Get to Know Founder and Managing Director, Laura Rothwell

Laura has worked in marketing since she was 17 years old, initially by accident rather than design, but quickly grew to love the profession. A career path followed that, in one way or another, was always b2c marketing-focused. 

In her early 20s, Laura set a goal to be a marketing director by the time she was 30, which she achieved by the age of 27. She gained a wealth of experience, as part of an international commercial arts organisation, managing a large team and a significant budget. The next natural step for Laura, she says was not to seek another director job, but to start her own agency. Taking her career-long interest in audience behaviour, and how that can be influenced by genuinely good marketing; Laura founded Crystallised (CRYSTLSD, for short) offering arts, culture and film organisations marketing and communications support, development and expertise. 

Read on to find out how Laura’s experience in the marketing industry has helped shape the knowledge and insight she brings to the agency… 

1.    How does CRYSTLSD stand out; how is it different to other similar companies?

Firstly, it’s important to me that we bring a certain level of commercial acumen to the way we work. There comes a great deal of responsibility with spending public money (a huge proportion of our clients are publicly funded); it is crucial therefore that CRYSTLSD marketing, PR and comms campaigns are measurable and accountable, as well as being creative, considered and audience-centric.

Secondly, we work almost exclusively in the arts and culture sectors. This tends to mean we work on independent film; with Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisations; British Film Institute supported cinemas; Heritage Lottery projects; multi-arts venues; visual arts venues; local authority cultural projects. This focus on specific sectors means we have a great deal of real-life, in practice experience and insight.

I view our role as supportive and energising, bringing extra energy and experience to marketing campaigns or projects whilst giving the in-house team space and time to think creatively and develop truly excellent marketing campaigns that drive audiences. 

Thirdly, we are not in the habit of promising the earth to our clients. Marketing is about relationships; relationships take time, consideration and thought. Some things work, and some things don’t work. Having done this job for 17 years, I’ve got a pretty good idea of what will and won’t work, but when it comes to people (aka audiences) you can always be surprised. What we do is give our clients intelligence on their audiences; we share our learnings always (there’s no smoke and mirrors) and we will tell our clients if their objectives are unrealistic – before suggesting new ones.

2.    How has digital media influenced marketing?

Digital media is just another way of reaching audiences and communicating with people, and that’s all marketing is: communicating with people. I think it’s enhanced what marketing can be; if used thoughtfully and ethically it can help businesses and brands to be much more creative, more expressive and connect with audiences better than ever before. 

I prefer not to get too hung up about different types of media and what that means for marketing, and prefer instead to focus on the audience. Who are the people we are trying to reach and where are they best likely to be found? Be led by your audience. 

3.    What is the effect of digital media on young people?

In the very practical sense, as marketers, you have to be better. You have to create campaigns that stand out and make your audience pay attention. Again, this comes back to being led by your audience and knowing what makes them tick; you do that by talking to them.

Young people have access to everything in an instant, whether it’s VOD, music streaming services, the web, social media, connectivity is at its peak; that is both amazing and terrifying. Nothing comes without its cons. Surprisingly, as a marketer, I’m not keen to make sweeping generalisations about groups of humans, but by and large I think “young people” are savvy, informed and not about to buy your BS. The traditional ways of marketing are long gone; my opinion is that you need to mean it, you need to be real and you need to be consistent, no matter your audience.

4.    How has social media impacted marketing?

Social media again has opened up doors for marketers that never existed before, giving insights into people’s lives, thoughts, opinions. For the first time, brands can have real-time (often, unfiltered!) conversations with their customers, which means you have to take the good with the bad! For businesses with a customer service element, the expectation is that you will be online and respond to enquiries 24 hours a day. Clearly that has implications for resource.  

For the bigger picture though, the evolution of communication has been expedited by mass adoption of social media. We all have our own opinions about whether that’s a positive or a negative, but the fact is that 3 billion people are using social and it is just as valid a form of communication as a phone call, a telegram, a TV ad or a carrier pigeon. If your audience are there, you should be there. If they aren’t, then spend your time elsewhere.

5.    Where do you see CRYSTLSD in 5 years?

We did a 3-month project in New York earlier this year, so that was our first international foray I guess you could say. Which I’d be keen to do more of.

I very much see us continuing to be North East-based. I’d like us to work more broadly across the North of England; the arts, culture and creative scenes in the North are, to me, unrivalled. Creativity always manages to thrive here, through hardship, through the forgotten towns and landscapes, through the humour, attitude and self-assuredness of a ‘northerner’, whichever part of the North you’re from. The film, art and music that comes out of the region is what I love, so it’s important for us to be rooted in that, I think. Though that doesn’t exclude us from working on projects further afield; it would all depend on what the project was and assuming it aligned with our specialist skill set and values.

I envisage us continuing to be a boutique agency, perhaps doubling our team size should the business need allow, most importantly for me is that we continue to care about the work we do, that we are still interested in the sectors we work in and still of value to it.