The finalists for WashingtonExec’s Pinnacle Awards were announced Oct. 8, and we’ll be highlighting some of them until the event takes place virtually Nov. 12.
Next up is Marketing Executive of the Year (Small Company) finalist Scott King, who’s director of marketing and branding at Buchanan & Edwards. Here, he talks career turning points, rule-breaking as an industry leader and career advice.
What was a turning point or inflection point in your career?
Early in my career, I worked as a multimedia designer and was fortunate to have developed a very large skill set that allowed me to contribute to many different types of projects. This flexibility led me to support a variety of clients from multiple federal agencies, and despite never having set foot on client site, my reputation for producing quality work was quickly spreading.
Because of this growing reputation, the company’s leadership decided to send me to make a pitch for developing a promotional video to a major client. By myself. With no experience making pitches. To a client I had never met. Did I mention the client was a high-ranking Army general?
As a young professional, who was still very much “green,” I had no business taking this effort on, but I somehow found myself packing a bag to make the trip. Even now, looking back, it seems like insanity and to say that I was terrified would have been a huge understatement.
However, much to my surprise, I didn’t crash and burn. Not only did I manage to develop a solid concept for the video, but I delivered a very well-constructed pitch that any seasoned BD professional would have been impressed with.
A few hours later, and on my way home, I received a call from the CEO who had just hung up the phone with the client. Not only had we secured the work, but the client praised my concept and presentation and was very impressed.
This meeting was an early turning point in my career and gave me the confidence to take the next step in my professional progression. By forcing me to confront an unfamiliar and difficult situation, I was able to try my hand at something new and discover that I could not only get it done, but really make a lasting impression.
Forcing folks to tackle new challenges outside of their traditional wheelhouse can help them discover new capabilities, gain confidence, and lead to personal discovery. I’m grateful to those leaders who saw that potential in me and forced me outside of my comfort zone.
What has made you successful in your current role?
When I was younger, my mother used to say, “Listen to what I’m saying — not just my words.” Not only did I find this statement extremely frustrating as a child, but I clearly did not understand the meaning behind it. Many years later, as both a professional and a parent, I have a far greater appreciation for this motherly nugget of wisdom.
Listening well is undeniably a valuable skill, but the ability to read between the lines and interpret intent is what I attribute to my success. My ability to extract the intent of a complex concept, rework and simplify the messaging and visuals, then weave the simplified approach and intent back together has helped BE more effectively communicate our capabilities and solutions.
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?
I think most would agree that 2020 has been a very difficult year, and while these unprecedented times have certainly required tough decisions and uncomfortable conversations, it’s during challenges like these that opportunities are born. I’m proud of the amazing job BE has done communicating to our employees and customers during the various events of 2020.
From racial injustice, to the impact of COVID-19 on jobs, our leadership has not shied away from openly discussing these difficult topics and our success can be measured in retention and both client and employee satisfaction.
Looking at the large amount of kudos-based emails we received from both employees and clients throughout 2020, it’s clear that by frequently communicating with honest and transparent information, we were able to run a very successful communications campaign and our organization is stronger for it.
Which rules do you think you should break more as a government/industry leader?
Many creative types who work within the government community feel stifled and are afraid to push the envelope and flex their creative muscles. Instead of presenting a new creative concept, they move forward with the “safe” idea simply because it’s what the client is used to. I personally have seen many fantastic ideas abandoned before they even had a chance to take shape, so I always encourage folks to change up their approach and go with their gut.
I once worked on developing a prototype for an interactive mobile museum that focused on providing basic training and information on what an improvised explosive device was. The concept, which was developed by the CEO, was to provide the audience with a higher level of engagement and interaction, therefore increasing the likelihood of retaining the information and ultimately saving lives. The prototype, which was designed within a shipping container, was considered by some to be outlandish with no real chance of going anywhere.
However, after showing it off to a customer within the Defense Department, a contract was awarded to the company. The CEO went with his gut, and to this day, it’s still one of my top projects. Many clients don’t know what they like until they see it and thinking outside-the-box can open up a world of opportunity.
What’s your best career advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
Don’t stop having fun or take yourself too seriously. I truly believe that we’re all at our best when we can be ourselves, and a positive attitude is just as contagious as a negative one.
Always be on the lookout for opportunities to support your coworkers and corporate initiatives. We’re all guilty of getting tunnel vision when it comes to work, and an opportunity might not be apparent to a coworker who has their blinders up, so be proactive in offering your assistance. Remember, teamwork makes the dream work.
Any initiative you take on, no matter how big or small, put in the effort and do your best. It’s apparent when someone has put in real work into a project and the results reflect that energy. Always put your best foot forward and put in the time, because you never know what may come out of it.