By Avneet Bains, Leyla Mehmet, Chloe Francis and Alessia De Silva
In this issue, we spoke to Federica Fiorillo to learn about her role as an International Marketing Assistant at Macmillan Education and as a Digital Content Officer for SYP (the Society of Young Publishers)...
How did you get into publishing? Did you always want to work in marketing and, specifically, in education?
I’ve always wanted to be part of the industry, as it plays a major part in giving kids and teenagers (like I was) the chance to escape, grow and feel less lonely through the written word. I studied Classics and Philology in Italy, on a scholarship. Whilst there, I spent a lot of time in academia, researching and working as a private teacher to sustain myself. When I moved to Scotland in 2018 to get an MLitt in Publishing at Stirling, I found a job as a part-time teacher and this gave me invaluable experience which helped me to land my job at Macmillan Education. I did know that marketing was, along with rights, the sector I was most interested in because I’m a people person. Putting my education expertise into practice as well was, in a way, the perfect storm: I’d done dozens of interviews by the time I got the one with Macmillan Education, but it was this last one that made me think “Oh, that’s what I truly want to do.”
Tell us more about your role as an International Marketing Assistant. What does your typical day look like, if there is such a thing?
I work within the global marketing team, whose function is to both support and coordinate all the activities of the local marketing teams based all around the world. This means that, on a daily basis, I get queries from marketing and sales teams based in several different countries. I do my best to support the creation and delivery of promotional campaigns that cater to teachers from Russia to Mexico. Thanks to this, I learned a lot about cultures and education in very different countries, and that’s what I love the most about my job. My main activity is coordinating and co-hosting our webinar programme. This ranges from; preparing the promotional slides to include in the talks, training speakers how to use different platforms to deliver their sessions and interacting with the thousands of teachers who attend the events, both during and after the webinars. I also support the Teacher Training and Author Engagement function, which involves a lot of author support and stakeholder management. Lastly, I was lucky enough to be heavily involved in the launch of a research programme called Insights Index. This programme granted me a lot of training in market research and I gained a deeper knowledge of teachers’ needs and challenges. I absolutely adored it.
Has there been anything you’ve found particularly challenging about your role? Is there anything that surprised you?
I think the biggest challenge is also the most stimulating one for me, that is: producing assets and keeping a tone during the webinars which appeals to customers that have very different cultures, backgrounds and habits from one another. I’m lucky because I’m very empathetic, so, I can usually read a room pretty easily. I’d say that, generally, being yourself is always the best card you can play in these cases. This also helps a lot when, from my very junior perspective, I have to interact with much more senior positions. In this case, I was surprised by how much a little thing such as explaining what the greater picture is, and why you’re asking what you’re asking, helps. People are so motivated when you tell them how that boring task you’re asking them to do will turn into something much bigger and useful.
What advice would you have for publishing hopefuls who would specifically like to go into marketing or specialise in education?
If you want to work in marketing, knowing the basics of how to use digital tools, such as social media, and how to measure their performance is key. The good news is that no one expects you to be skilled in Google Analytics as long as you have the right attitude towards it; no marketing activity is just potentially a “successful gut feeling” turned into beautiful assets. It’s always about researching how you can place your product in your audience’s minds and, to do so, hard data analysis is your best friend. Especially with entry level roles, what counts is your attitude. If you’ve seen a campaign you loved and analysed how well it performed compared to others you liked in terms of social media engagement and media coverage presence for example, it doesn’t matter if you have never seen the other side of Facebook Analytics.
With education, thanks to charities and, even simply your old high school teachers’ contacts, it’s very easy to acquire practice volunteering or on a salary with private schools too. However, always remember it takes having a certain kind of character, as you’ll be dealing with people in very peculiar stages of their growth, both as humans and as professionals.
Is knowing a foreign language useful to the international aspect of marketing? Do you have any tips on how to best convey these skills in your application, in relation to the role you might be working in?
Absolutely! A language is the gateway to a culture, and in the bigger picture, being interested in learning something new is how you progress both on a personal and a professional level. Definitely put down your language skills in your CV, and remember that it’s always an asset. Use the language you know to learn about the culture(s) linked to it with first-hand materials, even movies and books. Lastly, if you’re worried about having an accent (like I was), address the elephant in the room during interviews by saying something like “you must have heard I’m from x country, which makes me a great asset to address y audience.” This shows you’re self-aware and capitalising on your personal features.
Can you tell us about your role within SYP as a Digital Content Officer?
The Digital Content Officers are two newly created roles aimed at aligning all content posted online to the SYP’s objectives more closely, and supporting all regional branches in their digital activities. Will Murano (the other UK Digital Content Officer for 2021) and I are working towards creating best practice guidance for content planning and delivery, as well as channel coordination. In 2021, we are planning to publish more content catering to members who are already in their first or second role in publishing, as we feel that the pandemic has slimmed the chances entry roles have to work towards promotions and also the opportunity to learn from their senior managers in some capacity. We also want to keep addressing the issues of diversity and inclusivity in the industry. We’ll soon kick off with a series of blog posts analysing these topics that we’ve worked on with the Inclusivity Officer.
How do you balance your time between working for Macmillan Education and the SYP? Are there any challenges you face?
I’ve got better lately at setting boundaries with my daily job at Macmillan Education, which means I have a lot more time to dedicate to my SYP role. I usually work on my SYP projects after 6pm or at the weekends, but strongly believing in what we’re doing as a society makes it feel more like an occasion than anything else, and so I usually can’t wait to log into my SYP account and do the work. Both the UK Chair and Co-Chair, Tanu Shelar and Amalia Mihailescu, are wonderful in keeping everyone in the loop with the bigger picture and, as I said above, this does wonders in motivating me to do my part every day. Being able to count on Will’s expertise is also a great learning opportunity for me, hearing the amazing ideas the other Digital Content people in the regional branches have, along with being an active witness of their enthusiasm, is my strongest fuel.
What advice would you give to anyone hoping to apply for a role within the SYP in the future?
Think of what you can bring to the society, how your personal journey can better what happens in the industry and in what capacity your skills can benefit the SYP’s objectives. All committees are a lovely bunch, so reach out and get involved. If you ever need support or help, these are your people. We all give our free time and skills to the dream of an open and fair industry. We all come from different backgrounds and experiences, so there will always be space for you, whoever you are. The networking and learning will come, but your starting point needs to be your own will to play your part in making things better, however you can. Lastly, truly enjoy the journey - it’s so worth it.