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In conversation with Hannah Baldwin - Episode 2 - Inspiring the Next CMO series

Updated: Dec 15, 2021

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 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.

Then I moved on to Cambridge University Press; a very, very different environment, but still in the information industry. There I looked after our digital programme, ebooks primarily and databases. That was a really formative time because the Press was going through a lot of transition. It’s a very traditional organisation, but it was really quite innovative in a lot of ways in how it wanted to move forward to represent itself. I was really lucky to be a part of that. I've been fortunate to represent Cambridge University Press on the Publishers Association Digital Directors board. I got to travel and attend conferences and present at conferences and just be part of the industry. It's so vibrant and so exciting and it's really important to be part of something that you believe in. We are in an industry that is about information and learning and if you don't have something that you believe in I think it's very difficult to get behind it and get passionate about it.

From there I started to work for professional associations, so not-for-profit organizations, and I'm still in that environment now. Again, it’s very different because it's much broader; it's not just publishing as such anymore. I know that publishing has moved on in terms of terminology.

It’s moving forward and it’s changing all the time, and moving particularly quickly.

For me, it's really great to work in a much more complex environment. I'm very lucky because I think one of my passion is representing the voice of the customer, and whilst a professional association or membership body can look very complicated from the outside, and we make it very complicated from the inside, one of the great things for me is now being able to move away from lots of disparate products and services and very much into really unique, compelling value propositions. From a marketing perspective, it's brilliant being able to lead that.

I've got a fabulous global team of marketing professionals. They're very creative. They're very enthusiastic. We're responsible for customer experience management as well as a marketing strategy and marketing campaign management. That's where we are now and it's been great being able to really demonstrate the value of marketing in the organization I work for, particularly at the moment because you've got to demonstrate your value, your relevance, your impact, and that's what we can do by representing the voice of the customer; by speaking to them in a way that drives impact and drives engagement. There are always massive challenges, obviously, but we're trying very hard to build on our value-based position and speak to people in an emotional way. So not just: here’s something - do you want to buy it? Or publish with us, we are just telling that story and differentiating us, and for me it's such a great place to be.

Lou: Yes. I completely agree with that. You have a really lovely tone of voice. I absolutely love for example, like Simon Sinek because he talks about the Golden Circle and the approach of starting with the why first. You'll see Apple for example, and others who use that, and I'm an Android lover. I'm not an Apple lover. And people who love Apple, they really love Apple.

Hannah: They do really love Apple.

Lou: They do. They've bought into that. Apple does so well with other Apple products that it makes it so easy: they integrate so well, why not get an iPod and an iPhone and an iPad?

Hannah: You're living it and it becomes a part of your lifestyle.

Lou: They've got a wonderful way that they speak: when you look at their advertising, for example, they focus on the why but in such a way that they're addressing your pain point and they flip it around and then come to the call to action afterwards, so it's about the why, then the how, then the what. I think that's something that your team and your colleagues do so well. In fact, I had a quick look at your LinkedIn earlier for something, and you've got a graphic on there. There's this really great graphic on there that someone has done and it says: Chemistry - making a difference. The try on the end -try making a difference; I just think that's really smart.

Hannah: I'd love to pretend that was my own idea, but it wasn’t. But we do create these things together and that came about because we actually did some proper audience research. The organization letters go with it and it was a really collaborative approach across the business, which was amazing, but for us, that campaign is about trying to inspire GCSE and A-level students to pursue a career in chemistry because we know the numbers of people choosing Chemistry are falling. We did a lot of research and that campaign. now has evolved beyond all expectations is winning awards all over the place. It led to a partnership a couple of weeks ago that one of my team actually uncovered where we partnered with the UK Space Agency to broadcast the Perseverance Mars Rover Landing via TikTok, which was amazing. I'm not really the right demographic for TikTok

Lou: What are you talking about? TikTok was my go-to place last year. That kept me sane.

Hannah: It was the opportunity, and it's built a lot of trust in the organization in what we can do if you start with that why and why is it we're doing this? And focusing on outcomes rather than outputs. I think that's the other thing, and just being bolder and braver.

Lou: Absolutely. Girl after my own heart there. What have you been most proud of in your career?

Hannah: Oh, loads of things I've done loads of great things for lots of opportunity and experiences. I think the thing that I'm most proud of is my team. I know with all these answers I sound a bit soppy and I know that I'm partly responsible for the performance of the team and how great they are. They are really highly skilled, very capable, very open and they're wonderful to be around. This last year, they've performed, they've just been so cheerful and so engaged - it's been brilliant. They're all kind of united in this common aim to do what they do really well, but have fun doing it as well. For me, it's just a real privilege to work with them and to see what they can do and to learn from them as well because you never know everything. You get to a point where new people come in and new ideas come along, and being able to harness that and not try and kind of stifle people and pretend that you know everything is quite a challenge, but actually, my team are fabulous. Actually, most of the teams I've worked with and looked after have been brilliant but this team in particular I'm particularly proud of.

Lou: They would love to hear this, aren’t they? They’ll be like: bonus?!

Hannah: Yes, they will be thinking, well, pay us more then.

