Welcome to The Publisher Diaries. We will be releasing editions every fortnight, alternating with the sister column ‘The Advertiser Diaries’. These new columns are an excellent opportunity to hear from those at the coal face of performance marketing who we don’t necessarily get to hear from as much as others.

The Publisher Diaries will focus on the details of individuals’ roles within the publisher sphere, as well as some of the challenges they face, and the inspiration that drove the individuals to want to work in the performance marketing industry.

In this edition, we spoke to Maya Fitzherbert, partnerships and affiliates manager at OneVoice Digital, a software company collaborative between National Union of Students and Arrk Group.

Maya has a background in various industries, having started her journey studying Fine Art at university, which led her to co-found an artist’s collaborative group. Maya then decided to undertake an internship in marketing and student activity in China.

Upon returning to the UK, Maya began working for a Students’ Union as Advertising Sales and Partnerships Coordinator.

She then began her role at OneVoice Digital in 2020, and works on the TOTUM product. The free and paid membership card now boasts 100’s of brands and offers from food, fashion, tech and homeware to everything in between, saving students on average £600 a year.

Maya told PerformanceIN about the details of her role, her main challenges and her inspirations:

What is your role and what does it consist of?

My role consists of managing brand affiliates and partners on the TOTUM student discount platform across web, app and socials. Formerly NUS Extra, the proposition has come a long way from the original paid card, and we are constantly adapting to grow in the student and professionals discount market.

On a day-to-day basis, I can be selling advertising media and creating media packages one minute, before moving onto facilitating the launch of new brands. I spend my time doing this as well as planning and creating marketing campaigns and renewing offers and brand pages.

I work with a wide variety of brands, from small businesses that are exclusive to our platform, to large established retailers. I also analyse the success of each through performance analytics and make decisions based on seasonal trends to present the best possible offers and incentives. The aim of this is to compel students to spend with TOTUM and deliver the best value to our customers and brands alike.

What do you enjoy most about the performance marketing industry?

Although I’m fairly new to the performance marketing world – coming from a media sales background at a Students’ Union – I love that there is such a wide variety of brands and products to advertise on our publishing site and the affiliate networks act as a large supermarket of brands to browse and potentially onboard.

I find it really exciting to notice a trend in the market and have the ability to search this category online, on social media or filter through the affiliate networks and find niche companies or startups that could have high potential and engagement on the platform.

Since the launch of TOTUM in 2018, our strategy is to showcase the most relevant everyday discounts to students and professionals as we can, so we have the freedom to follow seasonal trends to seek out unique products or offerings.

The best part is then launching and leveraging these brands without any expectations and monitoring the success of each through how it performs, the brand viewability and of course the sales driven. Having the space to react to micro and macro consumerism trends in such an evolving market keeps us current and reactive and allows me personally to inject my own ideas and creative opinions into the role.

Who is your performance marketing hero and why?

Even though I am only six months into my role it is already clear to me that the networks we work with strive to find the best ways of working between brand and publisher. More broadly, the heroes are the account managers that have taken an invested interest in what we do at TOTUM. All these fantastic individuals at the networks that work with us on various campaigns, onboarding and managing brand assets have pinned down precisely how to get the most value out of our student discount platform and I thank them for making my life easier and helping brands to bring exceptional offers to new audiences.

Who in your team deserves more recognition than they get? (The unsung hero)

I would not say there is necessarily an unsung hero in our brand team as we’re still quite a small team.

We support and constantly find ways to manage an increasing workload. Praise is handed out constantly and colleagues are recognised for their achievements. We have a stand-up meeting nearly every morning, which can act as a motivator for the rest of the day, especially as we’re all working remotely and often autonomously, we each bring our queries and wins to the daily meeting and people are praised for small and large wins – it is impossible for my team to achieve something and for it to go unnoticed.

We also have a Gong’s feature in the end of week company wide meeting where we nominate colleagues for positive achievements and there is never a week lacking these gongs.

