Helle Huxley is the vice president for marketing and communications at SOS International and a Pinnacle Awards finalist in the Marketing Executive of the Year category. Here, Huxley shares her key achievements in 2018, the leadership traits that helped her advance marketing missions at SOSi, advice for aspiring leaders and more.
What key achievements did you have in 2018?
In the past couple of years, I’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to build two complete marketing teams from scratch, launch two rebranding campaigns with corresponding messaging and website rebuilds, manage the branding and marketing of three significant acquisition integrations, and launch two multilingual, multiregional sites including the branding and messaging.
I currently serve as vice president for marketing and communications at SOS International LLC. When I joined SOSi in April of this year, the company was about to complete its third acquisition within a 2-year period. With this most recent successful acquisitions under the company’s belt, SOSi is now celebrating its 30-year anniversary as a much larger company than it was a few years ago.
I’ve worked through several integrations in the past and have found that a strategic approach that services both external and internal customers is the most effective. My strategy is basically to “push all the pawns forward at once” by:
- Creating and implementing strategic PR, marketing and branding, as well as developing a holistic website, to enhance comprehensive brand awareness throughout existing and new marketplaces.
- Implementing consistent, compelling internal communications — including between departments and to existing and new team members.
- Working with HR to help amplify company culture. This was particularly easy with SOSi due to their existing monthly corporate themes and accompanying events on topics including Work-Life Balance Month, Diversity & Inclusion Month, Financial Fitness Month, etc.
What leadership traits helped you advance marketing missions within your company?
My mantra is “lead while learning.” I credit my success over the past 25 years to this approach. I make a point of filling out my teams with a range of experts — with expertise specifically complementary to my own.
Taking this approach is not only realistic; it provides operational advantages. First, of course, is the ability to continue to learn even at the highest levels of executive leadership. Continuing to be educated on the latest trends and technologies allows me to bring more value to every position and initiative. Second is the ability to serve as mentor and champion for my team members, by clearing the way for their talents and expertise to shine.
The third advantage is success. Providing team members the opportunity to grow and gain exposure within the company for their own talents creates a highly motivated — and happy — group that then tends to go above and beyond on a regular basis. And they stay on as part of the team longer than they might have elsewhere because they feel recognized and appreciated.
What has made you successful in your current role?
I have more than 25 years of experience as a marketing executive, having worked in a range of industries providing leadership, marketing and M&A success. This diversity of experience is precisely what has helped me succeed in my current role.
I’ve served in high-level marketing roles in entertainment and government contracting, for public companies and private, within large firms and small, and on both the east and west coasts of the U.S. Everything I learn from one organization I bring to the next, and so on; and with each new experience, I continue to learn how to tell the most compelling and innovative stories that ultimately bring success.
I also sit on the board of directors of STEM for Her — a nonprofit that helps girls and young women pursue STEM-related careers — and on the board of advisers of production company Drama ¾. My experience working on and with board-level executives further enhances my ability to understand and reach a broad range of audience member up to the highest levels.
Which rules do you think you should break more as a leader?
Many executive leaders are told to keep a certain distance between themselves and their teams. I disagree. In my opinion, being closer to the team provides greater avenues for success. By better understanding the needs and concerns of my team members, I can be far more effective in providing truly personalized professional development for each individual.
I also feel it is important to establish strong bonds of trust between team members. That trust is built through relationships. The stronger the bonds, the greater the trust and — in turn — the greater the creative collaboration among team members. Collaboration is critical for success.
What’s your best advice for aspiring leaders who want to follow in your footsteps?
My best advice for aspiring leaders is to ask for advice. Leaders are leaders for a reason.
Far too many aspiring leaders do not ask for help; others do not take help when it’s offered. I highly recommend simply reaching out: ask for information, ask for interviews, follow the leaders you respect and admire on LinkedIn, ask one of those leaders to be your mentor — formally or informally. I’ve always had mentors, and have always served as a mentor for others. Whether mentor or protégé, these are some of my most treasured relationships.
One more piece of advice: When you’re asking for help or advice, be clear and concise about your question. If it’s a clear and relatively easy ask, the answer is usually “yes.”