Meredyth Grant, founder of CC1 On Digital PR in SEO and Inbound Marketing

March 4, 2024 | Interview

Welcome to Rankwatch’s Marketing Lego thought leader interview. Today we will talk to Meredyth Grant , Founder & CEO of Charlie Charlie 1, about her journey of creating a successful digital agency, that includes marketing and PR business.

Hi, everyone, and welcome to today’s Marketing Legos Thought Leader Interview. My name is Harshit and I’m the director of Business alliances of two amazing marketing tools Rankwatch and Web Signals. Now, we have a very special guest and a billion marketers with us, Meredyth Grant. She is the founder of a UK-based full-stack marketing agency called Charlie Charlie One and has been in business for over a decade now. Meredyth, so happy to have you with us today, and a big welcome.

Thank you. It’s a pleasure to join you today.

Perfect. Please tell us a bit about yourself, and your professional journey so far. You carry so many years of experience with you. I would love to know more about you.

Yeah, of course. So I guess my background is slightly unconventional. I started off in journalism. It was something I wanted to be a journalist since I can remember learning to write. And so all through school, university, that was what I kind of focused on. So I did a postgrad in Broadcast Journalism and then worked as a journalist for some news agencies in the UK, which are also international, like Sky News and ITN.
And during that time I was also an army reservist. So I ended up supporting the army in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, working on media projects and supporting their communications. When I finished that stint, I decided that life had changed. I met my husband, we had a family, so I thought, you know what, I want to go freelance. And I set up my own company. And this is ten years ago, it’s our 10th year this year. And we started as pure PR communications and as the market has evolved, probably about five years ago, I realised we needed to change.
At that point, we started diversifying our talents, and building up our professional development. So doing courses like Squared Online with Google so we could have the digital skills to go forward with.
And that really brings us up to where we are today, as we’re kind of, as you said, full stack. So inbound marketing, digital marketing, PR, Comms, and we’ve got a great team based in the UK and Australia. It’s brilliant because we’re very much focused on the future where tech is going in terms of comms and marketing. And it’s a really exciting time to be in marketing, I think.

Yeah, it makes sense. So what all with respect to services, now the agency is offering, please tell us a bit more about that.

Yeah, sure. So we look after both B2B and B2C companies and they range from the defence sector to sporting goods, sporting services to global supply chain and logistics. It really is quite a breath of company that we look after. And in terms of the services that we provide, these range from things like PR and Comms. So media monitoring, getting their brands out into national press or blogs to influencers it’s also content creation. So video blogs down to TikTok videos and instagram reels, downloadables white papers, research papers I mean you name it, we’re working on it in some kind of capacity across different clients.

Got you. And do you have a proper in-house team for carrying out your operations or is it something like you have freelance say developers and stuff like that?

So we have a mixture. So we have a team on staff who have specific skills whether that’s a background in B2B, marketing or content creation, or video editing and then for certain projects such as the more technical stuff like development then we have a team of freelancers that we know and trust and use for special projects. Really.

With respect to clients, which particular business is an ideal fit to basically qualify to be your client or which doesn’t?

I think as we’ve got older and as we’ve got more experience with dealing with clients there’s a number of factors that come into it and actually the key one for me is the personalities. It’s who is in that business, who we’re going to be working with because no matter how much money in the world someone has to give you to work for them if you don’t want to get out of bed and work for them and enjoy their company because we work so closely with people that personal relationship just has to be there. And as I’ve got older I’ve realised that if my gut feeling about a team isn’t right then it’s time to step back.
But generally you can see the people you can work with or you can see the potential and I think that beyond everything. If I have a happy team, if I’m happy, if my client is happy then we can do amazing things. But if there’s conflicts of character or if the business process is in place with clients, if they haven’t got a clear plan of where they want to be then it makes it incredibly difficult. We want to do a really good job for people and if I can’t do a really good job for people it eats me up inside. So I think for us that’s the key, it’s people really.

A lot of agencies would actually put specific industries on specific budget clients but it’s really good to see your value relation over all of those stuff.

Well I probably should have a more traditional view. I mean it should be about, it probably should be about bottom line but I really care about my people, I care about my team, I want people to be happy and I just think life is too short to work on accounts or on projects that you just don’t believe in or you don’t have the team who believe in it as well.

So how would typically client journey in your agency and what exactly the first 30 days of client journey looks like and what processes do you have in place and how do you basically have management for client handling?

