Creative Lives — Build’s Marketing Manager, Elena Dransfield on showcasing skills and studio work
Elena Dransfield graduated from a degree in PR at Leeds Metropolitan University in 2013. After travelling around Asia for six months she returned to a job at Leeds-based studio Build, where she has been working as a marketing manager since August 2016. Elena talks to us about importance of showing, not telling and how co-founding her own charity initiative, Equals, helped her land a full-time position without ever having to apply.
Marketing Manager, Build (August 2016–present)
Account Manager, Northern Media, Wakefield (2015–2016)
Account Executive, Source Marketing Communications, Leeds (2014–2015)
Communications Assistant, White Rose Office Park, Leeds (2013–2014)
BA Public Relations, Leeds Metropolitan University – now Leeds Beckett (2010–2013)
The Build studio
How would you describe your job?
I help manage the PR and marketing side of things, which is a big part of my day-to-day, but I also occasionally help with project management. Most forward-thinking design studios want to do a good job for their client, but they also want to showcase what they can do to other creatives, so it’s important that studios get their work out there, but a lot of people need help doing so. I push out the work we do to print and online press, and look for any opportunities to get our name in front of a wider audience.
What does a typical working day look like?
My usual working hours are 8.45am to 5.30pm, depending on specific projects or deadlines. Every day is different, which is what I enjoy about my job. I’ll usually start by checking my emails and Build’s social media. An average day could include liaising with press about new work or a feature we’ve been asked to do, sorting out a book request, meeting businesses within the area, project managing or helping with invoices. Build is a pretty small business, so it’s nice that everyone mucks in now and again to get stuff sorted.
How did you land your current job?
Luck, probably. I didn’t apply for a position at Build and didn’t really have an interview, either. I met our founders Nicky and Michael in 2015 when they got involved in a charity project that my boyfriend Luke and I created called Equals. We held an event called Present! for an orphanage in India and got about 52 design studios from around the world involved during London Design Festival. Nicky and Michael were a real support and gave us advice whenever they could before they moved up north. Luke and I then went travelling around Asia for sixth months. It was after we returned that Nicky asked me to come in to discuss a potential position at Build.
“It’s important that studios get their work out there, but a lot of people need help doing so.”
Present!, set up by charity initiative Equal which Elena co-founded
Interactive wall at Present!
Present! exhibition opening
Malika Favre and Rob Alderson speaking at Present!
Elena and boyfriend Luke donating money to the orphanage
Where does the majority of your work take place?
Most of my day is spent on the computer.
How collaborative is your role?
Incredibly collaborative. I spend a lot of time with Nicky discussing how to approach potential new clients and how we can improve certain elements of the business outside of the design work. Externally, I’m always liaising with clients and suppliers.
What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job?
The most enjoyable has to be the freedom that comes with my job and how everyone gets involved if needs be. The nature of press releases means that they need to be signed off by different people (which is understandable) but it can become a lengthy process. That has to be the least enjoyable – especially if I’m having to work to a press deadline.
“University is good at giving you an understanding, but I don’t think you really learn anything until you get a job.”
What has been the most exciting project of the last twelve months?
As I have an internal role, one of the most exciting projects for me has been working on the PR and marketing side of Build. I worked a lot with Nicky on analysing and understanding how we currently use PR, from digital marketing like blogging and social media to how we approach new potential clients.
What skills are essential to your job?
Being able to work in a team, communicate to clients, colleagues, suppliers and press, IT skills and an understanding of apps and social media are all really important, along with being both creative and having a commercial awareness.
Would you say your work allows for a good life-work balance?
I would say I have a very good life-work balance – I never feel stressed or that my job cuts into my personal life. I will always stay late if there’s something that needs to be done, but it’s such a small business that it’s only fair that everyone pulls their weight. However, I don’t think it’s healthy to be working 10 to 12 hours a day. There’s more to life than working, and although you may like your job, there’s so much more to see and do away from your desk! Luckily, everyone at Build seems to feel the same way.
What tools do you use most for your work?
My Apple iMac 27”, LG G4 smartphone and social media apps. My Moleskine diary and highlighter are also always on hand.
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How I Got Here
What did you want to be growing up?
I’ve never really known what I wanted to do. When I was about six I really wanted to be an ice cream lady because I thought it would mean having an unlimited supply of free treats and a van. I also quite liked the idea of being an architect.
How (if at all) is the subject you studied in useful to your current role?
I studied PR at University, where I learnt the process of seeking opportunities, preparing press releases, media lists, liaising and striking a relationship with target press. So the fundamental skills are the same. Ultimately, university is good at giving you an understanding, but I don’t think you really learn anything until you get a job.
What were your first jobs?
I did a lot of internships throughout University, working with everyone from the press team at South Yorkshire Police to working with sports PR company, Calacus in London. Initially I was working remotely but then went down to London to help the press team at the Laureus World Sports Awards, which was very exciting at the time. It can be daunting, but going out and doing things yourself, whilst having the guidance of someone experienced is a really good way to learn.
“Putting together a charity fashion show in my final year of uni gave me real confidence in my abilities that I could then take into job interviews.”
Was there anything in particular that helped you at the start of your career?
David Alexander, the founder and managing director of Calacus PR really helped me throughout University, giving me support, work and experience.
Was there a particular project you worked on that helped your development?
My dad died of Leukaemia in the summer of my second year, so I wanted to do something to raise some money for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research (now Bloodwise) and decided to organise a charity fashion show that I put together in my final year of uni. In retrospect, it gave me real confidence in my abilities, which I could then take into job interviews. I had to hold meetings with local business owners in Leeds and plan every element of the event, selling tickets and getting press. Luckily, the event was a success and raised £4,500 for the charity.
What skills have you learnt along the way?
I’d like to think I’ve learnt how to communicate well – which is key when working in marketing and PR. Skills within digital marketing can change quickly; social media and advertising change regularly and new things come into trend, so knowing how these things work and how they can benefit your company is something I’m constantly learning to adapt to.
Elena at work
Elena at work
What would you like to do next?
In terms of job satisfaction, it’s safe to say I’ve enjoyed working at Build more than any other company I’ve ever worked for. So, yes I could imagine being here for a long time. But I’d like to go travelling again and live in India for a year. I’d really like to learn how to make dishes from local chefs.
What do you feel is the natural career progression for someone in your current position?
I mostly manage myself at the moment, so I suppose the natural progression would be to manage other people.
Words of Wisdom
What advice would you give to a young creative wanting to become a marketing manager in the design industry?
A lot of design studios could benefit from an in-house marketing manager. Go out and meet with local studios – you never know what they might be looking for. It might also be worth putting a creative event together to meet new people, and most importantly to demonstrate your skills and showcase what you can do.
This article is part of our In the Studio With feature on Build.