Ben and Katie Pike

With National Careers Week in full swing, we asked our Eve Communications founders and directors, Katie and Ben Pike, how they began their careers, what led them to start an agricultural communications and marketing agency, and what advice they’d give to anyone new to the industry. 

 

HOW DID YOUR CAREER BEGIN?

Ben: My first job was as a reporter for the Bridgwater Mercury in Somerset. It had about 13,000 readers at the time and very little news was posted online, but that soon changed. I then became a senior reporter and later moved to the National Farmers Union as web editor, then product manager, then editor of all the NFU’s agricultural publications.

Katie: I started my career in a junior marketing role at a local tourist attraction before heading off to uni to learn how to do the job properly! I then joined a small B2B PR agency, then a global brand research company where I worked my way up in various in-house comms and marketing roles.

 

WHAT TRAINING DID YOU COMPLETE ALONG THE WAY?

Ben: The most important training I did was my NCE journalism qualification which taught me all about law, local and national politics, and how to write shorthand at 110 words per minute. Adobe-certified video editing training has also proven to be a massive part of my career since about 2009 when we first started making videos for farmers. I am also trained in how to evacuate a wheelchair user from a burning building, although I’ve only ever rehearsed this a handful of times with an able-bodied IT manager from Coventry in the EvacChair, so I hope I never have to do it for real.

Katie: I have a PR and marketing degree, and more recently a digital marketing diploma. I also did the Adobe-certified InDesign and Photoshop training about 15 years ago (!), but I still use those skills daily, despite having our own designers! But the most important training I’ve had is on the job and from some brilliant mentors along the way. Of course, official qualifications teach you how to do something and the theory behind it all, but putting that into practice, doing it for real, and learning from mistakes is where the real learning happens. I also keep up to date with the latest trends and tools in marketing through lots of CPD accredited short courses and workshops, plus the latest developments on specific social media channels.

 

WHAT ARE YOUR MAIN DAY-TO-DAY RESPONSIBILITIES?

We look after several clients, so a typical day involves working with them to advise on what they need to communicate with their target audience and how. Then we brief the team on what needs to be done and oversee it all – writing, video creation, event organisation, graphic design, social media content etc.

 

WHAT DREW YOU TO THIS FIELD?

Ben: I would love to say it was my passion for the countryside, but it wasn’t. It was money. A job writing about farming paid a little bit more than another job I was offered at the Press Association at the time, and I was trying to repay my student debt, so I went to the highest bidder!

Katie: I always knew I wanted to be in marketing, but to combine it with the ag industry was something that came later. My career before Eve was all B2B, and corporate, but when Ben started freelancing as an agricultural journalist and PR consultant, we realised that bringing in my marketing skills could create a nice little business, and here we are!

 

HOW HAS THE INDUSTRY CHANGED?

Digital content is by far the biggest change we have seen. It hasn’t replaced traditional PR – press releases, media briefings, events and product showcases are still a key component of what we do – but it’s an essential bolt on. Everything that we produce must either work online in its own right or be repurposed for a digital audience. That requires a wider skill set – SEO knowledge, video editing, podcast production, online advertising, social media strategy etc.

 

WHAT WAS YOUR BEST CAREER DECISION?

Ben: Going freelance to set up Ben Pike Communications, which then became Eve Communications. It was a huge leap to leave full time employment to write for farming editors (many of whom knew nothing about me), but I now can’t imagine working for anyone else.

Katie: Leaving a job before resenting it! The day you wake up and feel miserable about going to work, is your sign to look at moving on to find your next adventure.

  

WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PART ABOUT WORKING FOR YOURSELVES?

We hear lots of people say that picking when they work is the best thing about owning your own business, but we don’t get that. In fact, it’s the opposite – we can’t seem to switch off! For us it’s all about results. When you advise a client, bring the team together to execute the task, then get some great results, that’s a feeling which is hard to beat. Getting thousands of views on a video or hundreds of press reports from a release the team created never gets boring. And being told in a year-end review with a client that “the standard of work is exceptional” (true quote!), gives us a massive buzz.

 

WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR WHEN YOU HIRE STAFF?

It’s so much more about the person than the skill set. If someone has the right attitude and the desire to be part of a team, we find they are so much more likely to enjoy the role, grow, and see the great industry we work in. Of course, we sometimes need specialist skills, but we are also keen to invest in training people if they can show us that they really want to be part of what we are trying to do for our clients.

 

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR SOMEONE NEW TO THE INDUSTRY?

Soak up as much as you can. Take all the training opportunities you get. Talk to as many experienced people in the industry that you can. And ask for help – you’ll be amazed how many people are keen to help you.

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