#WomenInTech: Building Brands with Eighty-Eight’s Erin Bury
As the Managing Director of Eighty-Eight Agency, Erin Bury is focused on leading a team that is inclusive and successful. We spoke this fall about what makes a communications agency stand out, how to develop a personal brand, and what books their office has been reading.
MRW: What makes Eighty-Eight different than other communications agencies in the space?
EB: It’s true that agencies are a dime a dozen, but I think there are two things that set us apart. The first is people: I think an agency is only as great as the people who work at it, and we have creative, young, early tech adopters who are awesome at what they do. The second is that we have a focus on startups and organizations that target the startup community. We’re really focused on living in that ecosystem, and not a lot of agencies specialize in that. We work with funded startups, startup organizations like incubators, accelerators, VC firms, and large businesses who target small businesses, and I think that’s a niche that not a lot of people focus on. You’ll be really hard-pressed to find another agency that really works exclusively in this space.
MRW: You’re the Managing Director, which can be a pretty all-encompassing role. What does your day-to-day consists of?
EB: A prominent VC in New York named Fred Wilson wrote that a CEO is really only responsible for three things: hiring and retaining the best staff, making sure there’s money in the bank, and setting a long-term vision and strategy for the company that everyone knows. So those are my three high-level priorities, but at any given time it kind of ranges between working with our biz dev person on new business, helping develop proposals and pitches, walking clients through the process of becoming a client, working with each of the team leads to make sure projects are going smoothly, removing roadblocks, talking strategy, onboarding new employees, and of course finance and operations.
And then there’s also this other category of my job that’s general brand awareness for Eighty-Eight. For me that’s all about relationship building and being out in the community. I do a lot of media interviews and writing, speaking at events, organizing events, and other brand-building opportunities. My role is really to elevate the brand of Eighty-Eight and make sure more people know about us.
MRW: Unlike other segments of the tech sector, communications tends to skew more female – do you ever think about the need to make sure your team is diverse too, and that it’s not all women?
EB: I’m not an engineer, so I can’t speak to being the only woman on a team of male developers. I’ve always been in really female-heavy environments. Journalism school was overwhelmingly women, then I worked for a PR agency which was overwhelmingly women, then I worked for a female entrepreneur, and now I’m at an organization where we’re 12 out of 14 women. And every single person on our leadership team is female.
So yes, I almost feel like I have to be conscious of hiring more men, which seems somewhat hilarious and is a great problem to have.
Really, when it comes to diversity, we approach it more broadly – how do we make sure the office is an inclusive place? For someone who’s pregnant, or for someone who doesn’t drink? Or for someone who eats halal? Or has kids at home? For someone who’s adopting? How do we make sure we’re being inclusive in the way we run the company? I think a lot about that. There’s still work to be done.
MRW: You’ve done an excellent job of developing your personal brand – what’s your advice to other young professionals looking to develop their own brand?
EB: To me, personal branding is something you should start while you’re still in school. It’s not something you have to wait to develop, because there are so many benefits to having a great personal brand. People who are junior will want to expand their network so they can find new jobs or new opportunities, and for people later in their career, it’s more about mentoring and giving back.
When you’re a student, personal branding includes things like establishing your social media presence, knowing that when employers look you up, they want to get a sense of your personality. When it’s early in your career, personal branding includes things like attending events, or volunteering for events and organizations, and a bit later it’s probably speaking at events, sharing thought leadership or mentoring, or contributing to publications.
I think that building your personal brand is an ever-evolving thing that should have started yesterday. They always say the best time to invest money was ten years ago, the second best time is today, and I feel like that’s your personal brand – regardless of where you are in your career, the best time to start building your personal brand was ten years ago, but the second best time is today.
MRW: Eighty-Eight doesn’t quite have an office book club, but every couple of months you publishes a ‘What We’ve Been Reading’ post on your blog. How did that start, and why do it?
EB: A lot of people in the office are very voracious readers. We don’t have an official book club where we all read the same book – it’s very hard to share one copy and have everyone read it in a month – so instead we get everyone to talk about the best book they’ve read lately and why.
We’re on Penguin’s mailing list, so we get new books every month. And we started this shared library in the office, where people can bring in books they don’t need anymore and everyone can pick up new ones, whether it’s murder mystery, which is my personal favourite, or business books, or literary fiction. So it really just started from everyone sharing their awesome books.