Yeah, of course. So for every single client, I think the key for us is working with them to understand where they are in terms of the starting point. We use data and analytical platforms to really understand their business. So where are they, what are the benchmarks, who are their competitors?
What are they doing in space? What is the potential of the market? What share of voice could they have and what is their current reach in terms of brand awareness? And I think once we understand these fundamentals, it gives us a platform to build up.
But you know, that’s just one section of the understanding phase, which I would say is the first 30 days. It’s really understanding the processes of the business. So how do they do lead generation, how do they do demand generation, do they have a CRM in place?
Do they have a CRM that’s linked to their website? You can do any kind of digital marketing or cons. If the process, if the heart of the business isn’t structured well to produce that beautiful funnel, then there’s a significant problem. So before we do anything, we strip it back to basics and really understand the process.
How can we make this better to then bring in the marketing and the cons? Because you need the operations that are the heart of the business, the sales, I guess, to be working to then make the most out of marketing.

Got you. So do you do this for all of your clients? Or let’s say, for example, if a certain client approached you for a standalone service, say SEO, the process is almost the same or different?

That’s a really good question. I think most of the time the core of the process is the same because no matter whether you’re a B to B, or a B to C business, you need to understand your audience and where you are. Because if you’re not answering the needs of your audience in terms of a process that delights them, content that engages them just to be heard, then you’re not in a good place. So it is the same kind of stripped back process to really understand before we do anything.

So what are the primary marketing channels that CC one uses for their customers?

Yeah, of course, primarily the paid for services that we use for our clients. It depends. For some we use HubSpot, we also use MeltWater media monitoring. In terms of platforms as well, we work across Gosh, I think there is Junior WordPress Bespoke platforms and then in terms of channels, again, it’s across all and it’s dependent on the client, whether that’s TikTok, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Discord there’s just so many kind of different integrations and solutions that we use for the data and analytics.
Mainly we use SEMrush and we also use things like Google Analytics. Google Search Console and really try. I think at the heart of our business is data and tech because actually. If you don’t have the data and the analytics. You can’t understand anything and you can’t show your performance because another part of it is KPIs and showing what your efforts are producing and then showing the clients return on investment. So those data and analytical integrations are.

Absolutely key when it comes to inbound marketing and that is one of the core expertise of the agency. Can you please share a few tips that kind of like fits for every business? That is something that we must do.

Yeah, of course. So I think kind of one of the main successful processes that we’ve had is again, stripping back to basics, looking at a particular client’s audience search terms, so looking at the geography of the audience they want to target, and then looking at what those search terms are that relates.
So for example, if we took maritime security and we looked at Gulf of guinea, which is currently the hotspot for piracy, although it has dwindled in the last twelve months, and we’d look at the terms that people were searching for around that specific topic would then go away and research and write the content. So that would be calling on experts, whether they’re professors, academics, and bring that information together and then make it look beautiful and package it as a downloadable and then structure a marketing campaign that drives the audience who are searching for that content to the website to download it.
The reason that works really well is it’s lead generation, but it’s highly targeted because then you’re getting an audience who are actively searching for content on that issue. And I think as well, if you put it behind a form that only allows business addresses to input, then you’re already making sure that you’re getting good MQLs or good leads.
And I think that strategy can be applied at the moment across a lot of industries. That’s not to say that could change the way that data protection is going. Cookies are changing, things will change, and we’ll have to learn, adapt, keep adapting. But at the moment that is a really successful process that we’ve employed for quite a few companies to give them good quality MQLs.

Since you mentioned marketing content, and it’s a very big part, like every marketing engine runs with content, right? Can you please share a few useful tips on how you measure and basically improve the marketing content?

“Yeah, of course. So as I said, we go back to Google search, look at what people are looking for, bring them into the funnel, and in reviewing, we set ourselves KPIs. So if we want to bring in, we’ll set ourselves a KPI before the campaign. So we want this campaign to achieve 40 good MQLs, and if we’ve done that, that’s great, but then we need to set the bar higher. So next time it will be 60 and we’ll switch up the creative, we’ll change the content so you’re always maintaining momentum, but you’re also trying to stretch yourself to do that a little bit better. And I think that’s key because it’s so easy.
And I’ve worked with agencies before where you achieve your KPI and you go, okay, we’ve done it. You sit down and you enjoy the kind of lull, but actually to keep that funnel build and to keep seizing the opportunity and stay ahead of the competitors, you’ve got to keep switching up the content, you’ve got to keep tracking website visits, downloads. Are these customers, repeat customers, or are they new customers? What channels are they coming in? If they’re leads coming in through LinkedIn, then hey, let’s perhaps look at advertising on LinkedIn and tap into new markets. So I think it is really setting those KPIs and making sure that you smash them and then you set higher ones.

Just like you mentioned, there are multiple KPIs that you use. What are those primary things apart from just tracking down the number of sessions or the organic means? What are the other things that are very crucial for inbound marketing and that is something that every marketer should keep a close eye on.

