Karen Mitchell is a force to be reckoned with. As one of the first certified marketers to come out of the NZ Marketing Academy, she is helping to grow the influence of regional marketing in New Zealand.
“I would say marketing is my passion and my hobby. I know that sounds unusual to say, but it’s exactly true.”
That perhaps unexpected statement comes from Karen Mitchell. When she’s not involved in the day to day business of a dairy farm in Gore, she is busy completing every single certification course offered by the Marketing Association (MA). An awe-inspiring, dedicated learner, she’s set to put the rest of us to shame.
Karen’s always had a flair for marketing. Without a university background, she has been channelling her efforts into self-teaching and is now turning her interest into a career.
“I’ve always had a curiosity for marketing. It lights me up to talk about it. And I’ve been unstoppable when it comes to my own self-education. However, I’ve never been to university, and I wanted a way to extend my learning, which ultimately brought me to the Marketing Association.”
Karen has completed eight courses and is the first of the MA learners to become professionally certified in strategic marketing. She’s completed workshops in Auckland and Christchurch, as well as online learning when she couldn’t make it out of Gore.
“Everything about marketing intrigues me,” she enthuses. “There are so many different aspects to it, always looking for the next thing to master.
“What I lean more towards is strategic marketing. What I like about strategic marketing is that it brings focus to the areas that a business should concentrate their efforts on”.
Across core workshops, Karen mastered learnings from digital and brand strategy, marketing plan creation, critical thinking and stakeholder management. But far be it for her to just focus on core competencies, Karen also completed elective courses across advanced social media, copywriting and customer experience.
She says the courses were her first chance of being in a room with other marketers. An aspect she says was integral to her learning.
“Farming is a lonely pursuit, so being able to be in a room full of people who were interested in the same topic was an amazing experience. It allowed me for the first time to better understand the industry, the people in it and the way they think,” she says. And she was impressed to find that those attending the courses were from marketing teams of large national brands.
“The courses are run by outstanding marketing professionals. It was great to hear them talk and know I was on the right path,” she adds.
Karen's interest in marketing is extensive. For her, one lesson that resonated was the need for clear communication in marketing efforts.
“The one-page marketing plan course resonated with me. It made us define the goals and objectives of strategy within one page. It was completely different from how a lot of marketing is currently done, which is multiple page documents with different data points that talk to only a handful of internal people.
“This specific course allowed us to really hone our communication skills. It helped me realise you have to be clear and concise when you’re speaking to the market,” she explains.
What sets Karen apart is her regional background; she has been involved with farming in several areas throughout the country, from the Waikato through to Gore in the South. She immediately has an affinity with rural New Zealand and can translate that easily into talking with the community.
“Regional language and communication are important to have. Businesses can try and connect with communities, but it can be hit and miss because they often don’t segment it as a different market.”
“But change doesn’t happen overnight. It is going to take regional marketers to be able to help companies in New Zealand connect with the people there,” she says.
Following her certification, Karen is now looking toward her next big move, which involves a change of scenery and working towards her own marketing agency.
“That, for me, is the goal I was working towards with these courses and is now something I’m ultimately closer to achieving. At the moment I’m doing smaller projects to grow my experience, but having my own agency is definitely on the cards,” she says.
Thank you to Westpac, sponsors of the NZ Marketing Academy
Written by Courtney Devereux, UK Client Lead, Clear Hayes