Blog Img

In The Spotlight with Martin Harris

Back to Blogs

Introducing ‘In the Spotlight’ – a new series dedicated to shining a light on influential figures from across the Creative Industries. In our latest interview, we spoke to Martin Harris, Head of Digital Marketing at Zinc Network about his career, what inspires him, and where he thinks the industry is going.

Tell us a bit about your role. Is there a “typical” day?

The great thing about my role is that there is no ‘typical’ day! The nature of agency work means there’s always a great variety to what we do, and it keeps things interesting by working across a suite of different projects and different elements of digital marketing. As the Head of Department, I’m responsible for all of our outputs across capacity building, digital strategy, digital research and auditing, analysis and evaluation – as well as live campaigns, so there’s a lot of reviewing and feeding back on work, as well as training and upskilling my team on-the-job. That’s actually one of my favourite parts of my role, as I get to develop my team and help them achieve their potential across the work that we do.

How did you end up in your current position – did you take the so called, traditional route?

Not exactly! I’m lucky enough to have had two careers, originally as a broadcast journalist and radio presenter, then moving into digital marketing via websites and onto social media. I actually then combined the two as Director of News and Digital at a group of radio stations, but was unfortunately made redundant in 2019. They say everything happens for a reason, and just as my gardening leave was coming to an end I was offered a position on the digital team at Zinc. Four-and-a-bit years and three different roles later, here I am leading the digital marketing department.

You’ve had an inspiring career to date, what advice would you give to those entering the industry?

Be bold – which you can do without seeming pushy or overly confident. Trusting in your own skills and expertise can stand you in good stead, but ultimately you need to find a way to make yourself stand out. I actually got my first job in radio by walking into a station off of the street, introducing myself and asking about jobs. I think the different way I went about that helped them decide to hire me.

Also, be a sponge – soak up everything you can learn from others, everything you can read up on and everything you take from one role to the next. The smallest piece of information could be the difference between you being hired and a job going to someone else.

What's the best piece of professional advice you've ever received, and how has it influenced your career?

Can I have two?

One of my first editors working in radio told me ‘work to live, don’t live to work’. This was really important advice as he was basically saying that however important work is, it’s only ever going to be successful for you if you balance it with a separate personal life and have a good work-life balance.

The second is from the CEO at a previous agency who told me ‘ask for forgiveness not permission’ – what he meant by that was to empower us to make our own choices and decisions, safe and confident in the knowledge that the world isn’t going to end if it doesn’t work out. I try and pass this onto my teams, to give them the confidence to try new things, innovate, and feel like they have room to express themselves.

How do you continue to learn and grow professionally? Are there any resources or practices you'd recommend?

This is such a challenge for everyone in a world where everything moves at 100 miles per hour and we rarely have room to breathe, sit back and truly digest new information. I’m a firm believer in snackable learning, so keeping up with daily news digests on digital and social updates, particularly ones delivered via WhatsApp, are key to me being able to keep up and absorb ideas into our work at Zinc. My team also publishes weekly digital digests for both partners and our internal teams, which even help me to see what’s happening every week digitally!

In what ways do you think your role or industry will evolve over the next few years?

The obvious words on everyone’s lips are artificial intelligence, and the scary thought that roles like social media managers, copywriters and analysts could be made obsolete in the next few years. Honestly though, I don’t think this is going to happen any time soon, and the main reason for this is context. AI, however sophisticated it is becoming, is still very literal and struggles with context and emotion, which only a human will give you. And those edges are so important when we are creating content that we want to resonate with audiences, especially when we think about social change. What we do need to do is explore what AI can safely do for us, particularly around efficiency, organisation and research.

What emerging trends do you believe will have the most significant impact on your industry in the near future?

I think we are going to see an evolution (rather than revolution) of gamification of sorts, on social platforms and apps – more connected to cookie-less experiences and lower expectations and requirements for personal data. How can businesses, brands and other organisations maximise the enjoyment of users, while still hitting their objectives and all the while not falling into the many pitfalls of GDPR?

I also think we will see a switch-up from the obsession with short-form video, to an extent. As the maximum lengths get longer on vertical-format content, it would make total sense for more considered, deeper content to emerge. I’m not saying feature films on Reels will emerge, but certainly I can see a world where TikToks, Reels and other verticals are further encouraging 10-20 minute videos.


If you could go back, what advice would you give to your younger self?

It’s a touch on the cheesy side, but enjoy the ride! You only get one life, and your career is a big part of that. You’re not going to love every day and bounce out of bed every morning ready to switch on your computer or travel to the office, but there is such a great opportunity to do something meaningful and go home plenty of times thinking ‘I made a difference today’. As a younger person I probably worried too much about simply delivering work and people pleasing, whereas I would tell myself to trust my instincts, take a step back and breathe, and just take it all in.

Oh, and drink less coffee!