Lou: What have you found the most challenging in your career?

Hannah: I think for me, the lack of understanding of what marketing really is and the power that a good marketing team and a marketing-led culture can bring to the organization. It is a particular skill set, but you must have this all the time: everyone is a marketeer, and we were talking before about that kind of brochures and balloons approach. It’s the ‘end of the thing approach’ - Hey, we've got a thing. Make it look nice, do something shiny. Can you put some spot UV on this? Oh my god – yes - I get very, very upset about that. I think I'm at a point in my career where I can manage that effectively, I think early on I just kind of railed against the machine and I think it's very easy to fall into marketing speak and people feel like they're being beaten over the head with a textbook or something. I now spend a lot of time working with people and trying to understand what they're trying to achieve and then showing them what we can do rather than telling them. Because otherwise, you don't have any buy-in or credibility.

I think it's also important to really respect other people's subject matter expertise so that in return they'll respect yours. I'm never going to know as much as my publishing colleagues about publishing a journal; it's just not what I do. Although I understand a lot about open access, but I'm not in the same space, but I don't need to be because my area of expertise is marketing. So bringing those together, working collaboratively and respectfully is now paying a lot of dividends.

One of my first managers in marketing always said to me: ‘It's always our fault when it goes wrong and it's never thanks to you when something goes well.’ And that's true, but I think you can flip that around to actually, we are the strongest department. We've got the broadest shoulders. You can't do what you need to do without us. I think one of the things that we've worked very hard on is a kind of subtle shift in the terminology, so moving from a service department to an enabling function. We are here to enable the organization to achieve its goals. We don't do it on our own but we are a big part of that. Again, that's about articulating that customer proposition, the customer journey, the experience you want them to have not just chucking out a nice little giveaway at the end of the process.

Lou: I think that, okay, sometimes those activities still need to exist, but actually, the marketing that we used to do back in the 2000s, in that decade is very different to what we do now. Maybe we'll have to have some kind of separate discussion on what exactly marketing is, so that people can understand it. Hannah and I had a bit of a chat before this; we were joking, as many of us marketers do, about what your parents say about you what do, or what your friends think you do, and how do you actually explain what you do? When you were talking earlier, it reminded me of one job I was in, I got so into my marketing speak that when I would speak to my friends and they would say what have you been doing in work? I would come out with something that was so centric to the organization I was working with that it did not make sense externally. I'm like, ‘Oh my god, what have I been thinking? No one understands me anymore.’

Hannah: It is funny, but I think it's a genuine profession and a skill. It's not something that everybody can do. Much like how I wasn't very good at Sales, and I don't think we always get the respect we deserve. I think a lot of people do fall for the traps of just, but there are P’s in this: principles and all that.

Lou: It provides foundation to help people learn, but actually, it's not what's so important now.

Hannah: Yes, and I think, without wishing to sound bandwagon here, I think being a woman in the industry, publishing is much better than a lot of places I know, but that also presents some challenges obviously, but I don't think it's held me back and I would like to think it doesn't hold my team back, but it’s always there, isn't it?

Lou: It is. Hopefully it will get better, especially with more that's being done on the EDI landscape, but actually, we could have a separate discussion about this, which we're not going to do now, but someone did say to me the other day, which I thought was really interesting: it's great if an organization has a representative for EDI, but what's actually their commitment? Why just have a representative? Why not have a person or a team who are actually ensuring that from an overarching level, that this is happening throughout the organization? It will be really interesting for us to see how that's going to be in months/years.

Hannah : Yes, it's got to be positive.

Lou: If you weren't in your role now and money was no object, what would you do? What would you be? Show jumper?

Hannah: I think the old bones may be a little too creaky for that! For me, I would love to work in a deli because I love cheese. Or something like that in the Lakes or in Southwest France. I would need a lot of space though because I want to rescue lots of staffies and donkeys. And obviously, I’d have a horse to gallop about on.

Lou: Just one?

Hannah: Well, yes, because I don't need one for show jumping, one for dressage.

Lou: They do take a lot of looking after as well, they are a full time job. My grandfather used to breed Irish thoroughbreds, and just like you, I used to ride when I was younger. I hadn't been for a very long time and I did get on a horse about 10 years ago and I couldn't remember how to ride. Considering I had done cross-country, pony clubs! It wasn't like getting on a bike again. I was like, oh my God, how do I trot? So yes, I admire the fact that you've gone back to riding. I've got a young daughter who loves ponies so maybe I should think about that.

Have you got any professional books that you have found and read where you have thought, they're a must-read, and why?

Hannah: I am a really voracious reader, but I really don't like business books at all. I try and avoid them. I do listen to audio books and I kind of read the executive summaries of things. I have read some very interesting books recently, just generally that are not business books, but can give you a different perspective on things. A good example of that is a book called ‘Our Place’ by Mark Cocker. Technically, it’s a kind of nature book, but it's fascinating. It made me think really long and hard about brand for example. There's a big focus on the National Trust and where that started and where it is now in terms of the values and the history behind it and how they've kind of lost their way a lot in terms of what they were supposed to be and where they've gone. Working for a company like mine now, which has a huge heritage, it was really interesting to apply some of that thinking.

