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Travels in a digital world

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Emma Cowan on October 1, 2014 - 4:20 pm in Featured Interview, Interviews
Naomh McElhatton

Naomh McElhatton

The good thing about digital business is that is, by its very nature, global, says Naomh McElhatton. Even so, it takes someone with vision, passion and sound business acumen to export any business around the world. Emma Cowan caught up with the globetrotting digital marketer and the brains behind the DANI Awards.

Reading Naomh McElhatton’s profile on LinkedIn is a dizzying experience. She is the founder and managing director of RUA Digital, co-founder of The Digital Exchange, founder of the DANI Awards, Northern Ireland’s regional coordinator for go ON UK, a STEM ambassador and an associate lecturer at the University of Ulster. She’s also been recognised (twice) as one of Northern Ireland’s ‘top 40 under 40’.

Where do you start every morning?

Well, I’m also a working mummy, so I start with getting my girls ready for their days at school. My full time job is managing director of my company, RUA Digital, everything else is what you’d call extra curricular activity but I love it all. I suppose I’m something of a workaholic – I don’t sleep much. For most of the year my own business takes up the lion’s share of my time, although I’ll admit the DANI Awards, which are massive fun to run, are quite time consuming.

Tell me about the DANI Awards.

I set up DANI (Digital Advertising Northern Ireland) from scratch in 2010 and the Awards have grown from that. I’m lucky to have some great awards partners, including CultureTECH and Catapult and a host of other award sponsors. I think the digital industry in Northern Ireland is so vibrant that it’s really worth celebrating but I also wanted to encourage more growth, development and digital excellence and I thought the awards were the best way to do that. It’s turned out to be a big event, hugely popular but it also takes some organisation – it costs in the region of £40,000 to run each year. Well worth it!

DANI isn’t just about awards though, it’s a digital advertising network of members, fronted by myself, office manager Donna Mullin and PR Associate Chris Love. DANI adds value, intellect and simplicity to the online marketplace here and is Northern Ireland’s most successful seller of digital advertising, including web display advertising and online video advertising. We work with hundreds of digital publishers across the island of Ireland and the UK to help businesses improve and enhance their online presence.

But your core business is RUA Digital. Tell me about that.

RUA is a full service digital agency, which I set up in April of this year. We use the full range of digital development and marketing tools to help our clients drive sales online and inject a little zest into their digital marketing strategies. We work with companies of any size, from micro business to global operations, and across a wide range of sectors, from construction to finance, recruitment, hospitality and, of course, retail.

Our digital marketing portfolio of services includes social media management, responsive design, web design, content management systems, training and mentoring and, within that, the traditional marketing essentials of branding and brand building, corporate identity, advertising design and creation and media planning and buying – all in a digital world.

Where do you operate?

Well, we’re based in the sleepy little Tyrone village of Pomeroy but that’s the beauty of digital – it doesn’t matter where you sit at a desk, you operate all over the world. Since opening the doors of RUA we’ve attracted local business but we also have customers in the middle east and America. In fact, business in the middle east has grown so well that we’ve just opened a physical office in Dubai with a full time staff in situ and the team here in Pomeroy. That business came about through client recommendation, which is the best way to grow but you’ve got to be prepared to take the leap of faith to set up shop and that’s what we’ve done.

I’m hoping that, in the not too distant future, I’ll be replicating the process with an office in Philadelphia. Again, growth in this direction has come from client recommendation.

For many people, digital marketing is still something of an unknown quantity but it’s something my team at RUA Digital knows all about. On the other hand, the principles of operating a successful business remain the same – you’re only as good as your last client and, if you do an excellent job, your business will grow.

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