Four Lessons from Four Years in Dublin
Today, I celebrate four years living and working in Dublin. A lot has changed in 1,461 days. I’m now working in-house, I’ve transitioned from public relations to marketing, and I’m also a married man.
Much has changed in Ireland too. The Emerald Isle exited the recession, confidence has returned and many industries are recording growth.
Ahead of this fabulous four year milestone I’ve been thinking about and reflecting on the knowledge I’ve gained during this period. I’ve come up with a mix of personal lessons, and things I’ve observed about doing business in Ireland, so without further ado, here’s four lessons I’ve learnt from four years in Dublin:
1. The original social network is alive and well
Despite the continual rise of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn et al, the oldest social network around, namely people’s families, friends, neighbours, colleagues and associates is alive and well in Ireland. Many of the industries over here are that bit smaller than the UK — meaning everyone seems to know everyone, or at least they are more closely connected and intertwined. This can be both good and bad depending on the context, but it’s taught me to work just as hard maintaining offline relationships as digital ones. There really is no substitute for grabbing a coffee and getting to chat with someone in person. Although this may not scale like adding connections on LinkedIn, it’s often the route to a more meaningful, deeper relationship.
2. A new agency model is needed
Now is a tough time for many advertising, public relations and digital agencies in Ireland. Clients increasingly want specialists, not generalists and many of the big agency networks are struggling to offer both breadth and depth. Instead of growth, we’re seeing restructures and mergers from full services agencies. Most have very hierarchical structures which used to serve both the needs of the agency and the client, but this is no longer the case — in fact this set-up is often expensive and fails to offer the level of seniority and specialism that clients increasingly desire. We’re seeing smaller, leaner agencies or collectives spring up which are challenging the bigger agencies and their hourly rates.
3. Importance of return on investment (ROI)
I moved to Ireland in 2011 at the height of the financial crisis (here’s why I made the move). Redundancies were being made, client budgets were being slashed and there was a sense of gloom sweeping the nation. However, this environment made my team fight for every marketing, public relations or digital euro available to us. It instilled in me the importance of results — both being able to provide an accurate ROI and articulate how activity relates to marketing and business goals. This experience and continual focus on results and communication has served me well at both Edelman and Chill Insurance, and continues to do so at Indeed.
4. Ireland is a hotbed of innovation
There’s a perception outside of Ireland that many of the technology companies are located here solely for tax purposes. While Ireland’s corporation tax will always attract headlines, it’s important to point out that Ireland boasts a well educated workforce, progressive immigration laws and high quality infrastructure. Companies may initially be attracted by tax rates and favourable conditions, but it’s the results they achieve once they’re here that makes them stay. Ireland is a good place to do business — that’s why its capital is home to a fantastic combination of technology juggernauts, industry leaders and homegrown starts-up. There’s amazing things happening down at Silicon Docks, the Digital Hub and beyond — and we’ve already seen how industries can be re-imagined thanks to Irish success stories like Stripe, Storyful and Intercom.
And to conclude, rather than look back, I want to spend a moment thinking about the future. Things are on the up in Ireland. There’s a newfound sense of optimism, positivity and excitement around the place. The quality of life is high (better than London, apparently) and good things are happening. It’s a fun place to be, live and work. I know I won’t be in Ireland forever, but I’ve had a great time so far, and am grateful for what the last four years has taught me — and more importantly, I look forward to what else I can learn from this city, its people and its businesses.