I think for me, you can take inspiration from things that aren't necessarily a business book where sometimes they just rehash the same thing. Like they make money from: oh, now we're talking about human-centric marketing, and yesterday it was customer-centric - but it's the same thing. I'm quite enjoying the Alonement podcast, which is a podcast about the really positive side to spending time alone and really enjoying it and loving it. I thought I was quite good at it, but it was really interesting. She interviews lots of really great guests about lots of really interesting experiences. And I think now it's important to be able to embrace those kinds of situations as well.

The predictability of business books doesn't really do it for me. But I think by reading generally you get access to so much insight, so many great minds, so many different ways of thinking that you wouldn't do otherwise. Don't assume that just because it's a novel of some description that you're not going to find some inspiration in there that might apply to your work, because it might.

Lou: Exactly. I love that. That sounds like a really good book and we will make sure that we include a link to that. You also mentioned the Alonement podcast. Are there any other favourite books, blogs or podcasts?

Hannah: My favourite books are obviously not business books, my favourite books are the Gilead series and the Gilead quartet. Marilynne Robinson is just wonderful. They are beautifully written, very emotional, very evocative. Just wonderful. The fourth one just arrived actually, ‘Jack’, and I almost don't want to read it because it's the last one. I think it's just such a personal thing, isn't it? For me, books can take you to somewhere completely different and I just couldn't be without them.

Lou: Absolutely. I'm an audio book fan myself. I listen whilst I'm doing things.

If you could travel back in a time machine, what would you tell your early career self?

Hannah: Be a vulcanologist.

Lou: Do it. Brilliant.

Hannah: Or do the horse thing! I think really, it would be, don't be afraid to ask questions. I have gone through times in my career, and I need people to think I know all of this already, but actually, if you ask questions, you can learn a lot from other people, which will make you a better person. I think the other thing is: don't underestimate the importance of good relationships and strong relationships because, as we know from this industry, it’s very tight-knit. It's very close-knit and those people can go on to become friends. They will almost certainly be some kind of mentor or…

Lou: peer to peer as well.

Hannah: Exactly. So for me it's about not being afraid to ask questions because you won't look stupid and you might ask something that somebody else has been desperate to ask.

Lou: Yes, that's so true. That is absolutely so true. That really resonates with me as well.

Hannah: Be curious because that's makes life fun.

Lou: Absolutely. We all love bit of fun.

What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given?

Hannah: Be authentic. You know me well enough; I struggle to be anything else. I think the last year has been quite interesting working at home. I've said to my husband a few times, ‘Do I have a different work persona at home? He said, ‘Well, a little bit because you have different kinds of conversations, but not really’. I think being authentic can be very difficult, because you're putting yourself out there and sometimes that means admitting I don't know this or having to learn differently, but it’s really resonated with me.

Lou: Fantastic.

What's your number one tip for anyone working in marketing right now?

Hannah: For me, the last year has been really interesting. I think it's shown how adaptable and how agile marketing can be and how important it is. I think for us, we've had to respond really fast, and we did, and what we have been able to do we showcased much better the importance of our organization to support our community. Now for me, it's about moving into that recovery phase. Everybody's been very reactive, and now, marketing have an opportunity to step forward and lead the recovery phase; really focusing in on our audience. Who are they? What do they want? What do they need? What are their challenges? Why us? Then using that information to push forward and differentiate and bring value to your customers, which will ultimately bring value to the organization. It's about looking forward. It's about really putting your organization front and centre. It's also about just try new things. Don't be afraid. No one is going to die if you try something and it doesn't really work.

Lou: I completely agree with - that try new things. And like you said earlier: be bold, be brave and honestly, stop doing what's not working. Before we finish this, is there anything that you miss most from the COVID-19 pandemic? Apart from us meeting at conferences?

Hannah: Meeting at conferences, desperately missed. I think for me it's just the simple things: being able to plan time with friends and family, going for a dog walk and stopping for a pint in the pub garden, holidays in France, but I think there's also been a lot of positives for me. I’m learning to perhaps appreciate the little things a bit more and I hope that some of the things I've learned and some of the things that have given me a bit of course for a re-evaluation of what's important and what I want. Hopefully I'll be able to hang on to some of that – so you never know.

Lou: Exactly. My final question to you, which I didn't ask you at the beginning to prep myself, which I should have done because now you are going to through something wild at me - is there anything you want to ask me?

Hannah: So many things, but probably for over a drink.

Lou: I’m happy with that. Definitely on for that.

Hannah: Yes, the next time we can get together.

Lou: I want to tell you, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today. You have been absolutely brilliant and I have thoroughly enjoyed talking to you. I know that people will definitely have a lot of different takeaways from this as well, which is really good and impactful for them to do straight away, so that’s very important. Thank you, Hannah.

Hannah: Thank you for having me. And if anybody does want to get in touch, I'm on LinkedIn and you can always just drop me a line. I'm happy to hear from anybody, help, take any suggestion. Anybody got a cheese shop or a horse that needs mucking out – I’m your girl.

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