Yeah, absolutely. So if we’re looking at social media channels, for example, LinkedIn, then I would be looking at impressions, click through rates, engagement, the same with Instagram and Facebook because I think you can’t necessarily follow us, it’s a good stat.
But actually what you’re really interested in is if it’s a brand reach campaign, then it’s influence and it’s how far it’s gone. So I think for every different platform you need to look at different statistics and tie them to whatever the end goal of that campaign is.
Whatever the objective is. And work back that way and then sit back and look at them. Whether it’s once a month or every quarter. And see how they all come together holistically to show what’s working and what’s not and then test and adjust.

I think even social media, one of the primary KPIs that people target and try to achieve, is like just increasing the number of followers. But again, engagement organically is something within the same audience. It’s something which is not kept like, close eye on and that is very crucial for the repeat customers and all those things that adds a lot of value.
Also just curious, does Charlie Shani also offer CRO services? Is it something that you’re doing? Is that one of your agency offerings or not? So basically you study the landing page and then say through the heat map or just recording the session of visitors and then kind of like giving recommendations to change the layout of the content.

Or the graphics, whatever okay with you? So Jill, that’s a really good point. So for the clients that we use HubSpot for, we get the heat maps and that data through that system. For the clients that don’t have HubSpot so perhaps they are more conventional systems.
We don’t have that at the moment, but it’s something I definitely like to look into for them. And if a specific client wanted it, we’d do it. But I think that’s a really good point, is looking at how the landing pages are performing and then optimising them in that sense. That’s a very good point.

BTW has been in business for almost 1011 years now. I’m sure there must be some rockstar campaign that you have run, right? Please share that with us. What are the key metrics that kind of help you control? This is something which works really well and we should replicate this model on other clients as well.

Yeah, absolutely. So I think one of the things, one of the campaigns that I’ve worked on probably in the last couple of years that has been really phenomenal is working with a startup maritime security industry. So global. We started off with a process that we have this data, this amazing maritime security analysis data, news.
And instead of going down the traditional route of putting that out via PR and pushing it out, we actually wanted to pull people into us. And so the way that that campaign was set up was to really kind of bombard journalists, bombard influencers with really valuable information that they could just take for free and reuse. And so the campaign of brand awareness, it was so exciting to work on because there were so many elements to it. So in terms of an annual report. In terms of setting up a blog with a news feed that was recognized by Google.
Getting national and international journalists to come to the website to get that information and then seeing it appear in press and when you look at the kind of traditional comms model and equivalent advertising value. It just completely destroyed the way that you would normally do press relations.
Because so many times people push out press releases and journalists aren’t interested. If they were interested, they’d come to you. And that’s what we wanted to do. And we’ve ended up now with this amazing database of journalists who are engaged, who want to know our information.
And they come to us and they ask us for commentary, interviews and so on that front, we never push out a press release, never. Because they come to us. We put the information on our blog, it goes to them, it’s automated or they see on our social place, they come to us for information. And it just works beautifully. I think whenever I talk to other clients about how they do PR and how they do commentary or thought leadership, I advise them to try and develop that kind of system because it’s not a quick fix.

It took a long time, even big brands approaching two journalists to get their announcements out and all of those things. But what you’re describing is very real.

It was fascinating. And I think as well, it wasn’t just work for me because my background is journalism. It actually has value. I can see the beauty of a journalist being able to get the information that they need on a breaking maritime security instance when they need it, by just opening their email or looking on Twitter and then contacting us that way. And in terms of being able to disseminate information, have influence and brand reach, that was a brilliant project to work on.

That’s brilliant. Since your forte has always been PR, right? And a lot of brands actually PR as a standalone thing compared to, again, SEO is a different service altogether. Right. In your experience, is there an influence of good PR on your SEO as well?
Because the matrix also changes the PR. People usually referred to the referee, traffic and all of that stuff. And when it comes to SEO, it’s more like organic traffic front. Right. But how exactly does PR influence SEO? Can you share a few valuable info related to that?

Yeah, sure. So I think the first thing is we’ve got to stop thinking about PR as being separate from marketing. The whole thing is messaging. We’re talking to people, and however we’re doing that by different methods, it’s all one, it’s all getting a message out. And so for the traditional way PR is done, where you just tell someone, I need to press release on this, it’s got to be joined up. So absolutely stripping it back to the keywords.
So who do we want to target? What are they looking for? What does our audience want to know? Taking those top performing keywords, adapting them into the information that we want to get out, and then placing it strategically. So who do we want to influence? Are they particular journalists who are covering this topic? Are their influencers and how is that going to feed back in?
So, looking at their platforms in terms of reach, a lot of the time, and I think this is really interesting, people say, I want to be in City A M or I want to be in the Daily Telegraph. And yeah, they are phenomenal publications. They do have a huge readership.
But with Covert, things have changed, especially in London where City A M has read on the tube. So with people not going into work in the city, the value of having eyeballs on an article in City A M vice, having it on a digital platform, which has huge reach, which isn’t behind a paywall, that has to be considered. And I think a lot of the time it’s changing perspectives about how we do PR and really bringing it straight back into messaging and making sure it has digital at its core.

