Named after a mouse from one of her husband’s books, Katie’s company, Miramus, began its journey at a time when lots of brands wanted to do “digital stuff” but weren’t really sure where to start – or didn’t have the capacity in house to run the content themselves.
Establishing Shiny Media – the UK’s biggest consumer blog publishers at the time – back in 2004, Katie built up a good profile in the industry. However, with a young family to take care of, she wanted to go back to working from home – which led her to take launching her own digital media agency.
1. It was important not to pigeonhole my business
Miramus: I wanted something short that I could get the dot com for. I didn’t want to spend a long time spelling something out! I also decided not to call it “media” or “publishing” or “digital” because I wanted to be able to do anything creative that felt interesting to me. For example, we started a children’s book festival. I have other creative plans too, but I’m taking it slow while the children are little.
I’ve been fortunate enough to always have great projects to work on that are all very different. I helped Yahoo to set up a fashion website for Diet Coke, I worked with Marks & Spencer to relaunch their consumer blog and I have gone in and run training courses in digital media for other publishers and brand editorial teams. At the moment I’m working on a project for Unilever that is around digital internal comms.
2. Keep your contacts close
Starting out, I already had a working relationship with AOL. When I left Shiny Media and started Miramus, AOL asked me if I could set up some blogs for them. They’d bought Weblogs Inc. in the US, but they didn’t have a big in-house editorial team in the UK at the time so I recruited writers and managed blogs for them. It was a gift of a gig. At the time I was probably one of just a handful of people with the exact credentials to run a project like that.
I’m actually pretty fortunate as clients have always come direct to me. I get the bulk of my work from word-of-mouth recommendations and old contacts and clients moving to new companies.
3. Keep abreast of your industry, but keep a sense of perspective also
Sometimes I think I’ve fallen behind with stuff, but then I go out and talk to normal humans and get my perspective back. I read the C_ncentrate newsletter every week and then I’ll do a quick scan through of Smartbrief every few weeks to see what’s going on. I also just absorb information from friends in the industry and Twitter, as well as reading other industry sites.
I find it’s good for me to be visible on Twitter because I was already an “internet human”. Plus, it means I get to tweet stupid stuff rather than interesting links to digital media case studies or the latest Google update. Other people already do that.
I would also blog about industry stuff on Miramus, but I’d rather write another nerdy opinion piece for my website www.dorkadore.com and read other people’s industry insights on their blogs.
4. There’s still plenty of opportunities for brands and content
There are a lot of brands looking at doing more content so there are plenty of opportunities out there. It was pretty tough for a while, but the past few years have been good. I see a lot of brands who have been quite cautious in starting to get to grips with the idea of content, storytelling, digital marketing and all that.
I think we’re going to see larger companies doing more of the sort of digital and social internal comms media that I’m working on at the moment. A lot of companies have this huge mailing list of (hopefully!) their most passionate advocates that they don’t use effectively. Some companies hardly contact staff at all and when they do, they often do it in extremely uninspiring corporate-speak.
5. Keep sight of the small victories
I found 2012 a challenge – the recession definitely hit me that year. I was pregnant and trying to close a lot of contracts that didn’t come to fruition, including a print magazine for a client, which would have been exciting. I ended up doing a lot of training and consultancy for larger agencies. Luckily, 2013 came along and I stopped thinking about getting a proper job.
I’ve been fortunate enough to work on some really great projects over the years. I was really proud of the work with AOL to launch sites like ParentDish UK, as well as the Diet Coke website with Yahoo. And the work I’m doing with Unilever at the moment is very satisfying.
But I’m a geek, so I also get excited about silly things, like the time I was working with a publisher and we convinced a client to launch a magazine on WordPress instead of doing a Facebook page. It’s the little things in life!
6. Wherever you go, stay in touch
If I have to give advice to other entrepreneurs out there, I’d say make good contacts and keep in touch with people. And always talk to your clients about other projects or needs they may have. One mistake I made in the early days was not getting additional business because I simply didn’t ask or make it clear that I wanted it. Being bold enough to just ask can have amazing consequences.