A Week in My Life: Tim Dowling, Head of External Communications, Pets at Home
Monday begins at our office in Handforth with a review of last week’s online trading performance. A major part of my role is driving online traffic, so following this review, my team and I will update other colleagues on digital performance and meet with the E-Comm operations team to chat through any challenges or issues over the past week.
From here, it’s straight into a new product development session where the marketing plan for our new own label food brand is discussed.
I grab a quick lunch and then head into a monthly promotions planning meeting with the wider trading team. Our financial year ends shortly so this is a good opportunity to check that our plans for quarter four are on track.
The objective of this meeting is to ensure marketing and trading are strategically aligned to deliver the business plan we’ve all committed to during the last 12 months. My external communications team play an important role in making both new and existing customers aware of what we stand for as a brand, how we can help to give those customers advice about a variety of pet related topics and how our different promotions can help them to save money when shopping for the best pet products around.
Monday ends with our weekly ‘shoal’ where the entire support office team come together to talk through what’s happening, both from a business and office community perspective, (there is a cake sale planned to raise money for pet charities this week). These meetings are a great way to get an overview of the entire business’s priorities as well as to have a few laughs when people’s dogs take the agenda into their own hands! I doubt there are many national retailers that have a group of canines barking along to the end of meeting applause.
Always a busy day and this week it’s no different as I have back to back meetings. My first catch-up is on next year’s digital strategy with two of our directors. It’s an important discussion to help ensure we have the infrastructure in place to deliver on our digital growth targets. I head straight from this meeting into another with our digital agency, where we look at how we can make analytics tools work harder for us so that we have more actionable insight to use as the business grows.
All of the pets in the office are much loved and celebrated but there is one particularly unusual pet who belongs to my colleague Emma. His name is Quentin, and he is our marketing team tarantula! Feeding time is always an interesting event when Emma lifts the vivarium lid in order to give him the locusts he’s very fond of.
Another quick lunch (is there ever a slow one!?) and then I head into my team’s weekly two-hour slot. I really value this session as it gives us time to come together as a group to cover the many pieces of activity we have in play. We use this afternoon’s slot to discuss potential challenges, review our upcoming campaigns and divvy up work streams to ensure that all deadlines are met.
I’m in the office early today to prepare for a planning session for quarter one, which is just around the corner. This includes speaking to everyone involved and clarifying what the objectives and agenda points need to be for the meeting, to ensure it’s productive.
Next up is a conference call with a partnerships agency, as we are due to sponsor an upcoming pet-themed film around Easter time. Each school holiday, our stores hold free workshops where local children and their parents can learn about what it takes to care for pets – as well as getting the chance to interact with them. Our film partnership objectives are focussed on promoting pet welfare, as major film releases can sometimes drive interest in particular animals, so it’s important to us that we help educate and inform potential owners as to what is involved with pet ownership, so they can make an informed decision.
Promoting responsible pet ownership is a major goal of Pets at Home and these workshops are one of the best ways in which we educate future pet owners about the dedication and effort needed when it comes to owning a pet. They also provide a great opportunity for customers to chat to our store colleagues who really are experts when it comes to pet advice.
I then have a much-needed few hours to battle through my emails and to work on a presentation which I’m delivering to the trading team later in the week. Before making my way home, I head into a budget catch-up where we work through our plans and make sure that our resources are directed at the most effective pieces of activity.
Up and out of the house for 6am, this time to head to the lovely surroundings of the Belfry in Birmingham (although unfortunately I’m headed for a conference suite and not for the golf course!). Today is the bi-annual Group Leadership Forum where we meet with our Swindon-based vet group. The objective of the session is to share our group performance and upcoming plans. The session is an opportunity for lots of departments to share their work streams and it’s really good to hear updates from parts of the business that you don’t always regularly work with.
We had the lovely news that the M6 northbound was shut due to an accident as the conference finished so I decided to go cross country to get home. Going through Buxton is usually a lovely drive but unfortunately it was pitch black on my return!
One of the great things about working for Pets at Home is that you can bring your dog to work with you whenever you like. So, today I’m joined by Sandy, my four-year-old Shar-Pei. She loves coming to the office to see all of my colleagues, who make a fuss of her, along with her mates - the other dogs in the office!
Every month we hold our trading meeting, it’s an opportunity for the whole team to hear key updates. This month it’s my turn to share some highlights of upcoming marketing activity. It’s also our ‘Top Dog’ award presentation, to recognise members of the team that have gone above and beyond during the previous month.
Straight after the meeting we have a two hour session with the key members of marketing and our senior team – we call this the ‘Customer Review’ meeting. We look back at all of the activity that has taken place in the last four weeks and look ahead to the next. We also look at what is going on in the macro-environment as well to help understand what is on the minds of consumers as it helps gives us context. This meeting allows us to share detailed plans across all of the marketing teams, including; External Comms, Retail Marketing, Content & Social, CRM - our VIP (Very Important Pets) Club and E-Commerce. (I had to nip outside quickly during this meeting as Sandy was whining to go to the toilet!)
Friday lunchtime sees the arrival of a business-wide email to let us know that Kevin, our systems department’s perfectly harmless corn snake, had decided to go on an adventure. I’m glad to say he was quickly found hiding behind the cosy warmth of a TV and was speedily returned to his vivarium.
I’ve only one more meeting this afternoon with our content team, so it gives me a chance to work through emails and catch-up before we reach the weekend. At the end of the day, Sandy is looking at me and I know she is ready to go home to see the family.
Another week over at Pets at Home, a hectic yet productive one and so enjoyable – I definitely work for a unique business and I love it!