Published On: Sat, Mar 7th, 2015

Four Lessons from Four Years in Dublin

DublinToday, 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.

About the Author

- Marketing Manager with a passion for inbound at HubSpot, Founder of Growth Hack Talks, Blogger at Ben-Cotton.com and Chief Quaffer at CraftySwine.org .

Displaying 5 Comments
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  1. Paul Wooding says:

    Great piece Ben. Good to hear things have gone well. I think you’re spot on with your observations about what’s changed; the point about specialists v generalists couldn’t be truer. There are a lot of agencies grappling with that one. I also think the move from PR to marketing is a natural – and necessary – one for any communications professional that wants to see their career develop. I can’t for the life of me see how the UK PR industry can support the amount of generalists currently sitting behind desks in offices adding very little to their skill set other than bitter experience of trying to achieve more (or at least the same) for less. Links to the ROI point nicely; if you can’t demonstrate your value above and beyond a volume metric you are seriously in danger of losing business and losing ground to your peers. I’d implore anyone agency side reading this, if you don’t have a clear understanding as to how your day job impacts on your client’s business and/or you don’t feel you can have any positive impact on that business (above and beyond media coverage) to change roles now or at least raise this with HR as a matter of concern.

  2. Interesting reflections.

    Glad to note that I predicted point 1 – that interpersonal relations are alive and well in Ireland. There’s far too much impersonal PR and marketing in my opinion (and social media is ironically often partly to blame).

    One thing I’d noted in the past is how attractive Ireland is to US inward investment (much more so than the UK).

    Presumably as an Englishman in Ireland married to an American, you understand these trans-Atlantic dynamics too.

  3. Katerina says:

    Fantastic piece, Ben! Four years one and you’ve made Ireland your second home. Well done!

    It made me think about my journey over the past four years as well 🙂

  4. Just came across your blog and really enjoyed it. As an Irishman, I am delighted to see that you have bought into the importance of the social network here in Ireland and realised how it can quickly break down obstacles. I have been involved in a few big international projects and our colleagues from the continent were amazed at the way we could get things done quickly here because we knew the right people, at all levels, to go to and had a relationship with them. And isn’t that what public relations is all about – relationship management!

  5. Great piece and very true. I concur and feel every bit as optimistic as you….but plan to stay here!!

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