Donna Herron leads Harrogate-based full-service digital marketing agency Extreme’s social media department, which was launched 10 years ago.
She has experience spanning multiple sectors, and joined Extreme in 2011 as a Digital Account Executive, being made a Marketing Executive, Social Media Manager, and ultimately Head of Social in 2019.
Extreme celebrated its 20th anniversary in business this year, and provides services which include social media marketing, PPC, branding, ecommerce solutions and more.
We found out the lessons Donna has learnt in her career.
Which single daily habit or practice could you not do without?
Humour. Trying to see the funny side where possible. It helps me relax, and in a work environment I’ve found nothing helps bond a team more.
What’s been your luckiest break?
My first job at Extreme. I’d boldly applied for an SEO role – twice – without any experience, agency or SEO, and unsurprisingly I didn’t get either job. But after meeting with our Directors they asked if I’d be interested in becoming an Account Manager, and it all snowballed from there.
What’s your best failure?
When I left sixth form I thought I wanted to be a children’s nurse. I went for an interview at Sheffield Hallam University to apply to study there, and spent the whole day convincing the tutor I had what it took – I was compassionate, good at communicating, hardworking, etc.
Then they asked, “but why do you want to be a children’s nurse?” and I couldn’t answer the question. It was then I realised it’s probably a good idea to lean into something you enjoy – which at the time was Art and English – rather than simply an idea of what you think you’ll be good at.
How I apply it to now is not following a set path or idea of what I ‘should’ be doing, and being open to new ideas and opportunities as they come. In marketing there’s a lot of starting with the ‘why’, so challenge yourself to answer that question rather than assume you know the answer. Finally, passion and a drive to do something is key, not just having the tools to do it.
What is the best investment you’ve ever made, either financial or time?
Time investing in learning everything about marketing, to make the switch from Account Manager to Marketing Executive, which ultimately set me on my path to specialising in social media and becoming Head of Social.
Which book would you recommend others to read and why?
I read a lot in my spare time, and have a mild obsession with books on human behaviour and psychology – which lends itself well when you work in marketing.
I’d advise the exact opposite of one book. Read all the books, about everything – historical fiction, self help, classics, fantasy books you loved as a kid. In a creative job, the inspiration can literally come from anywhere, and this is especially true when you’re relaxed doing something you love.
I am still refusing to pick one, but if you’ve never read ‘The Chimp Paradox’ and wanted to learn a little more about human behaviour, then it’s a good place to start.
What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?
“If you can’t beat the fear, do it scared” – the big meeting, the new skill, and so on. Don’t let people tell you, you’re “too” anything – young, inexperienced or assertive.
Don’t be put off by not knowing something. You don’t know how to do X – yet – but you can and will, if you want to. In short, don’t worry about making mistakes.
Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your working life?
Becoming a manager – you’ve never wanted someone to succeed as much as when you’re their manager. When you see them overcome something that was previously a challenge for them, it’s a great feeling and I always have a great deal of pride in my team.
Tell us something about you that would surprise people.
I have a lorry named after me – there’s a Nisa Retail lorry named Donna Herron driving around the UK! It was a gift on my 30th birthday from when I worked on their social media. I still see it now and again.
How will the COVID crisis change work for the better?
More flexibility to keep on top of my washing, let the electrician in, take in parcels – do life stuff alongside work stuff, rather than trying to do both separately and stressing that there’s one thing I should be doing that I’m not.
Which means on the days I’m in the office, I’m totally present. We’ve learnt to deconstruct what we thought was possible working from home and we’ve proven we can maintain productivity, creativity and great culture wherever or however we work.
What does success look like to you?
The obvious answers are progression, award wins, results and happy clients, but ultimately in work and personal life, for me, it’s trust.
That is trust in myself and from others that I know what I’m doing, can lead that pitch, try something new, and that I have the best interests of the team, client or business at heart. Then, to be given the chance to get it done!