Q&A with Justyna Babski of CP
There are pros and cons to working agency or client side and my long-time client and friend Justyna has done both. Justyna worked agency side before becoming the Manager of Marketing & Communications for CP, so I wanted to gather her insight into the differences between these two worlds and what she looks for when hiring internal and external roles and teams for various projects to help see how all the many pieces of the puzzle fit together.
How did you get into Marketing & Communications/Project Management?
Advertising/marketing had always interested me, and I was good at it in school. I imagined that creating ads, t.v. commercials, etc. would be fun. I really wanted to experience and be engrained in the creative process, from planning campaigns and projects, to managing people and clients. It was everything that I really liked doing so advertising was the ideal setting for me. What I liked about working at agencies is that you had multiple clients and projects to manage. Everything was different day-to-day. I also loved sitting with the creative teams and brainstorming new ideas. Starting agency-side (especially in smaller companies) gave me the ability to deal with and work on things that I wouldn’t be able to touch if I had gone to a larger company or directly to client-side.
Working internally at CP (client-side), you are taking care of one main client, but have multiple divisions and departments to work with such as Human Resources, Investor Relations and Events, to name a few. There is a lot of juggling multiple projects and timelines and you need to ensure that everyone is using the same tone of voice and is on brand - which is harder than it sounds.
Are you from Calgary originally?
Long story short, no. Originally from Poland (Łodż), moved to Edmonton when I was 6 years old, and came to Calgary for my advertising career approximately 15-years-ago.
How did you end up in your current role at CP?
I had a lot of friends who had worked for CP, in a number of different roles. When I decided to leave advertising, one of my close friends (VP of Intermodal at that time) told me about the Marketing and Communications opportunity. Initially, this was an advisor role but the requirements of the job were exactly the same as what I had been doing in advertising. What attracted me to the CP was the manager at the time, we had the same view-points about advertising and marketing and what could be done for CP.
I was lucky enough to advance to a manager position quickly at CP and I do attribute that to the experience I gained on agency side. I think people who go from agency to client side bring more value because of the experience that comes working at the agency level.
What attracted you to this role?
What I really liked about this position was that I was the one that would be able to plan and brainstorm campaigns for the company. I get to play a huge part in the direction of where the company and brand go.
How is the internal marketing team structured?
Our Communications department is comprised of 13 people. It’s divided into internal communications, community investment, social media, website + intranet, community connects (dealing with public complaints), PR + media, and branding, advertising + marketing (which is what I handle).
What types of roles do you hire for internally at CP?
Personally, I hire designers to help out internally and photographers for campaigns. My role focuses on strategic planning and managing projects. Having in-house designers allows me to reduce costs for design work and get projects done quickly. If my department grows, I would also hire a project-based coordinator.
What types of projects do you do in house? What types of projects to you hire agencies for?
I source out large campaigns to agencies. When I started on the Awareness/Line of Business (LOB) campaign, I worked with my agency, ZGM on creative concepts, taglines, copy, and media buying.
Otherwise, I try to keep as much as possible in-house. My current designer is quite experienced, so I do like to have her work on the more challenging projects such as our internal magazine and other internal publications such as the Corporate Sustainability Report. But there are many smaller projects such as: Line of Business pamphlets, presentations, maps, signage, ad re-sizing that she also handles.
How do you find various agencies you want to work with?
Coming from the agency side I knew a lot of names in Calgary. I chose a handful of companies based on their client base, expertise and reputation to come in and pitch themselves. That’s how I ended up choosing ZGM. They came in and showed that they really did their homework on CP and the overall industry. But most of all the fit was there with the people. Personalities jived well, they were eager and willing to work with our internal designer as well. I felt that the collaboration was right.
In what capacity do you work with freelancers/photographers/designers/writers?
Though I have one designer, the amount of work that comes through our department is too much to handle. I source a variety of work out to designers (mainly Shannon), animators, etc. It has a lot to do on skill set. We usually do not source anything out for copywriting. I mainly write our copy for advertising and collateral pieces and our internal team takes care of the magazine writing or any other publications such as the Corporate Sustainability and Annual Reports.
We also work with a variety of photographers and videographers depending on the project type, location and budget.
How do you measure their work?
Consistency with their work, timeliness, if it meets the objectives that are laid out, and professionalism – to list a few.
What do you wish your agency/freelance partners could improve upon?
Overall, I feel like I work with great partners. If they didn’t meet my expectations I wouldn’t be working with them. Everyone makes mistakes and there can be times where I wish small details wouldn’t be overlooked or I would be challenged more in my requests. But overall if my partners pay attention to detail, communicate well, are talented in what they do, I’m very happy.
How do your budgets and marketing plan work? Do you create them annually? Quarterly?
Both budgets and the marketing plan is done annually. The marketing plan may need to be adjusted based on what happens throughout the year but that would most likely be a quarterly adjustment. I try to understand next years objectives and plan accordingly. The most important thing is for all members of our communications team to know what’s going on so they can support. The best-case scenario is to have things planned out ahead of time so a press release is ready, we coordinate campaign efforts through social media, and I can produce material to sell CP respectively.
How do you work with your sales teams and various lines of business?
Things change quickly at CP and the overall market. I try to have monthly meetings with the directors and key players from each LOB to make sure that I (and the rest of our department) know what is going on, what the focus is, and what is coming up. Overall, it is our responsibility to communicate effectively. So if we are not informed properly we can’t do our job properly.
What is your favourite campaign or project you’ve worked on?
When I worked at MacLaren McCann, one of my accounts was Sports Select (Lottery). I loved the campaigns that we did for them because they included a number of mediums including television. They were very open to “out of the box” thinking so overall the account was fun and creative where there was a lot of trust between us and the client.
I also loved the first LOB campaign that I did for CP. Historically, the company and overall industry is so buttoned down and stale that you really don’t see “out of the box” creative representing any rail company. The first campaign that I planned for CP incorporated rail-tracks going into businesses with specific products that we are able to ship: beer, kayaks, chairs, etc. It was a nice way to show how CP is involved in shipping so many of our everyday products. I was able to sell the creative concept at the executive level and overall the campaign received a lot of positive acknowledgement from industry leaders.
What qualities do you value most in your clients/vendors/partners?
Their eagerness and willingness to understand the business and the overall industry. To be able to come to the table with a couple of options. Bonus if it is something that I haven’t even considered. I like being challenged on things. I find that’s when the best work comes out.
Attention to detail is another important point. This might sound so simple but if you have someone that is sloppy in their work, it just causes more work for me. Having a good personality and being able to work as a team is another quality that makes for a great partnership.