Mandi Barton is the Head of Social at M&C Saatchi Australia.
With over 15 years of experience in marketing communications, Mandi’s career has spanned across a range of industries and roles, including as the Director of Digital Communications at Hill+Knowlton Strategies and Head of Social at Mindshare.
Balance the Grind spoke to Mandi about her 15-year plus career, what it means to be Head of Social, getting into the office early for uninterrupted work, the need for stillness in her life and more.
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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your background and career?
I’ve been working in agencies for 10 years now, with 6 years prior to that client side, mostly small to medium sized businesses where often I was the only person in the marketing department.
That was the best breeding ground for my career as I had to do a little bit of everything. I started to focus on content marketing and social when I realised that word of mouth was the most powerful and accelerated referral channel for sales.
For years my approach could simply be described as researching audiences, understanding pain points, providing useful and interesting content to help them and demonstrating how the brand/product fits in the context of their life.
2) What is your current role and what does it entail on a day to day basis?
As Head of Social for M&C Saatchi, I am involved in bringing integrated campaigns to market; working with the client, the strategists, the creative teams, the production department and our social experts to help some of Australia’s biggest brands make an impact.
It involves research, writing, asking questions, answering questions, problem solving, managing teams, education, giving feedback and having extended conversations about random things like gifs or hashtags.
At the end of the day hopefully we have found a way to solve a business problem with simplicity, creativity and customer-centricity.
3) What does a typical day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I usually wake up with a dog butt in my face. I have to crawl out over him to get to the gym and he takes my spot pretty quickly.
He’s finally up and ready to welcome me home when I get back and we set him up with the Food Network to watch while we’re out for the day.
My husband and I commute together and recently we’ve been listening to the Conan O’Brien podcast – Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend – on the drive in to work so that puts me in a great mood.
I’m usually one of the first in the office so I can spend some uninterrupted time planning my day or writing.
I’ve worked in a few areas of the building at my agency and every pod has been filled with delightful people so it’s great to have a chat with everyone as they come in.
Meetings throughout the day will usually either be briefings, WIPs or internal reviews so depending on the stage of the project will depend on what I do next.
If we’ve just been briefed then I’m doing research on audience insights, pulling together references of best practice work and writing up a task brief.
If we’re mid project then we’re reviewing creative work and helping to make it social-proof. If we’re pitching then we’re writing about our recommended approach, pulling together case studies and credentials and crafting our most compelling story.
In between all of this I’m also:
- running education sessions for different departments
- attending WIPs to make sure we’re across all projects and collaborating with other agency groups
- meeting with clients to discuss expectations and ways of working
- working with freelancers we may need for certain jobs
- catching up with my team on any issues
- trying to avoid another delicious cake that’s passed around for someone’s birthday.
When it’s time to go home it’s all about the dog again. Except for tonight – I’m heading out to karaoke with some (favourite) clients.
4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you prioritise your workload?
I love a list. Writing it down means I can clear my head for the task at hand and not worry about forgetting a priority or deadline. I block out time in my diary for chunky pieces of work so I’m not trying to come back to it in between meetings.
I like to get a big art pad and map out my thoughts first before creating a presentation. When you know the story it makes it easier to build a strategy, presentation or proposal.
5) In between your job, life and all your other responsibilities, how do you ensure you find some sort of balance in your life?
I have increasingly found the need for stillness in my life. I am constantly multi-tasking, whether it be working on several different projects in a day or reading, watching, listening out of curiosity.
So finding a few hours to have no music, no TV, no books and just let my thoughts settle is really helpful. Preferably while staring out at the ocean in summer but the botanic gardens also works!
I also try to make my mornings my own. The day can get away from you and best laid plans go flying out the window so I prefer to make sure I’ve done exercise in the mornings and the 30-60 minutes at work before everyone else arrives is my time.
6) What are some of the things you do to take time out and recharge?
I spend quality time with my husband and our dog. I am getting better at organising things with friends even if I’m busy. I love going for a run near the beach or harbour where the views make it absolutely worth it.
And having future travel plans always helps – something to look forward to. There’s usually a few upcoming trips in the calendar but for the first time in around 8 years I have nothing specific booked so that needs to change as a matter of priority!
7) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?
Managing expectations is essential. A zillion requests may come through to you and firstly you don’t have to say yes to them.
Working with someone to find a way to get what they need done on terms that suit the both of you will relieve so much stress. And something new that I’m working on is finding contentment.
I have always been thinking about the next big milestone in my life and you find that time just flies by.
Balancing ambition with being content with what you’ve got takes a little work but it is making me much happier. I want to wriggle around in my present day self and get comfortable instead of dashing to meet my future self and miss what’s happening here and now.
8) Are there any books you’ve read that have helped you with work-life balance?
I have several books and audiobooks on the go but they’re all chosen to give me work-life balance, not necessarily to teach me about it!
I like choosing books about places I don’t know very well to inspire future travels, or fiction that inspires creativity, and audiobooks about interesting people (preferably read by said person) to get new perspectives.
9) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?
I create time for myself where I can. That way it doesn’t matter if someone comes and interrupts me because I will have my own time and space for my own priorities.