Business Culture Award winners 2022!

Published on October 11, 2022 by Alex Eade

Last week we attended the annual Business Culture Awards in Holborn – and as you can probably tell by the title – we won!

We were finalists in two categories at the awards – Best Talent Approaches for Business Culture and Best Next Generation Initiative for Business Culture.

The finalists at the awards ceremony included established businesses and organisations such as Lubbock Fine, Wunderman Thompson, Lloyds Banking Group, NatWest Group and Cambridge University Press so we were under no illusion that we were one of the smallest businesses in the room. This made it even more special when we were announced as the winners for Best Talent Approaches for Business Culture!

The Talent Approaches Category 

The Talent Approach category looks for the ‘most forward-thinking companies enact[ing] a holistic talent approach, which takes into account that business culture is key to all segments of the workforce’. The approach to talent development at Footprint Digital has always been the Footprint Academy. We began developing the Footprint Academy in 2015, in order to create a bridge between academia and the real world of digital marketing for university students. 

The Judges’ Comments About our Entry 

“A great initiative, that really helps make the leap from academia to business. Some great results and a good talent pipeline for the organisation.”

“A really strong application with supporting documents and video testimonials; it was impressive to see how you’ve scaled the Academy from intakes of 1 to 24 students, converting 54% of 61 students to colleagues, whilst benefiting other employers too, congratulations!”

“A great entry with a clear ambition to support and enhance the experiences of a specific talent group while also improving the experience of everyone in the team. The experience for the participants in the programme includes real-life experience, this work experience provides invaluable collateral which will positively impact their future career prospects. An impactful initiative with significant long term positive impacts”.

The (Award Winning!) Footprint Academy 

A university lecturer asked us to guest lecture for her masters course years ago (the photo above is Tom Bowden delivering that very first lecture!) “They’ve studied Marketing for three years and are well versed in the theories” she said. “But what’s it like in the real world?” This was the first step of our seven year journey to educate the next generation of marketers by developing the:

  • ‘Shoot the HiPPO’ (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) syllabus
  • Annual Footprint Academy

This material bridges the gap between academia and the real world. It has helped launch the careers of Footprinteers who have become TED talkers, Guest Lecturers, Googlers and industry leaders.

The challenges the syllabus and Academy address are:

  • Bridging the gap between academia and real marketing
  • Recruiting the right talent for us and our clients 

There’s no substitute for real world experience. Universities provide theory but without access to live clients, lecturers can’t show students what real marketing work is like. The Shoot the HiPPO Syllabus, delivered through the Footprint Academy, closes this gap for students.

The Academy is popular with The Universities of Greenwich, Essex and Kings College London, who recommend us to their students. For us, it’s the foundation of our growth, allowing us to welcome new talent into our team (and the industry). It fits around university studies, is of minimal cost to participants and enhances our clients and team members’ experiences.

Providing Access to Real Clients

The Academy is an innovation that ensures we:

  • hire the right next generation talent
  • support as many other people as possible to enhance their skills

Crucially, we provide access to real clients. Students project manage a ‘marketing plan’ and present their ideas professionally to the client at the end of the week. This solves our recruitment challenge, whilst giving students the opportunity to build client experience and understand agency life.

From One to 24 Students 

We work with students we feel have the most potential, whilst ensuring that the Academy is positive for our current workforce and clients. With a low budget and resources, in 2015, we only taught one student. She shadowed our small team, then became a Relationship Manager. Her feedback helped shape the Shoot the HiPPO syllabus for 2016, when three students joined us. In 2017, there were six, and in 2022 we completed the Academy with 24 students.

A Team Effort

Members from our Sales and Marketing, Client Services, and Delivery teams all help educate, as does our Director, Tom.

It is a team effort, and all our employees are proud of creating opportunities.

The Academy was facilitated by Tom until our Head of People, Charlotte, started in 2021. After attending the Academy, she now runs it.

From a Physical Course to Online Workshops

After selection, the Footprint Academy cohort meets our wider team. Pre-pandemic, students then joined us for 23 days in our office over the summer. Post pandemic they get free access (usually £599) to our online course ( before joining our one week online workshop through Google Meet. This:

  • Is more effective for different schedules
  • Means more people can attend
  • Means students with other commitments can participate

An Intensive Week

The cohort is split into groups and introduced to their live client on Monday of the workshop week, where they discuss the client’s business and goals.

This is often their first real client meeting.

This meeting informs the marketing plan, presented on Friday. Meanwhile, sector specific skills are enhanced through day-long workshops on Search Engine Optimisation, Paid Search, and Conversion Rate Optimisation. It’s intensive (we’ve designed the material to push students and maximise their talent). Their dedication always impresses us.

Then, we Celebrate! 

After their hard week of work, we celebrate. Last year we went to Shotley Vineyard for wine tasting, wild foraging, and to make graduation hats (an Academy tradition!) 

We’ve hired 54% of Attendees

61 people have attended the Academy (so far!) 54% of the people who took the Academy between 2015-2020 have been hired by Footprint Digital (watch this space for 2022!)

35% of our current workforce were hired from it, including 60% of our Client Services team.

We have directly helped at least two students gain employment at other agencies, and our Managing Director writes LinkedIn messages or references for students looking for employment elsewhere.

Reuben: Developing a Passion into a Career 

There are some standout hiring stories. Reuben was a history graduate who stumbled into marketing.

He joined us in 2017 as a Relationship Manager and developed a passion for Search Engine Optimisation.

His technical skills progressed to the point where, in 2019, he moved into our Delivery Team and is now a well-respected Technical SEO who has delivered training for the Department of International Trade multiple times.

They’d Recommend to a Friend

The feedback we receive makes our team so invested in the Footprint Academy. For the last two years, 100% of respondents to our anonymous feedback questionnaire said they would:

  1. Recommend the Academy to a friend, and
  2. that it helps ‘to bridge the gap between academia and the real world of digital marketing’.

Testimonials from Past Attendees 

“This unique experience provided me with an exciting opportunity to explore digital marketing in a friendly and intellectually stimulating environment. One of the major advantages…is the combination of lectures and practical exercises.” Bogdana – 2016

“Great experience, I learnt so much and applied the knowledge. Online course allowed me to work at my own pace whilst the workshop allowed for collaboration.” Anon – 2022

“The experience has made me much more knowledgeable in Digital Marketing and more confident in applying it in a practical way in the business world. Plus, the entire team was really welcoming, friendly, and supportive, which made it a really fun, valuable experience.” Shaakir – 2019

If you’re interested in finding out more about the Footprint Academy, our educational or digital marketing services, or about our company in general please feel free to drop us a message and we’ll be in touch soon!