Melanie Stanford: “Every day I am inspired by my colleagues. Their passion, hard work and commitment to the cause saves lives.”
Since joining Pieta House as Head of Marketing and Communications last year, Melanie Stanford has found a fast-paced, fulfilling role contributing to Pieta’s life-changing work on tackling suicide, self-harm and the stigma surrounding mental health in Ireland.
Melanie’s career in advertising started over 25 years ago when she helped set up DDFH & B, an advertising agency that produced TV, radio, print and outdoor campaigns for its clients. Whilst working, Melanie studied part-time at DIT where she completed a Diploma in Media Studies, followed by a four-year marketing graduate course at Griffith College.
From advertising Melanie moved into financial services and telecommunications with roles, such as Managing Director of digital start-up Catseye for Dialogue Interactive, Head of Interactive for Ogilvy Dublin, Head of Marketing Communications for O2, and Head of Brand and Digital at Ulster Bank. During this time Melanie received recognition for her creativity by winning numerous industry awards, including two IAPI ADFX Awards. In 2014 Melanie decided to move into consultancy working with AIB and The Sunday Times. She also decided to expand her skills:
“I wanted to upskill so I studied eBusiness and Digital Marketing Concepts. Things move on very fast in the marketing sector so one has to stay on top of it all.”
More recently she decided on a change of direction:
“It was time to give something back, and I was looking for the right role. When the Pieta House job came up I felt it was a really meaningful role which I could shape and make my own, whilst also doing some truly rewarding work. I have always tried in my career to make intelligently-planned moves, which will move my career forward and add to my CV. It’s important to recognise that if you love what you do then it will follow that you’ll produce great work.”
As Head of Marketing and Communications, Melanie is responsible for the Pieta House brand and how it is externalised. This ranges from producing and managing campaigns for the charity’s events, to successfully overseeing all media and public relations interactions:
“It’s a very broad mix of responsibilities, and believe it or not, very fast-paced! Since Pieta House opened in 2006 the charity has helped over 36,000 people and their families. Having the opportunity to make a difference and work with talented, creative and motivated colleagues means it’s an inspiring place to work.”
As over 80 percent of the charity’s income comes from fundraising events, Melanie collaborates closely with her colleagues to develop new campaigns and fundraising ideas. She explains it is important to regularly review the brand, the charity’s website and marketing collateral to ensure there is synergy in all aspects of the charity’s activities.
Highlights At Pieta House
Melanie has witnessed the support and hope that Pieta House therapists give individuals in crisis and “seeing the results is an amazing experience.”
Working with filmmaker and photographer Alan Compton, Noel Story at Beacon Studios and voice-over artist Judith Roddy on the charity’s latest impact video has also been a highlight for Melanie. This inspirational film tells the story of Pieta House and the journey people take whilst under its care. Readers can watch it here.
Key Skills For A Career In Marketing
Melanie believes her passion and creativity, her good strategic marketing knowledge, together with her ability to use writing, digital marketing and project management skills successfully, has given her the edge. She adds:
“You need to be a people person and an effective communicator. The ability to manage agencies and work well with partners is key. It is important to keep your eye on the strategic projects that need to be done and review your progress often.”
The Next Pieta House Event On Melanie’s Calendar
Melanie is preparing for Darkness into Light, Pieta House’s flagship annual fundraising and awareness event. This takes place on Saturday 12th May. It started in 2009 with 400 people in the now iconic yellow DIL T-shirts walking the 5km course in Dublin’s Phoenix Park. By 2017 there were over 180,000 participants at 180 venues across the globe:
“We are aiming for 200,000 participants this year so if you can’t do a walk you can still fundraise online through our website, or if you want, maybe create your own event for Pieta House and help by changing our thinking in Ireland. Join the movement by encouraging those around you to just be kinder to each other.”
Future Career Plans
As Melanie is new to the charity sector she still thinks there’s “plenty to learn,” however,
“I’d like to be a CEO or a Chairman of a company one day. I am very conscious that women still have some way to go to smash glass ceilings, but it is great to see some progress with companies like Bank of Ireland with a new female CEO, Francesca McDonagh. Amazing!“
In the longer term Melanie would like to work more remotely so she can live in the south of France and have the opportunity to pursue her passion for writing. She adds though,
“There’s a lot more I want to achieve here in Ireland before that!
Interview by Lydia Casey