I think COVID has, in general, changed the way people used to do marketing a lot like the shift has already passed on to digital marketing. Almost every business spends money on marketing, right? And the huge chunk like earlier, if it was 30% on digital marketing and rest on other sources.
Now it’s exactly opposite, maybe 70% and 30%. So change the game and industry. Digital marketing industry in general has seen a boom. We’re lucky to be part of it. Yeah, but the job industry has taken phenomena. Please share one of the horror stories that you have learned, because, again, your experience has been so diverse and for so many years. I’m pretty sure there must be some story. And being an agency business, that is something that is an everyday affair, right?

Yeah, I think kind of in terms of horror stories, there’s a few, but actually, what I can kind of take away from them is that we’re always learning and every horror story or every mistake always allows you to grow and tackle things differently. And I think for me, as I’ve got older, I’ve probably got more confidence to deal with, probably client behaviour that I don’t like or horror stories.
I spent a lot of time working on an account where I just felt bullied. If I’m honest, working with someone who wasn’t very kind, wasn’t very nice, just was quite difficult to work with and didn’t communicate very well. And I think I just kept putting up with it and kept putting up with it. And I think as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realised I need to have boundaries. And what I and as the team has grown, what I will allow my team to tolerate. And there are red lines.
And I think from those experiences of dealing with tricky people, you have to have kindness at your core. And what I mean by that is treating others as you’d like to be treated. And on both sides, it kind of comes into leadership.
The companies that we work with, I have huge respect for their CEOs, their teams, because they treat people with respect. They are understanding, they have kindness at their core. And I think the times when it’s been a horror story, it’s been when I or we’ve worked with people who just haven’t had empathy or emotional intelligence.
And I think kind of as I look to the future, I hope that my team will always feel like there are boundaries in place where they’re in an environment where they want to be with clients they want to work for, and people who have the emotional intelligence to deal with people as they would like to be treated. And that, for me, gets me out of bed every day, and I want to work with people who share those values also.

Meredith, that’s very wise. Since you do PR a lot, what are the tools as well as what parameters do you use to basically do the PR evaluation?

Yes. No problem. So this year, I actually reviewed where we were getting PR analytical support from, so I whistled it down to Sesame and Meltwater, and this year we’ve gone with Meltwater and the reason that we’ve done that is that it gives you really good insight into sentiment analysis and the data background.
So the Boolean search really narrows it down for us so that we can see what people are saying about our competitors, what people are saying about our brand, and then that brand reaches both demographically, geographically, and it lets us crunch into the data.
Now I’m enjoying the platform, but will we stay with that? It all comes down to tech evolution. We’ll go with the company that provides the best data, the best analytics, so that our clients are getting the best read out on their investment.

I think, Meredith, we are coming to an end here, and I would really like to have a quick, rapid fire for you. Are you ready for that?

Oh, God. Okay. Yeah. Go for it.

What’s your favourite book?

What would I pick up today? I love Doctor Zhivago. That is one of my all-time favourite books. And also Madame Bovary. I really like that book as well.

Got you. What is the funniest thing you ever witnessed over a Zoom call?

I think my favourite is when people don’t realise that they’ve got the video on and they’re picking their nose or they’re in their pyjamas or something like that, and that always makes me giggle.

Got you. What motivates you?

I think client satisfaction. I want people to be happy. I don’t want people just to be happy. I want people to love what we’re doing. What gives me satisfaction is that people have a concept. They know where they want to be, and translating that into content or actual physical or digital piece of work that meets that request and delights them. That gives me huge satisfaction.

Got you. One word that displays you best.

I don’t know. Enthusiastic is probably the best word because I do feel like sometimes I get a bit over excited and get carried away with stuff. So that’s probably the best way of describing myself.

And coming to the last question, what is your next big goal?

That’s a very good question. So the next big goal for me is really for our 10th year. It’s really to consolidate where we are and move forward. So this year, last year was all about growth. This year is about consolidating and making sure we’ve got the business process in place to grow further. So that will probably be recruitment this year.

Got you. Any final thoughts that you would like to share with us?

Just be kind to your suppliers. I think that is the way everyone is happy. Just always have empathy with people.

Thank you. It’s wonderful having you with us today, and I really wish you very good luck. Thank you so much for all your time and really appreciate it.

Thank you so much. That was brilliant.

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