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Thursday 7 April 2016

An interview with Koozai: the marketing and PR agency.

From Garmin and Crystal Palace FC to Ted Baker and the Hampshire FA, Southampton Solent University graduates can be found in businesses up and down the country. One such business is Koozai, a digital marketing and PR agency where five out of twenty-one employees are Solent graduates.

We caught up with the employees to find out more about their time at Solent and how the skills they learnt are supporting them in the workplace. We also spoke to Ben Norman, Koozai’s director, to get his take on how the Solent graduates he employs are helping to push his business forwards.

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Ben Norman – Director

How is it that you have come to employ so many Solent graduates?

We are a specialist digital agency and are in fairly close proximity to the University. So when graduates are looking seriously at taking that step into digital marketing, the smart ones seem to find us.

Is there anything that Solent graduates seem to have in common?

They all seem to have a good basic knowledge, but most importantly the ones that have landed jobs with us have a drive and determination to give their all to get into the industry. Also, once working with us they are relentless in absorbing knowledge and pushing themselves forward skills-wise.

Have you ever had any other involvement with the University?

My team and I have given talks to the students to help them understand what it is like to work for a digital marketing agency.

Do you feel as though Solent University has a reputation with employers in the South?

I can’t speak for all employers, but I know that when we interview students from Solent they have come out above the others.

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Ruth Walker – Content Marketing Executive

How did you choose Solent?

I attended a university in Epsom but the course was too niche for me. So I did some research and found that Solent had recently launched a brand new course that ticked all the right boxes and transferred there the following year.

What did you study at Solent?

BA (Hons) Magazine Journalism and Feature Writing.

What did you do after graduation, and how did that eventually lead you to Koozai?

I worked for a local magazine during my time at Solent and then went on to be its deputy editor. I interviewed a great number of celebrities during my time there, including Mollie King from The Saturdays, The A-Team’s Dirk Benedict and Britain’s Got Talent’s Stephen Mulhern. When the magazine folded, I went into internal marketing but thought that the grass must be greener on the agency side, and it was. I’ve been at Koozai for a year now and haven’t looked back since.

What is your role at Koozai now?

I work as a member of the awesome content marketing team, helping our clients to show just how fantastic they are. From one day to the next I never do the same task and I love it. The variety of content we produce means that we’re constantly learning new skills and pushing the limits of what’s possible.

How does what you learnt at Solent help with your career?

My time at Solent has helped me in so many ways, from shorthand and legal training to content structures. My main takeaways would be the different tones of voice and interview techniques we were taught.

Have you had any involvement with the University since graduating?

No, but I would be more than happy to come in and talk to the students about the importance of effective PR practices.

Any other thoughts?

I’ve never been the typical academic type so having the opportunity to be continually assessed and to create my own magazine rather than write a traditional dissertation was perfect for me. It allowed me to flex my writing muscles and realise that this was something I was rather good at.

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Sally Newman – SEO Executive

How did you choose Solent?

I chose Solent because it was one of the only universities that provided an advertising degree that was both creative and theoretical. I knew that advertising was what I wanted to do but didn’t fancy an exam-based degree. I also wanted a bit of variety to get the most out of the course.

What did you study at Solent?

BA (Hons) Advertising.

What did you do after graduation, and how did that eventually lead you to Koozai?

I worked at Solent as the marketing graduate associate within the conference centre for eight months. Then I left because I wanted a bit more of a challenge and I knew that digital marketing was where my heart was really at.

What is your role at Koozai now?

I’m an SEO Executive. My role is so varied that it’s hard to define. In a day you can find me doing anything from critiquing a website and explaining how it’s appearing untrustworthy to users to building a client’s digital strategy, analysing a backlink profile for a site or brainstorming with the awesome content marketing team.

How does what you learnt at Solent help you with your career?

My time at Solent taught me a lot about networking and things that I probably now take for granted such as client management and an overarching understanding of marketing.

I was also given the chance to take an extra exam whilst on my degree that gave me an additional marketing qualification from the IDM (Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing). This was one of the things that helped me to get my job at Solent five months before I graduated and then secure my job at Koozai.

What is your favourite memory of Solent?

Graduation day was one of my favourite days ever. I felt so proud of myself and all of my friends. I was also working for Solent at the time so helped out on the other days in the marquee greeting all of the graduates.

