SAMUEL MARRIOTT-DOWDING Founder and CEO, Marriott Communications.
Did you always envisage a career in the Media industry?
Yes and no. I had always been torn between becoming an investigative journalist or working within the Civil Service, such as in the Foreign Office, but neither ever seemed to totally fit what I wanted to do or where I wanted to grow professionally. Eventually I found myself working in Marketing and Public Relations, and in many ways I now get to have the best of both worlds. However, if you told me 10 years ago that I would eventually own my own Communications agency – I would have just laughed!
What has been your career path so far?
My career path so far has really been about growth and evolution, I have nearly always had professional roles within the Marketing and Public Relations industry (aside from a stint as a bartender in Holland during my university days!). After I graduated and moved back to the UK, and during the pandemic, I began freelance Communications work for a venture capitalist and a few charities. Something had clicked for me and I knew that this was what I wanted to pursue, so I thought long and hard about applying for a job at an existing agency, but I eventually decided that I wanted to make my own dreams happen, rather than working towards making someone else’s dreams happen. So I took a chance on myself and started my own agency, and now 18 months, 17 clients, and a move to Sunderland later, I am now the CEO of Marriott Communications, and I have never looked back.
What have been the biggest challenges you have faced so far?
I think the biggest challenge so far has been finding my place in this extremely competitive sector. For any start up, there are always businesses and organisations that are much more established, have more financial freedom and flexibility, and have the longevity and the prestige to dominate the market and secure upcoming and potential projects and clients. For me, finding my footing has not always been easy, especially in a sector where there is such incredible and vibrant creative talent, and I have definitely made my fair share of mistakes along the way. With time comes experience, and with experience comes the growth that enables you to solidify who you are and where you belong.
How did you adapt your business during the coronavirus crisis and support clients?
I officially incorporated my business in January 2021, so right in the middle of lockdown and the pandemic, and I was incredibly fortunate in that the lockdown actually gave me an advantage. As Marriott Communications is a digital communications agency, I had limited overheads and a flexibility that allowed me to adapt to the changing markets and the ebb and flow of external marketing spend. I also spotted a gap in agency service provision, and to exploit this I created a specialist digital transformation service to support businesses that were affected by the lockdown – especially those with brick and mortar stores, and those who had not up until that point established a digital marketing strategy that would drive revenue and raise brand awareness. This particular service proved invaluable to several businesses and organisations, and was an integral part of our first year rapid growth.
What is your greatest strength?
Intuition and discernment. For as long as I can remember I have always been able to instinctually assess and analyse situations and people, and to be able to do this within the Marketing and Public Relations sectors, let alone when running a business, is invaluable. These strengths have helped me to identify problems needing solving, to see what relationships to cultivate or abandon, and to map out what opportunities to say yes to, and most importantly what opportunities to say no to.
What has been your proudest achievement?
Celebrating Marriott Communications’ first business anniversary! When I started my company I was very well aware of the statistics surrounding how many startups fail in their first year and I just did not want to become that statistic – which really forced me to diversify my services and to really think outside of the box. I ended up having a really strong first year and saw twelve straight months of profit, and when that anniversary arrived it really became a milestone for me, and I could not be any prouder of what was achieved in our first year, and of what is to come.
What are your remaining career aspirations?
I think I probably have too many to name! One important goal of mine is to continue to grow Marriott Communications nationally and internationally, and eventually transition the business into a Public Affairs agency alongside opening a creative agency specifically for the lifestyle and entertainment industries. I also would not be opposed to a Forbes feature!
How do you see your industry evolving in the next 10 years?
The most significant evolution over the next decade could quite possibly be the shift towards conscious marketing. More and more consumers and audiences are becoming more socially, ethically, and politically aware in how they spend their money, and from whom they are acquiring products and services. Consumer trends are shifting and a greater value is being placed upon supporting and buying from businesses that are sustainable, ethical, and socially aware – and most importantly whether these businesses values align with those of their consumers. As a result, a greater focus will be placed upon implementing conscious marketing into a businesses marketing strategy and sales function in order to demonstrate to the consumer that their buying decisions will have the greatest positive impact on their lives, the lives around them, and for the world that they live in.