Alex Wain-Mackay – Digital Marketing Manager @ Sydney Festival

1. Before we dive into your role at the Sydney Festival, what has your career journey looked like so far?

I’ve worked in marketing for over 18 years, working across entertainment, not-for-profit government, healthcare and technology industries. Along the way I’ve launched several startups too. It’s certainly been a diverse ride. 

But I like a challenge, working across different sectors forces you to adapt and room to innovate and grow. 

A lot of the principles of marketing remain the same, but the tactics and expectations are vastly different between say an adaptive fast-paced startup vs a risk-averse government agency.

2. Transitioning into work, what the heck does a Digital Marketing Manager @ Sydney Festival do?

What is the Sydney Festival?

Sydney Festival is a celebration of art, performance and big ideas that transforms Sydney every January. 

From Jan 6-30 next year, across 130+ events we’re animating locations inside, outside, waterside and street side with a dynamic program of theatre, music, dance, visual art. I think I speak for a lot of people when I say we’re ready to party after so many months of lockdown!

What is my role?

So in consultation with the Marketing Director, I help lead the development and implementation of Sydney Festival’s digital marketing strategy.

A large part of my day is maintaining all of the Festival’s digital channels including website, email, social media and content platforms, as well as the relationships with agencies, suppliers and stakeholders. 

That said, every day is different. It might be:

  • Working with an artist on an Instagram takeover
  • Scoping out new functionality on the website
  • Looking at ways to optimise our ticketing processes
  • Working on creative with our agency partner

It’s a dynamic and diverse role – challenging at times but really rewarding too.

3. What’s an example of a project that you’ve worked on and what was your role in bringing it to life?

Project name: So I launched my own stationery startup Phantom Notes about a month ago – does that count?

What is it?

A few years ago, I co-founded a website called So Bad So Good that at its peak was attracting around 4-5M visitors a month. This is the story of that wild journey

But after that, I wanted to try my hand at creating and marketing a physical product. It’s a different approach to building an online community. That and I didn’t want a notebook with a generic hashtag on the cover or a jungle themed journal. So, I set about creating a brand that was the polar opposite of that. Which is what lead to Phantom Notes happening.

What was your role?

I would say I spent about a year planning it all out to be honest. From the idea, to working on different prototypes, to sourcing materials through to branding, positioning and finally releasing it into the world. I have such a newfound respect for small business as a result.

But the response has been amazing. 

You have the wave of support from your family and friends. But then when you start getting orders from people outside your circle – its such a great feeling. It’s a validation for all that hard work that nobody sees behind the scenes. It still blows my mind that there are people in Belgium, USA, Dubai, NZ using their Phantom journal right now. I know because I shipped it to them a few weeks ago.

If you’re thinking about launching a small venture or startup – back yourself. Honestly, if I can do it you most certainly can.

4. What do the entry level pathways into events marketing look like?

That’s a great question. 

Volunteering is a good opportunity because it will provide you with an insight into the environment and processes needed to bring an event to life. That way you can decide if it’s an area you’d like to explore further. 

It’s also a great way to build relationships and rapport with people. In certain industries that are ultra competitive – personality and work ethic can play a large role when it comes accelerating your career. 

Being self-motivated and showing a willingness to learn will always be looked on favourably. 

If everyone has the same qualifications – how are you going to stand out from the pack?

If you want to get into the events industry, what local event have you run yourself? Even if it’s just a small community event, show people that you have that drive and desire to make things happen. It’s those little moments that will make you stand out. 

How did you land your first role?

At Universal Music, I started in the mailroom going around the entire company delivering parcels to people’s desks. Every day I would get a few moments to talk to the marketing manager, the promotions director or the even the CEO in-between giving them their mail. Those small interactions, over time build up to have a big effect. 

When a small marketing role came up internally, I applied and was lucky enough to be the successful candidate – not because I was qualified, but because I had built those relationships. So never underestimate the power of a good impression, being proactive and asking questions. That’s how I got my first break in marketing. That’s a path that could be open if you volunteer for example.

5. What’s one thing you recommend an aspiring marketer do right now?

Read, watch and absorb everything you can from His insights are invaluable and best of all, there’s no waffle. Just practical advice, in plain English that will help rapidly expand your understanding of marketing more broadly.

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