Entrepreneur Jennifer launched a business that helps companies run marketing campaigns on YouTube. Her main piece of advice? Take every opportunity you can.
Name: Jennifer Quigley-Jones
Company: Digital Voices
Industry: Social media marketing
What is your job? Founder and managing director
How long have you been doing this job? 2 years
Universities: University of Warwick (undergrad) and Harvard University (Masters)
Degree subjects: History and Politics BA, then Middle Eastern Studies Masters
A-levels: History, politics, English and economics
1. What was your very first job?
My first internship was at The Economist when I was 19. Internships are an incredible way to learn quickly and understand an industry, before you choose to enter a profession full-time.
2. What did you want to do when you were at school?
Since living in Kuwait for five years as a child, I’d always wanted to find ways to tell stories that humanise the region I grew up in. My original plan was to go into academia and policy.
3. How did you find out about the industry?
I read an article in The Economist that recommended quirky people who wanted to grow their careers quickly should go into the technology industry. So I applied for a role at YouTube — most of my experience of the platform was as a place to document human rights violations. I was offered a position on the UK team. My job was to help creators grow their followers organically, meaning without spending money on ads. I worked with over 500 YouTube channels in two years.
I then launched Digital Voices to help brands understand YouTube and run bespoke campaigns with the most impactful creators. I also wanted to help these creators see their value as entrepreneurs.
We believe that influencer marketing can be powerful. We specialise in campaigns that actually say something, which is one of the reasons we want to shift the discussion about this kind of marketing from Instagram to YouTube. YouTube is the platform where people watch content for the longest and has the deepest engagement of any social platform.
4. How did you get to where you are today?
No one has a direct path to success. There will always be something that diverts your plans or changes your ambition. My advice is to take every chance you can learn something from. For example, I had work experience in national security policy in Washington D.C., waitressed at events, applied for essay competitions, fostered dogs and volunteered in refugee camps. It gave me the chance to meet some smart and supportive mentors and learn from everyone!
Put yourself out there when opportunities present themselves. Not getting into Oxford (twice!) felt like the end of the world when I was 18, but it drove me to want to prove people wrong. Applying for the Kennedy Memorial Trust Scholarship for my Masters at Harvard was terrifying. Everyone I read about who had received the scholarship seemed intimidatingly qualified - I thought I didn’t really stand a chance and that it would be Oxford rejection 2.0. Actually, I got the scholarship, and that meant I could afford to attend Harvard and study the Middle East and Arabic for two years.
For me, gaining validation from large institutions like Harvard and Google pushed me to reevaluate what I want. The reason I started Digital Voices was partly because I wanted the opportunity to fail - free from large institutional structures and support. To be completely honest, I wanted to carve my own path, rather than living the safe professional life that everyone expected. Without the confidence that came from these institutions, I don’t know if I would have been strong enough to walk away from them.
5. What is a typical day like?
Normally I’m up at 6am. I check my emails and read the news, and am in the office by 9am.Then I greet the team, have a cup of tea and a chat. On an average day, we have meetings with clients or will be designing a YouTube campaign.
There are a few steps to designing a campaign: understanding what the client wants and the key messages they’re trying to get across, trawling through data and assessing YouTube channels to decide which creators are the best brand fit, coming up with creative content ideas as a team, sending contracts and negotiating fees, overseeing filming, checking edits with clients and producing reports.
On top of this, we have a lot of new business meetings, attend events and arrange photoshoots or interviews with YouTube creators. Every Thursday evening, the team has a meeting (normally in the pub) where we show each other videos we’ve watched and creators we’ve discovered on YouTube that week.
6. What’s the best thing about your job?
We are very lucky to get to work on exciting and creative campaigns. The YouTube creators we work with are inspiring. I'm proud that we get to support them professionally and personally.
7. What is the most challenging thing about your job?
Financial planning. Running a business means you're responsible for a whole team's livelihood. There is a lot of responsibility to make big decisions quickly and you're the only person with full visibility of the business.
8. What advice do you have for people who want to do what you do?
If you want to work in influencer marketing, I'd highly recommend watching and producing a lot of content. The industry desperately needs talent who understand the way social media platforms work and the creator ecosystem.
I would also recommend applying for work experience at agencies and in marketing departments, so that you gain exposure to the business side of social media and understand what marketing teams prioritise and why.
9. What things do you wish you’d known before starting your career?
Not to stress so much or take failure so personally. Something that feels like the end of the world at the time is often only a short-term setback. You're also likely to learn more from an experience that doesn't go the way you've envisioned. It teaches you to adapt and innovate in response to challenges.
10. Where would you like to be in 5 years?
In five years, I'd like Digital Voices to have offices in London, New York and the Middle East and be the global authority on YouTube creator marketing. Ideally I'd split my time between Beirut, the US and the UK and be looking for my next challenge - hopefully something linked to supporting female entrepreneurial talent in the Middle East.
Main image via Pexels