Katherine’s work at Food Standards Scotland (FSS) and in her previous role as Head of Safer and Greener Marketing at the Scottish Government has won many awards. She plays an increasingly active role in the industry and is a former member of the Marketing Society Council. Katherine is currently Head of Communications & Marketing at FSS.
What’s the biggest challenges you face in your role with Food Standards Scotland?
I was originally brought in to FSS on a consultative basis to develop a communications and marketing strategy for the new standalone food body for Scotland – previously part of the UK Food Standards Agency – in advance of launch in April 2015. That included developing an identity, proposing a new structure and recruiting a team, bringing agencies on board and building marketing capacity and capability as this had previously been run from the FSA in London. The big challenge, when I became a permanent member of the team, was then to actually put what had looked good on paper into practice!
We’re two and a half years in now and have made huge progress in building a separate brand identity and reputation, establishing FSS’s credentials as the authority in Scotland on food safety and standards, and on healthy eating.
Additionally, FSS is based in Aberdeen so for someone who lives in East Lothian, that’s a bit of a geographical challenge.
You started your career agency side and made the change client side with a jump to the Scottish Government before moving to FSS. What’s it like on the other side of the fence?
I’m fortunate to have worked in some of the best agencies in Scotland and learned from some inspirational agency people before I moved client-side six years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed my agency career (most of the time), and I also did stints freelancing, copywriting and in marketing recruitment so I guess my career path indicates my slightly itchy feet and the need for variety and new challenges in my working life.
I’ve really loved my client-side career to date – primarily because I’ve been able to focus on social marketing, using behavioural insight to try to make a positive difference in peoples’ lives. I’ve also branched out since I came to FSS to cover all areas of communications and marketing, which has been another learning curve and one I’m really enjoying. I work with a great team here and we’ve been able to deliver some really effective campaigns – both on food safety and healthy eating – and I think understanding agency processes and the pressures agency teams can be under helps in how I work with them now that I’m ‘the client’. It’s a partnership based on mutual trust, respect and understanding.
I’ve learned that clients actually do work hard too – they just have a different set of challenges. Not least of which is getting your head round new topics (campylobacter anyone?) and the large number of internal and external stakeholders you need to engage with – which can sometimes make decision-making slower than I’d like.
And I’ve learned that the client who wants their logo bigger was right after all!
If you could look back at your career and remake one of your biggest decisions, what would it be?
I don’t think I’d remake any major decisions to be honest. It sounds a bit trite but you do learn so much from the things that don’t go well, whether that’s as a result of your own decision or not, and I’ve become a stronger, better and more decisive marketer because of the bad stuff as much as the good.
What brands are you most impressed by at the moment?
I love the Marmite Gene Project – it’s a strong central concept that extends the brand’s existing positioning and gives it a fresh new hook to appeal to new audiences. The ads are really well-written and well-executed and they’ve extended the thought across all channels in really engaging and innovative ways. And I am most definitely a Marmite lover!
Katherine on Twitter
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