Henrietta Cheung, Business Development Director at Clarity, has over 13 years’ experience working in advertising and communications planning.
She has worked with globally renowned brands such as M&S, HSBC, Unilever, ITV and Jaguar, as well as start-ups and SMEs, across a variety of sectors including retail, FMCG, automotive and finance.
Her expertise lies in omnichannel communications strategy, content planning, digital and data strategy and working with teams to develop analytics and measurement solutions to inform future planning and optimisation.
Cheung’s skills include branded content, partnerships and sponsorships and managing large cross-functional teams. She has multiple award wins to her name for cross channel planning and social planning, and has played a crucial part in relaunching a number of brands including Jaguar.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I’m Henrietta Cheung – Business Development Director at Clarity, a brand and communications agency.
I began my career 13 years ago, following a degree in Modern Languages and a stint living in Frankfurt and St Petersburg, I started working as a media planner at a large media agency. I enjoyed it from my first day. I progressed quickly, moved to another large agency where I then stayed for 11 years. I loved, and still love, the buzz, culture and vibe of the advertising and media industry. I have always found working on household brands that have a role to play in everyone’s lives, big and small, motivating and meaningful.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
No, not really. While doing charity work in Namibia after university I was inspired by a fellow volunteer who had been working for a publishing house in an advertising role. It was she that opened my eyes to the industry and on arriving back in the UK, I focussed on finding a way into the industry. I was lucky enough to get my foot in the door and from there I never looked back.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
Yes, I find being a mother and balancing that with my career a constant juggling act. Challenging clients and navigating them through pressures on marketing budgets has been particularly evident since the financial crisis in 2008, plus constant issues around transparency.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
Taking the brave step to leave an agency I loved to venture into the world of a much smaller, but equally ambitious agency with a thirst and hunger for growth and success. Making the decision to move and then making it happen was a big deal for me. Having the courage of my own convictions to do what I believed to be right for me to grow and develop personally and professionally was important, alongside using my knowledge and experience for good elsewhere. Going from the familiarity and comfort of what I knew to the unknown and unchartered territory has been hugely exciting, rewarding and of course challenging too.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
My husband is without doubt the single major factor in my achievements professionally. We met over a decade ago (he actually interviewed me for my first role after my Namibia travels!) and working in the same industry since has been amazing. Why? Because we get what the other does. We understand the challenges. We appreciate the successes in a way no one else could. He helps me to believe in myself and reminds me of my abilities when my inner critic questions everything.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
I’ve mentored officially and unofficially throughout my career. I love it. Most recently I mentored an A Level student as part of an apprenticeship initiative to support young adults as they make those monumental decisions about what to do after school. Mentoring is one of the most rewarding things anyone can do, because it can truly make a massive difference in someone’s path. It reminds you of all you’ve achieved, the wisdom you hold, and how to use this for good and with purpose – it’s massively rewarding.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?
Unconscious bias. There are often many unconscious biases that present themselves in organisations. Perceptions and assumptions made about women, particularly as they become more senior, are often grossly misplaced. A woman is tenacious, ambitious, a go-getter, and yet they are often seen as bossy, ruthless and aggressive. How do you solve this? Awareness and acknowledgement of this is key, alongside an openness to discuss gender parity are critical first steps to confront and eradicate this issue.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
Acknowledge your inner critic, find a trusted friend, colleague or loved one to be the inner critic manager that helps you handle those self-doubts and worries. Try to always wholeheartedly and unashamedly go for it by being confident and believing in yourself.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
Never rest on your laurels, and never stand still. This is true to life generally but has never been truer than it is today, where the pace of change is so rapid. My next challenge is helping to lead and grow my current agency, Clarity, as we evolve our own proposition, keeping us a step ahead as we partner with our clients to navigate change and be fit and ready for what’s around the corner.