We interview MICHELLE LEVINGS, the owner of an award-winning Brisbane-based digital consultancy FoxedGlove and foodie extraordinaire.
Can you tell us a little about yourself, Michelle?
I’m Tasmanian by birth, grew up in Adelaide Hills and moved to Brisbane 8 years ago. I’m from an incredibly confusing multicultural family and I’m constantly learning more about my Anglo, Polynesian and Aboriginal heritage and my Indonesian family. I would say I am a bit of an explorer and I’m always seeking to learn more about music, food, nature and how we communicate to each other. Professionally, I’m a digitally-focused freelance marketing consultant.
When and why did you decide to start running FoxedGlove?
I set up my consultancy 4 years ago out of frustration because I found it difficult to find a job in a digital marketing field in Brisbane at that time. At 24, after 3.5 years of working with small businesses and representing other companies, I was faced with having too much experience to start at the bottom and not enough experience with traditional offline marketing techniques to get employed.
I saw a niche for myself guiding clients through a cost-effective digital setup process and I knew I could get my own clients, as I had been doing it for others for quite some time. I was reluctant to become a corporate suit working in a digital agency as I found the environment too dry and too money-motivated. I am an artist by nature and enjoy creating something that is creative and successful for the right client.
What’s your goal with FoxedGlove?
I want to build FoxedGlove into a brand that people will associate creative communication work with. It has always been my goal to work with other creatives to develop something amazing that communicates a message that connects to people. I work with other talented designers and web developers to help me achieve goals and deliver results. It’s my ultimate dream to create an interactive music album or an “experience” which can be seamlessly communicated and experienced in many different ways and on multiple levels.
Like many professionals in our era, we first got in touch through social media. How important do you find the use of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other mediums in your line of work?
Social media is incredibly important in my line of work because word of mouth is still the most powerful marketing tool! Social media allows you to talk directly to your customers and show them they are important to you. Just like in real life, if you can build a rapport with a community of people, you will have more customers recommending you to their friends and family. Social media allows you to do this in an electronic way. It also allows you to find information and connect with people that share the same view as you across different demographics and locations.
Digital communication has been an obsession of mine since the days of mIRC chatrooms and the dial-up modem. I have made fantastic friends through social media and my life is richer because of it. I think making social media friends is a lot like meeting friends when you are travelling alone in a different place, if you are in the right place at the right time you can connect with some awesome people, you just have to have an open mind and put yourself out there.
You’re working with Ekka this year – what does your role entail?
It’s my 3rd year managing some part of the digital strategy for the Ekka. This year, my role is mainly focused on creating and managing the social media strategy. W will be running prize giveaways through interactive Facebook and Twitter apps and launching an Ekkagram photo contest through Instagram, where chosen images will be displayed on electronic billboards around the city during Ekka. The popular Ekka social media mascot Bobbi-Jo will also be making an appearance this year in a brand-new format – exciting things are ahead!
You’ve won awards for your digital work for Ekka in 2010. What was that experience like for you?
It was amazing to receive some recognition for the 2010 campaign. I was lucky enough to receive the freedom to implement a lot of my own ideas and run a few social media experiments that paid off.
Everyone at the RNA works incredibly hard to put the Ekka together. It is an epic undertaking. That year I was also responsible for all the digital marketing assets, so I was definitely under the pump.
In your opinion, what’s the current state of digital marketing in QLD and how hard is it to carve out your own niche?
I’ve seen more and more digital marketing roles become available in Brisbane – particularly in the last year. They were basically non-existent when I started my consultancy 4 years ago. Having your own consultancy and niche is challenging as you have to be prepared to spend a lot of time on your own nutting things out, two heads are better than one. I try to find the time to go to industry events and conferences regularly to refresh my outlook and talk to others in my field.
You have a status as one of the main foodies in Brisbane. How do you manage to balance your passion for cooking with your projects?
Cooking is my way of getting away from a screen! It’s very therapeutic for me and I make time for it because it makes me feel good.
When I was younger, I painted with oils to get into a meditative mind-set. Now I “paint” with food and flavours because it’s more practical and tastes a whole heap better.
On the same note, how did you get involved with Roza’s Gourmet Sauces?
I met Jasmin Robertson, the owner, at a food event in Brisbane and while I was sampling her delicious sauces, we started talking about my last bar project Kerbside. She mentioned how she loved the branding and direction of the marketing and I mentioned that my little team was behind the brand creation, design and communication. One thing led to another and now I am assisting with the marketing strategy of Roza’s Gourmet Sauces. A match made in foodie heaven.
As an industry pro, do you have any words of advice for people entering the digital marketing world? Also, what does it take to become a pro?
If you want to work in any sort of marketing, you should definitely get some experience working in a client-facing sales role for a little while to understand the psychology of selling to a customer and the value of building rapport and maintaining a good relationship. Once you understand that, it will be easier to translate into the digital space – it’s about building positive relationships built on trust with your customers. Always seek to learn more and experiment with digital communication, and be easily adaptable to change.
To become a pro, it takes determination, self-control, self-motivated learning and the ability to communicate online and offline with many different types of people.
Thanks very much Michelle!