18th Dec 2023
3 Min Read

Q&Anniversary: Ten years with Russ Norton

Russell Norton
Russell Norton
scarlettabbott news

To mark a momentous decade of working with scarlettabbott, we sat down with our director of client experience Russ Norton for his reflections on the last ten years and insights into the next.

How has the industry changed over the past ten years?

The industry has changed loads in the last 10 years. I remember everyone asking how to get a seat at the table, how to get up to C-suite and get the CEO to take us seriously. Now, I think we are totally taken seriously. We’re perceived as so much more strategic. We’re really driving value in the businesses we work for.

What has been one of the favourite projects that you’ve worked on over the last ten years?

It has to be Tommy Hilfiger launching their first ever celebrity endorsement with Rafael Nadal. And I sat there drinking Prosecco at four o’clock in the afternoon watching Rafael Nadal play strip tennis with some models in New York. And it was this weird out-of-body experience questioning, is this your actual job?

What has been one of your proudest moments from the past decade?

It was getting everyone together at Away Day. There's 50+ of us in the room. Everyone‘s so different. We‘ve got specialists in writing, design, motion graphics, consulting, behavioral science. It’s this absolute melting pot of talent, and to be in the room and see everyone working together, collaborating, being creative, just makes me super proud to be a part of such an awesome team.

How much has scarlettabbott changed over the past decade?

When I first started, there was 17-18 of us and we were very much a Yorkshire agency with Yorkshire clients. And now there‘s 50 of us, we‘re split across three locations. And we are no longer Yorkshire agency. Our heart is still in Yorkshire. But we‘re truly, truly global. Our clients span all the continents and all the time zones of the world. And that‘s what I love: getting these glimpses into the worlds of work all over the globe.

If you could go back in time, what would you tell yourself on day one?

For my first six months, I remember having tremendous impostor syndrome. I would sit in this office surrounded by absolute specialists in their craft. And I would think, what on earth am I doing here? Am I really adding value? And I think over the course of being given opportunities, talking to people and working through projects, I made it my mission to just learn something every single time. It was like having a mental Rolodex of information. I just needed to add another bit of information into that mental Rolodex. And over time, my confidence grew, people started responding to me differently. And I really found my place. So, I think on day one, I would say, be patient, learn as much as you possibly can and the confidence will come.

Every day is a school day, but what’s the biggest thing that you’ve learned?

The biggest thing I‘ve learned is that the work needs to happen behind the scenes to make organisations stronger. But not all of that work needs to be communicated to everyone. Investors and C suite level executives need real fine detail. They need that confidence that they're investing in the right things and making the right decisions. But if you give all that information to employees, it‘s just overwhelming. They need to know enough to give them confidence that their organization has got a clear direction and how they can contribute to it but they don't need to know all the finer details. And you can apply that principle to sustainability, diversity and inclusion, cybersecurity. The work, the hard yards need to be done behind the scenes. But you have to be really mindful as to what you choose to direct your employees attention towards to drive maximum value.

What’s kept you at scarlettabbott for so long?

The reason that I stay is the variety and the variety of work, the variety of challenges, the variety of people that I get to work with, both on the scarlettabbott team in and in my clients worlds. In 10 years, I have never had two days that have been the same. And that is exactly what I need to make my brain happy.

Where do you see the industry going in the next ten years?

I can only see internal comms getting more strategic and more fundamental to organizations. I think for years, the industry has suffered from underinvestment in projects. And COVID in particular showed how important it was to communicate to employees to enable them to do what they do brilliantly. And I think that was a real wake up call for C suite executives to notice that if we over index on our communication to customers and under index on our communication to employees, we‘re missing out on a real strategic advantage. So over the next 10 years, I see internal comms as a profession maturing even further, securing bigger budgets, and really developing as a key strategic driver of growth.

Why should someone apply for a job at scarlettabbott?

Because it is genuinely very good fun. Don‘t get me wrong, it‘s challenging at times. And we‘re being asked to solve some fairly major challenges for our clients. But we try and do that in a way that‘s got some sparkle on top of that strategy. We try and have fun in the creative process so that the end outcome is enjoyable for the employees or the potential candidates to consume. And I think when you‘re having fun making something, that really shows in the end output, and so if you‘re up for a bit of a challenge, but you can bring that creative sparkle too, you should definitely apply for a job here.

What’s going to cause the biggest shakeup in the world of work in the next ten years?

Well, I‘m not Mystic Meg, but I think climate change is going to start really kicking in. The impact of climate change on the world around us, the impact of climate change on employees and consumers is only going to start getting more severe and more unpredictable. And governments, large organizations, brands that want to stay afloat (quite literally) are going to have to start adjusting how they operate, what we do, and how they communicate most importantly.

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