Carmen Murray is a leading digital analyst and content strategist. She is an influential marketing activist and torchbearer for Diversity and Inclusion and recognised by Meltwater as one of the top Women in Tech, Africa, 2019. She received the most prestigious award, a Black Pixel, IAB Bookmarks, for her best individual contribution to Digital, Africa 2019.

Carmen has become a household name among business professionals and flies through the ranks as she applies robust approaches making her one of the most influential marketers in South Africa. Her strong background in Content, Digital, Mobile, Innovation and Data Analytics allows her to identify emerging trends and conceptualise disruptive marketing strategies deployed with precision. The customer and their needs are always at the heart of her approach.

Carmen delivers thought-provoking keynotes to fuel creativity and inspire innovation. She has been a keynote speaker in over 40 countries and has delivered over 250 masterclasses to a combined audience of 11 000 business professionals in three years. She continues to be a popular panelist on both the local and international conference circuit.Xtraordinary Woman of The Month Carmen Murray

Carmen can also be found on the Digital Airwaves with her charting Podcast in Marketing: The Carmen Murray Show. She interviews Activists, Storytellers, Celebrities, Newsmakers, and Business Experts across the globe. She also contributes to TV, radio, and print and online publications.

Industry Contributions include MMA, IAB, DMA, MRMW, AMASA, BOGDM, which includes GIBS, AAA School of Advertising, and an array of local and international business schools. She is also the exclusive representative of The Connected Marketer™ in Africa, which includes courses on CX, UX, AI, Mobile, to name a few. Carmen Murray also lectures at the University of Johannesburg (UJ).

She served on the following councils:
* IAB: Innovation Council
* IAB: Education and Transformation Committee
* Representative of the Professional Body for Digital Practitioners in South Africa
* Faculty Member for RebaOne Academy 

Please tell us a little more about yourself and your journey thus far.

In short, I am a brave, independent thinker. I have ADHD, so I get bored quickly and always need to explore possibility thinking and do things that excite me and make a difference. I’m driven by action and passion for the marketing communications world. Being the customer’s voice and doing something about it is purposeful for our clients.  I will not do the “elevator pitch” to tell you about myself. I will share it through the views of a person I respect.  That way, we both don’t feel awkward.

Faith Popcorn, one of the world’s most renowned futurists, started mentoring me a few years ago. (For those of you that don’t know Faith Popcorn, google and follow her – many people in our industry go “GAGA” for her.  She is the ‘Nostradamus‘ of marketing and gifted beyond words!) The journey began when John Vlismas and I collaborated on a podcast, “The In with the two Outsiders.” Before I knew it, she elected to take me under her wings.

Recently she told me something that gave me so much perspective about myself.  She started off by saying that I am an original, intuitive futurist because I am a great observer with an enormous imagination. I am good with analysis, but as an empath, I am a feeler of the market, which makes me a rare marketer.

Here is what many people don’t know about me:  I studied to become a forensic auditor, but I got so bored even though I was very good with numbers and investigation. I rebelled, gave up my studies. I got on a plane and travelled the world and the seven seas as a housekeeper on a cruise ship for four years. Once a hotelier, always a hotelier.  I then ended up at Singita, the place of miracles. I worked for the best Relais and Chateaux boutique hotel in the world. Hospitality is about being of service to your guests and giving them the best experience. This is where my left and right brains officially met.

Fast forward years later, I started a successful business in Communications. I am obsessed with data, and it’s like “paint by numbers” for me. The more dots I connect, the more colours I see, and the more my creativity is fueled. This is where the strategy and content creation of marketing collide.  Call me the ‘van Gogh’ of content.

Please tell us a little more about how your company came about.

I was born an entrepreneur.  I love it.  My specialty is in Data Intelligence, Netnography, Creativity and Content Creation, specifically for digital channels.  One of my biggest joys is to put strategies into the real world.  It is like arranging a rock concert and watching the show whilst you are surfing on the dopamine of the crowd.  My team is creative and might scare the hell out of some clients, but our philosophy is this: We only work with ‘brave’ clients that can put a strategy into action.  There is nothing more soul-destroying to put all your hard work into a project and watch it gather dust.  You would probably ask me why you would do that? Could you repel most of the market by demanding brave clients? My answer to you would be this: “I want to be happy, and I want my clients to feel like they are going to space. We can only enjoy the ride if we both prepare, act, and enjoy the thrill and the view.” We play in the agility economy because that is the new world we live in.

