The social aspect: the entire female leadership team disrupts social media marketing

The Social Element won ‘Leadership Team of the Year’ at The Drum Awards for Agency Business in 2021. In this case study, gain a deeper understanding of what makes this organization special and successful, starting with the people at the top.

The social aspect had its best year yet 2019-2020. Its entire female leadership team oversaw mutual support and concern for a culture that values ​​new ideas, ways of thinking, and, most importantly, its people. By embarking on a journey to help clients connect the dots between data, their social channels, and the people at the other end, the agency’s policy was invaluable to customers.

As the world changed, so did the leadership. It kicked off and when a remote company could focus on how they needed to adapt to the situation.

The team took a three-pronged approach that addressed how the organization needs to change to work for: employees, clients and clients’ clients. The leadership team took on a personal and key role in ensuring that each of these divisions was secured while managing costs and losses to keep everyone busy. Although they have a personal interest in offering support, the group found time between them to take care of the urgent needs of customers as well.

By focusing on how to support customers with new resources – at no extra cost – and helping them support their customers through difficult times, The Social Element went on to win new business at an unprecedented rate.

Overall, the year became one of the most profitable for The Social Element in its history, all at the same time keeping the enthusiastic, motivated and caring workforce as happy as possible.

Team structure

The social aspect is owned by women and controlled by women. All five of The Social Element’s executive positions are made up of well-connected, inspiring women across London, Valencia, Aberdeen and North Carolina. The team nominated for this award consists of:

  • Tamara Littleton, CEO. Tamara founded the company in 2002 and will soon have been in charge of the organization for 20 years.
  • Ashley Cooksley, Managing Director. Ashley has worked for the company for almost 13 years and has run the company in North America since 2019.
  • Emma Harris, Chief Creative Officer. Emma has been on the board for almost three years, turning The Social Element into a creative force to be reckoned with.
  • Treena Hales, Chief Operating Officer, Valencia. Treena has been with the company for 13 years and is a central cog within the TSE leadership group.
  • Wendy Christie, People’s Commander. After 13 years of service and dedication to making The Social Element a great place to work, Wendy probably faced her biggest challenge yet with the pandemic – and did a great job.

Achievements last year

In February 2020, The Social Element’s leadership team was ready to embark on a spectacular year of growth and led an organization that represented the very best in the industry. With an incredible cohort of staff, we knew that our flexible and teleworking model was giving us an edge in terms of employee diversity. Customers were responding to our nuanced, data-driven and humane first approach to social media and their customers as well.

When the pandemic began, however, everything had to change. Our construction team took a tripartite approach and focused on: The Social Element team, the customers and the customer’s consumers. Although many companies urgently focused on working remotely, The Social Element had the advantage of being established as a remote first-hand company from day one, 19 years ago. As a result, we were able to focus more on our customers and the team’s emotional needs.

We focused our energy and rewrote our entire strategy within three weeks. We put time and resources into our customers, including new services that meet their new needs (crisis monitoring, social listening and emotional analysis of their consumers). We also hosted free web conferences to help them adapt to telecommuting themselves as added value as we had built up many years of experience in this field.

Tamara participated in over 20 teleconferencing web conferences and podcasts, maintaining a culture and useful hacks to work from home as a way to give back to the industry.

And it paid off. Over the past year, the company has retained almost all of its customers, despite significant budget cuts in the industry, recruiting new people and its profitability above target. Some current customers doubled their expenses, but new customers are Visa, Olafur Eliasson, Parkinson’s UK and Peloton. The Social Element has been featured in the Sunday Times and won three international industry awards.

Evidence of motivational leadership

Ensure the well-being of our staff

Our first priority was the mental health of our staff. To make sure we had a straight line into the leadership team, Wendy and Tamara offered daily 1: 1 draw calls to all employees – nothing spectacular for an organization with 255 people. They also offered personal support to people affected by external circumstances – the pandemic, homework, protests and more.

We hold regular webinars to provide updates, transparency, policies and celebrate great work – uniting our community. Wendy’s passion for people led the company to end the year in profit and growth with a happy, active workforce.

Sales support

Tamara quickly led the Exec team through processes to create a new vision and roadmap for the organization, focusing on supporting clients in sales, such as providing additional insight reports to guide their policies.

She was supported in this effort by Ashley, who led the North American team to win glorious new clients such as the Peloton. Ashley also augmented existing customer relationships, such as Keurig Dr. Pepper, by developing a process to offer rotational prevention advice in response to constant changes in consumer behavior and attitudes.

New creative presentation

Emma moved from CMO to CCO and expanded her field of work by launching our new creative team after many years of building the organization’s thinking leadership and reputation. Creative offering is uniquely social-first and led by society; with a focus on developing agile content based on intuition related to the emotional needs of our large customers. Emma has a keen interest in the art of socially selective creativity and encourages brands to avoid cutting back on versions of their ATL campaigns to create social content.

Diversity and segregation work

Diversity is baked into our ethics, but we wanted to formalize the importance of diversity and differentiation for ourselves. Wendy was in charge of education and options for showing gender pronouns in internal and external systems. Wendy also worked on creating gender-neutral job advertisements and self-employed contracts.

Tamara led the indictment in collaboration with Creative Equals. The social aspect received recognition at the bronze level. Ali Hanan (CEO) of Creative Equals said: “The founder is an LGBTQ woman and we have researched their company to find out that they are one of the most diverse companies we have worked with”.

Adapts to an order of magnitude

Treena oversaw the telecommuting office in London and ensured the transition was smooth and secure while renegotiating contracts with our assets and technical suppliers to keep costs under control. Treena helped implement an ambitious cost-saving plan to ensure that amazingly, despite market challenges, this was the most profitable year in our history.


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