There is a definite shift with advertisers to show their sustainability aims to the student audience, we are finding more and more brands are presenting themselves as environmentally and ethically conscious in an age where it is increasingly difficult to get away with things like unrecyclable packaging or an awareness of their environmental impact on our planet, and we’re here for it.

The latest UCAS Student Lifestyle Report for 2021 tells us students are more inclined to pay more for a product that they know is made from recycled materials or has been produced sustainably. The most common answer for students when asked what will be the ‘next big thing’ in brands from this UCAS report was ‘Any brand that is sustainable or environmentally friendly’ so brands have been listening.

I’ve also seen trends in unisex clothing as gender fluidity has become more visible and greater support of LGBTQ+ issues by collaborating with models and influencers within this community.

How has the role of affiliate networks changed over the last 12 months?

Going into a remote working landscape during the pandemic has meant that physical meetings have not been possible. The affiliate networks have had to adapt to this and continue to reach out to partners and publishers with regular video calls and introductions.

We have been invited to publisher days to present our platform and these can be key to finding new brands to onboard and letting the networks know what we do at TOTUM. Since I started in this role there has been pressure on the online shopping world to keep up with demand as more students buy things for their homes and ‘working from home’ spaces to make sure they are comfortable in a space where they spend so much time in. Something as simple as a plant to have on your desk becomes a necessity!

The networks have worked with brands to adapt to the new home environment; whether it’s fashion becoming loungewear, food delivery services like Hello Fresh and our exclusive cocktail delivery for those who are shielding or Disney+ and Audible becoming necessities to switch off after a long day. The affiliate networks have supported brands to get their products in sight and promoted with desirable images and content that often appears as though it has been pulled straight off Pinterest.

What one thing would you change about the industry?

There are lots of brilliant partners out there for the student market from tech providers to fashion

retailer and sports. What I often see are restrictions from other publishers to exclude brands from working with others; this can be a really limiting decision for the future and I don’t like to see brands tying themselves up to exclusivity agreements where they’re unable to advertise to a specific market or offer a discount that has parity with its competitors.

There are so many unique ways that a brand can be promoted by publishers and how they can work together, so hard clauses in initial agreements can be very restrictive.

What is your top tip for advertisers?

Know your customer; if you are looking to break into the student market, make your brand and assets current, high quality and attractive.

If you can, host various sales and incentives and get this information over to your publishers in advance of the sale dates, the earlier the better to ensure your publisher has enough time to upload before these amazing flash offers start.

Additionally, discount redemption codes set expiry can be a major downfall for a brand; if you send discount redemption codes with an expiry to your publisher, make sure you are responsible for resending a renewal before the end date, keep the onus brand side to make sure your brand is always onsite and represented appropriately and set regular catch ups with your publishers to see how you can push each other further to achieve great results.

And finally, another top tip; don’t set the expiry of your discount codes as ‘end of the year’ I had the unlucky task of coming back after the Christmas holidays and entering January sales and seeing that a large chunk of our brands had expired codes and as a result had disappeared off the platform! Set the codes as evergreen and get back in touch if you need to reassess or amend discounts.

What other areas of the industry can you see yourself working in in the future, perhaps?

Working within a small to medium company allows me to stick my nose into most things that we take care of at TOTUM. However, I am aware that advertisements are now interwoven into social media (especially Instagram), the way students and gen-z, gen-x and millennials consume media is via their smartphone and how they chill out is often through their chosen social channels; brands are in tune with this and are jumping on the platform to sell their brand.

I have begun working closely with our social team and much of what they do is follow trends and keep the channels fun and engaging. They have built our following by 150% since January 2019 through a mixture of memes, hilarious videos and interesting articles and they know exactly what our audience likes.

Keeping the channels content based but allowing the odd offer to feature in this space has been a strategy for me since day one and this is what I pulled upon in my interview, which ultimately got me the role as we seek to find innovative and engaging ways to showcase brands to the appealing student market.

We hope you enjoyed this installment of our new column. If you would like to get involved please get in touch via our Typeform.