One day, I realised I could no longer build other people’s dreams – it was time to create my own. This was a radical new way of thinking for me.  I started my business, Boo-Yah! Modern Marketing Services four years ago, but I only really invested my time and effort into the company from 2019. I always said that when I feel confident enough to put my name to it, I will then change to Carmen Murray Communications. I don’t follow the rules of how typical business models work. I am brave and build healthy businesses, but I also want to contribute to the economy of South Africa.  Work ethic is important to me, and so are values. Therefore, I work with people who share the same values and bring their own quirks along. We always tell our clients, “Please don’t call us an agency. We are your partner.”

And so here it is – Carmen Murray Communications. Creating freakishly effective content for some of the best businesses in the world, not just locally.

Should you be busy with any interesting initiatives, please tell us a little more about it.  

Life hit me with some thunderstorms, and I got electrocuted by loss and disappointment during the pandemic (like many of us did). Please don’t ask me what I was thinking, but I decided to embark on my journey of self-mastery and sign up for the Postgraduate Diploma in Management Practice at Henley Business School, whilst managing my business operations, continuing my podcast, and working 18 hours a day, and still needing to find the room for my assignments and syndicate, not to mention my clients.  Weekends did not exist.  It was tough but the most rewarding experience of my life. I accepted the call to adventure of my personal hero’s journey. I came out a changed person. I realized who I want to be, and more importantly, who I don’t want to be in this world. I also see the pandemic as the big awakening for us all. Why am I here, and what will I do about it?

I recognized through this journey that we need to reimagine South Africa, and now I see life through different lenses. During this 12-month journey, I truly learned what it means to be a transformational leader rather than a transactional leader — applying systems thinking to complex problems and critical thinking to make Africa a better place. More importantly, also the importance of shared value. Systems Thinking and Self Mastery taught me how to be a whole leader. Suit up and stand up. I elevated my awareness to be the change I want to be in the world.

Since the pandemic, we have witnessed a staggering unemployment rate. We have also seen the rise of the gig economy. People with great talent escaped the corporate culture. They built businesses on their terms. These are hungry people and have passion, but they are the best-kept secrets.  Carmen Murray Communications fully supports the gig economy. Whilst we have heavyweights in our team, we also have associates we work with.  Not only are they delivering far better work, but we are helping to build the backbone of our economy.

This brings me to our next initiative – the Youth. What will South Africa’s future look like if we don’t build our Youth? The median age of our population is 27 years old, and over 70% of the jobless rate represents our Youth?

I love teaching and often lecture at UJ, create multiple courses, and deliver them locally and internationally. Youth is my passion, and if we want to change our economy, we all need to roll up our sleeves to make an impact in their lives. They are inheriting a big mess: digital colonialism, lack of infrastructure and human rights, not to mention the environmental chaos. South Africa has the gift of an entrepreneurial spirit. What better thing to do to make our community future fit by educating them on the present and the future? I don’t have children, but it does not mean I should not care about the children of Africa.

We all have a responsibility to educate the Youth beyond business agendas. Running away is not the answer. Leading with inclusivity is the hope for this continent. I have faith in its existence. 

What is it that you are passionate about?

Youth Development. I am obsessed with their enthusiasm and resilience. I often feel that I learn more from them than from my peers. I have been involved with youth development for over 13 years now, and it will continue to be my civil duty to build back.

I am also exceptionally passionate about content. Earlier I mentioned that I have ADHD. I also have dyslexia. I don’t know why they chose such challenging naming conventions to define our disabilities or, as I would like to see it, “Abilities”! I know I suffer from Phonological, Surface and Perceptual Dyslexia. Also, the “grammar” one, but I can’t remember what it is called. We are moving into a world of “digital dyslexia” or a new universal language?

