Interviews, Marketing & Comms

Balancing the Grind With Richie Meldrum, Brand Strategist, Writer & Digital Consultant

September 11, 2019

Richie Meldrum is a brand strategist, writer and digital consultant, Creative Strategy Director for culture and behaviour change agency Interchange and an instructor for General Assembly, where he teaches brand and digital strategy.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

My first proper full-time job was at The List, a live events publisher and data company based in the UK. I spent two years working as a Media Sales Executive.

When I got that job, I remember feeling really chuffed because I had the word ‘executive’ in my title – not knowing that it wasn’t fancy at all and was oddly just another way of saying “has not done this before!”

My main job at The List was to sell advertising space in the magazine and website, which I loved, as it taught me a lot about selling. But I also kind of hustled myself into the editorial side of things by writing music reviews, previews and artist interviews, which made my mind up that I wanted to be a writer or some sorts.

I moved Australia with grand plans to become a journalist but found it hard to break into the industry here. Through a chance encounter in a make-up shop I landed a gig as a copywriter for a strategic marketing business before moving on to become a creative director at brand and digital agency called Yoke.

This was followed by a role as head of brand and content for a design and technology company called August.

These days I do a few things. I work as Creative Strategy Director for Interchange, a creative agency for cultural change based in Melbourne.

We design cultural change strategies that are based on contemporary theories of organisational and behavioural psychology then delivered through creative executions like film, events and experiences, mixed reality and more.

I teach my own brand and digital strategy workshops and work as a brand strategist, writer and digital consultant for my own clients and in-house for other agencies.

2) What does a typical day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

Sure, I’ll do today. I spent the morning working on a business case/tech spec/ brief doc for a new digital product we are currently developing at Interchange.

Myself and my MD Gabe then had a pretty successful new business meeting/meet and greet in the city after which we treated ourselves to a wildly premature celebratory café latte and a cherry Danish.

In the afternoon I met with an art director who’s been working on a revised direction for the Interchange brand identity to go through that and then did a final review of a VR learning tool I’ve been working on.

Finally, at home, once everyone else had gone to bed, I started working on a brand framework I am writing for Melbourne based shoe designer and now I am writing the answers to these questions!

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

Yes, they do, thank goodness. I actually work four days at Interchange, so that makes such a big difference to my lifestyle and my routine.

It allows me to pursue other outlets both professional and personal. I have two young kids, so just being able to drop them off and pick them up from school one day a week is something I enjoy doing so much.

I can work from home if I want/need to, but to be honest I rarely do, I just like the focus and motivation you get from being in your working environment with other people all there for the same reason. I find too many distractions at home, which I strange to some people as they are the opposite. I also get work FOMO if I’m not there!

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4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?

I’m perhaps not the best person to answer this question as I’m not a big planner or organiser, in fact, that’s probably being kind to myself! I’m that guy that has stuff saved all over his desktop and a million tabs open! Don’t @ me!

I like to stay up late to work on things, especially if it has a creative element to it, like writing or coming up with ideas. So, I suppose those extra hours can always come in handy if you need to get something done.

One thing I do use is those index/system cards you get in Officeworks. They were used a lot when I worked at August to scope and manage projects, and I have been a big fan of them ever since.

It’s a great way to extract thoughts and ideas from peoples’ heads and get them written down in a format that can be moved around, discussed, expanded on or applied and laid out into something else like a plan or a timeline that can be actioned on later. Without them I’d be worse than I already am for sure.

5) What does work life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

Hmm, tough one! To me, work/life balance means being able to give each side the breadth of space it needs from the other.

You’re always going to get some overlap, where you might be thinking about work while you’re at home or dealing with something at home while at work, and I think that’s fine in moderation.

But there has to be time that is set aside for when can solely focus on just the one – not just for you, but for the people around you too.

You’ll get more out of that dedicated time, you’ll get more done, you’ll enjoy it more and then, you’ll be able to return to the other one with fresh space in your head.

The ‘right’ balance is different depending on who you are and where you are in life, so I’d never make a blanket statement on what’s best, but personally, I follow the ‘work to live, don’t live to work’ mantra as much as I can.

6) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?

I write down the things I want/need to do. Some of them are ambitious goals, some are just life admin things like ‘make a proper will’ (still need to do that one actually!) I find it helps me get things done that I’d perhaps otherwise forget.

I like to go to things like talks, presentations, exhibitions, events etc where I might learn or experience something new, different and interesting. It keeps my mind stimulated with new ideas and motivates me to be do things myself.

I like the water and swimming. I enjoy the beach, the ocean and outdoor swimming pools especially. It relaxes my mind and lifts my mood.

Outside of those, I got given a print out of the lyrics to the Sunscreen Song that Baz Lurhmann adapted from Mary Schmich’s 1997 article by my Auntie for my 21st birthday and I’ve loved it ever since – so I try to follow its attitude/advice too.

7) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

I tend not to look for books to help me improve, more so as an escape. Right now, I’m reading Half of Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which my Mum gave me and I’m liking a lot. I also listen to a lot of podcast, I’m currently devouring The Distraction Pieces by UK rapper/poet Scroobius Pip which is awesome.

8) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

Probably go swimming. Although a coffee in the morning is non-negotiable!

Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Relax, try and enjoy the ride, if you mess up, don’t worry, keep going, it doesn’t matter as much as you think. Go swimming more.

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