I did that for a year, and I travelled mostly around Asia, selling language travel courses to language schools in the UK, US, Canada and Australia. I loved travelling. I loved being out and about but I was really not very good at selling. It just wasn't my thing. I think you are good salesperson or you're not, but what it did do was give me a really strong understanding of the value of marketing from the internal and external customer perspective, which I don't think I would have got otherwise, and the challenges that are faced, but the benefit that we as marketers can bring to our customers.
Once I realized that sales wasn't for me, I kind of jumped before I was pushed probably.
Lou: We’ve all been there. I’ve done sales too.
Hannah: I moved to ProQuest where I was a strategic marketing manager. I looked after the Chadwyck Healey portfolio then later on some Serial Solutions products, that kind of thing. I helped launch new databases and establish new products. That's where I first got my experience in publishing, with ProQuest being an aggregator I learnt a lot about digital products, about the library world, about the education aspect and the information industry in its entirety and I loved working there. It was so much fun. You know a lot of people that were and I am still in touch with them.
Lou: We were there at different times and the sales conferences were legendary. I don’t think they are like that anymore.
Hannah: I know. Even now I will occasionally bump into people I’ve not met before and they are like, ‘Oh, you’re Hannah!’ But it was great. It was great and I really loved it. And I think, so many years later, people that I met early on in my career in publishing are still friends, mentors, all of that kind of thing. I don't think I'll probably leave publishing unless I retire or something.