People talk in emojis and acronyms, requiring far more intelligence to comprehend. Here is the gift of dyslexia and probably why I am so passionate about content. It needs to touch my five senses and my intuition. If it doesn’t, then it’s pretty much content debris. Therefore, content intelligence is so important to me. I must see the pixels, hear the sound, find the sense in words and see it come to life.

Therefore, I am gifted in what I do. I surround myself with the magicians of the written word, video, voice and graphics to ensure equilibrium. I have researched almost every dyslexic person in business and found that they are very successful in their endeavours. I hid this about myself for many years because I was afraid of judgment. Passion ignites focus. Focus ignites innovation, and ultimately, they are unstoppable.  

Who or What has been the biggest influence in your life and why?

This is such a difficult question.  I don’t believe that your most significant influence comes from one individual.  It depends where you are in the hero’s journey. Are you in the ordinary world or the extraordinary world? According to the matrix, did you take the red pill or the blue pill? The short answer to this is that the ones who loved me too much, who loved me too little, and those who loved me enough taught me lessons that influenced how I give my energy and choose to show up in the world. As the saying goes, “energy flows where energy goes”. Life teaches us to be humble, show our strengths, be resilient and grow in the darkness.  But if I had to name significant influences, it would be Oprah Winfrey and Gary Vaynerchuck.

What is your personal “motto”?

”Chance favours the Connected Mind.” ~Steven Johnson.

Continuous learning stimulates your neuron network. This is where the collision of information informs ideas, solutions, creativity and increases your dopamine levels.  It’s about the power of connecting dots.  I also need to point out, don’t fill that beautiful mind of yours with junk.

What advice would you give a woman wanting to follow her dreams?

Be the conductor of your life – you need to turn your back to the crowd, face the music and let the audience watch the show. Yes, during rehearsals (the beginning of your journey), the music is not always in harmony and might make you cringe. Also, practice your craft! It all starts with incremental change. You never see the audience at the rehearsals. It’s a place for musicians to learn how to play in harmony. The same goes for dreams and talents. It is a place where you find your rhythm.

So often, we give up because we run to friends and family to give us validation and then when they provide us with advice, and we don’t like the sound of it, we give up. When you share your dreams, people will always find ways to give you stage fright. Just play the music within. They will get to buy tickets to your show.

Don’t tell people about your dreams; show them when you’ve achieved them and focus on your melody.

Only you can see in your mind where you are going. You can’t paint this picture for others clearly, because ideas only start forming as you work on them.

Who or what is your inspiration and why?

I might sound like a real geek to you, but it’s case studies. When I entered the Digital and Tech landscape, I felt like I was in the eye of a storm. I had no idea how it worked; I had no qualifications at the time. I woke up at 4 am every morning to study case studies worldwide to understand how technology creates award-winning marketing campaigns. I am one of those people who needs to see how things are done before imagining how to use it to solve problems.

Little did I know that this would open doors for me to travel to over 40 countries, share case studies, and help creatives and marketers fuel their creativity and inspire innovation. Apart from that, I ended up doing two roadshows of Masterclasses on case studies specifically focused on mobile innovation and Brand Purpose. These masterclasses turned out to inspire over 11 000 marketers and creatives in South Africa over six months.  It inspired me to start teaching and opened opportunities that I could never imagine. Therefore, I believe “chance favours the connected mind”. It takes you home. I have found my home in my business and love what I do. I’m obsessed with my team and my clients.

What advice would you give your younger self?

  1. Set boundaries.
  2. Learn to identify energy vampires. Every time you interact with a person, what state are they leaving you in. If you feel drained, exhausted or guilty, then remove them from your lives.
  3. Learn to respect and know when you are not respected.
  4. Don’t build your life on your family, friends or strangers’ opinions and expectations of you.
  5. Be grounded in your value system. Don’t build a life on other people’s value systems.
  6. Speak up, have courage when you see injustice. Don’t be silent because that means you are in support of injustice.
  7. Find a purpose beyond your business.
  8. Be curious.
  9. Tap into collective intelligence.
  10. Learn about yourself early in life. Self-awareness allows you to have a dragonfly view — 360 degrees of perspective.
  11. Follow your inner GPS because it knows the coordination points of your end destination.
  12. Be kind to yourself and others. ALWAYS.