Have you had any involvement with the University since graduating?

I did in my role at the University. I’ve also been asked to help with dissertations and marketing interviews since graduating so it’s nice to have been involved with that.

Any other thoughts?

I loved my time at Solent and I definitely feel that it has contributed to my skill set now. The mock interviews and CV checks are something that all students should take advantage of.

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Luke Monaghan – SEO executive

How did you choose Southampton Solent University?

Southampton Solent was always my first choice. I’d heard of the University’s focus on giving students a full understanding of the industry they wanted to pursue a career in, along with the great connections with industry experts. This really made Solent stand out from other university I had short-listed.

What did you study at Solent?

BA (Hons) Advertising.

What did you do after graduation, and how did that eventually lead you to Koozai?

I was very fortunate and bagged myself a job at Koozai straight after graduating; the credit for that goes to the University for being able to prepare me for a position at such a well-respected digital marketing agency.

What is your role at Koozai now?

I’m an SEO Executive; in short, my job is to help businesses grow online by increasing their visibility organically in search engines through keyword ranking improvements. I wish it were as easy as it sounds: there’s a lot to it!

How does what you learnt at Solent help you with your career now?

My course struck a great balance between theory and practical teaching. When leaving university, I had the core understanding needed to get a position in digital marketing, the practical understanding of working in such a competitive industry (through modules which encourage real industry engagement and regular guest speakers) and great knowledge of how to effectively market across many marketing channels.

Most importantly, my lecturers encouraged me to go outside of my comfort zone, which is core to who I am now; nothing’s ever achieved inside your comfort zone.

What is your favourite memory of Solent?

Besides the countless social events arranged within my course, one of my favourite memories was the final presentation I ever had at University. At the start of university the thought of presenting terrified me, but the course changed that.

Without overselling it, my group and I absolutely smashed our final presentation in front of an award-winning industry agency and our lecturers. We left the room with such a buzz and it ended my time at Southampton Solent University on such a high note! The feedback from our lecturers really wrapped everything up and I’ll never forget it: “Our work here is done.”

Have you had any involvement with the University since graduating?

I’ve had quite a lot of involvement with the University since graduating. I was asked to be part of a film for the School of Communications and Marketing, which highlighted experiences from students and graduates. I’m also due to return to the University later in the year to talk to current students about digital marketing.

Any other thoughts?

I’m very grateful to be a part of the Solent alumni and will always be thankful for how much the University has helped me grow as a person.

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Harry Gardiner – Social Media Executive

How did you choose Southampton Solent University?

I picked it after reading the course description, which seemed very creative.

What did you study at Solent?

BA (Hons) Advertising.

What did you do after graduation, and how did that eventually lead you to Koozai?

I worked as a Supervisor at Odeon before applying for a content marketing role through Solent’s own job board.

How does what you learnt at Solent help you with your career?

I still utilise a number of creative thinking techniques when it comes to brainstorming!

What is your favourite memory of Solent?

Definitely the IP trip to Finland. It was an amazing experience that I’ll never forget.

Have you had any involvement with the University since graduating?

Yes, I’ve appeared at Solent several times: twice to attend a workshop and once to give a speech on writing copy for web.

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Nicola Churchill – Content Marketing Executive

How did you choose Southampton Solent University?

Solent is the only university in the UK that specialises in magazine journalism rather than just news journalism. Before I went to university I enjoyed creative and feature writing, and I also collected magazines, so it was perfect for me.

What did you study at Solent?

BA (Hons) Magazine Journalism and Feature Writing.

What did you do after graduation, and how did that eventually lead you to Koozai?

I worked in the content team at B&Q as the lead content writer.

How does what you learnt at Solent help you with your career?

It has given me a vested interest in all aspects covered on my course. We did magazine design, styling, music journalism and more. The fact that they didn’t focus on just one area means that I have experience in a range of media and creative types; this lends itself well to my career now.

What is your favourite memory of Solent?

For me, it’ll always be the social aspects, the friends I made and the experiences shared – it’s a really important time in everyone’s lives and they are sharing it with a bunch of new people. You’ll do things you’ve never done before with people you would never otherwise meet.

Any other thoughts?

University is what you make it, as is your career, so work hard, play hard and enjoy the ride.