Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Digital Women: Katie Atkinson, Founder of The Runway Media

NDA’s Digital Women series is talking to leaders from across our industry to understand the particular issues faced by women. In this piece, we talk to Katie Atkinson who founded The Runway Media in 2019

Why did you join Digital Leading Ladies? What has being part of DLL meant to you?

I joined DLL when I launched my agency, The Runway Media, as I wanted to seek out connection, inspiration, and support from other senior women in the industry. The group has been a source of encouragement and friendship as I’ve learnt from other entrepreneurs and been given the opportunity to get involved in mentoring young women through programs such as Digilearning, a charity founded by another member of the group, Lisa Goodchild. 

What are the biggest challenges, and opportunities for women in the digital industry today?

The biggest challenge I found in the corporate world was the amount of business done ‘out of hours’ which was difficult to juggle alongside caring responsibilities whether it be in social or pitch environments.

Culture and relationships will and always should have a strong place in business but they don’t always have to be forged in the pub or during timeslots incompatible with family life (or any other type of life!) It’s very important to create space within the workday to give everyone opportunities to build trusted connections, through Conferences, Breakfasts and Away Days. Organisations such as Bloom and WACL play a fantastic role in facilitating such occasions and I would recommend any young woman in the industry to connect with them. 

The biggest opportunities for women in digital are the tools, platforms and training available to set up new, owner-operated businesses with minimal barriers to entry. 

I have been absolutely inspired by several of my female industry peers who have created and scaled their own businesses quickly and successfully, with many starting after the age of 40 which is a refreshing and realistic contrast to the early 20s, ‘Tech Bro’ stereotype perpetuated in the media. 

What does the industry need to do to better champion women?

You can’t be what you can’t see. Large businesses need to ensure that they have training and systems available to fill their pipelines for senior leadership with an equal proportion of men and women. 

Every piece of communication, be it a newsletter, trade PR or panel should be vetted to ensure that it represents the overall workforce, in terms of gender and ethnicity. For anyone who is unsure where to start, the DICE certification provides a fantastic framework.

What are the biggest challenges, and opportunities overall for digital advertising this year?

Marketers advertising in a global recession need to be as efficient as possible with their advertising investment, whilst not dropping the ball on brand awareness despite the latency of conversion that this type of activity entails. 

I expect to see newer platforms such as Advanced TV and Podcasts coming into their own over the next few years due to the perfect storm of pandemic based cord cutting, a mature Millennial audience not accessible via traditional offline channels and more data available to allow hyper targeting with lower barriers to entry than the traditional broadcast media companies. 

Another exciting development in the digital space is the consumer release of Chat GTP, OpenAI’s latest chatbot application, capable of understanding human dialogue and generating detailed human-life text. 

This type of AI has huge implications for Customer Service, SEO and Content Marketing and I expect its management and application to become a core skillset of all communications agencies over the coming months. 

When I tested it for this article (purely in the name of research????) it answered the question “What are the challenges for digital advertising?” with the following response in a matter of seconds; “Some challenges in digital advertising include the increasing use of ad blockers, the need to effectively target advertisements, and the need to ensure ads are relevant and not intrusive to users. Additionally, the constantly changing landscape of digital technology can make it difficult for companies to keep up and effectively utilize new platforms and tools for advertising. Privacy concerns and the risk of personal data being shared without consent is also a challenge for digital advertising.”

Whilst I don’t disagree with any of this, it does lack contextual interpretation of the subject matter and the nuanced view that only hands-on experience can provide.

As with all AI, it is only as strong as the human who creates and manages the outcome hence the importance of specialists for harnessing this technology effectively for their marketing requirements.

What is your biggest achievement in digital to date?

I am incredibly proud to have launched and scaled my own media agency, The Runway Media. We help scale-ups and established businesses grow through targeted Media and Technology. Launching The Runway has allowed me to develop as a professional and given me the invaluable client perspective of being a Business Owner myself. I have also met a fantastic range of interesting entrepreneurs and learnt a little bit from all of them!

On the Corporate side, I’m extremely grateful that my digital career has allowed me to work and travel all over the world which is something I could have only dreamed off when I was writing letters to Saatchi & Saatchi attempting to get work experience from an address I’d found in the Yellow pages. If anyone is wondering…it worked!