Your favourite daily affirmation:

I have about 30 I read every morning. I have my affirmations on sticky notes all around the house. On mirrors, computers, workspaces. Here is one I love (I wish I knew who wrote this so that I can give them credit):

“I am filled with creativity, bursting with light, colour and inspiration. I express myself authentically and positively through my art, my contributions and my emotional connection to others so that we may heal our shared pain. I will not allow the suppression and reduction of my creative spirit: I offer the world the best of my gifts, freely and lovingly.”

Your favourite quote:

“You are responsible for your life. You can’t keep blaming somebody else for your dysfunction. Life is really about moving on.” ~Oprah Winfrey

Which book are you currently reading?

I am reading Piers Morgan’s book, Wake Up.  It’s all about cancel culture.  Really thought provoking.

What are your top 3 business tips?

  1. You are allowed to change your mind about things. If you don’t change your mind often, you might not understand the complexity of the world we live in.
  2. I heard this gem the other day. Don’t let your diary control you. It’s your duty to control your diary.
  3. Never decrease your prices and undervalue yourself. Negotiate the scope. Stand firm, and understand, not every client is meant for you.  If you are “bullied” in the negotiation stage, can you imagine how that working relationship will go?

What you are your top marketing tips?

  1. “In God we trust; all others bring data,” – W. Edwards Deming.
    Marketing can’t start without data. One of the biggest mistakes businesses make is finding data that confirms or validates their problem statement. You should seek the data that contradicts your ‘hunches’. Don’t manipulate the data. If you do that, your strategy will be skewed, and you won’t yield results.
  2. Understand the human psyche. Marketing is not about pretty pictures and fluff; it’s about solving a problem. Sell the short grass, not the lawnmower.
  3. Don’t become part of the content debris or the digital pollution. Did you know people are exposed to over 10 000 ads a day? Bad marketing gives the entire industry a bad name and makes our job so much harder. More bad ads result in more ad blocking. This means fewer audiences we as marketers can reach out to.  If you don’t have something meaningful to say, then pause.
  4. Your marketing should always consist of 4 pillars of content:
    • Written Word
    • Video
    • Graphics
    • Voice
  5. To create compelling content, collect the data first. Your social, digital, content and marketing strategies should all be rooted in reason. Then you create bravely.  The goal is to stand out, not blend in.

What would you say is your secret to success?

Reaching 40 – wow, it is really the time we as women blossom. (No offence to the younger ladies, but you are going to get it when you get there). It is truly like a switch that goes off. You become more grounded, and you have less time for BS. You experienced it all and are now ready to take off. I love being in my 40’s and think it’s why my approach to life changed significantly.

The one thing to always value is your time and energy. Protect it with all your might. It will be hard some days, but the moment you let your guard down on these two, it interferes with your success and four ability to reach your higher potential.

One piece of (general) advice that you’d like to share:

I’m an empath, and I had to learn some hard lessons about the ‘shadows’ of being one. Empaths attract narcissists. Empath or not, learn to identify narcissists and guard yourself against them. You can’t always avoid them, but don’t give them your energy and don’t try and save them. Please don’t give them your oxygen!

Is there anything that Xtraordinary Women can do to assist you on your journey?

Support Xtraordinary Women. Help support this fantastic initiative. Learn from each other, and maybe you know someone who needs some of this advice … share it with them. This is a forum to celebrate all you extraordinary ladies! Stay hungry! Stay Humble and dent the universe!

Contact Information:
Website: www.carmenmurray.com | www.carmenmurraycommunications.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/CarmenMurraySA
Twitter: @CarmenMurraySA
Instagram: @Iamcarmenmurray
LinkedIn: Carmen Murray Communications | Carmen Murray
Podcast: The Carmen Murray Show – Curious Conversations

Submitted by Indigo Blue Communications