In the Spotlight: Claire Collins
In a world where careers have launched from uploading YouTube videos to 6-second clips on Vine, Claire Collins found her niche managing some of the world’s leading digital stars as the Global Talent Manager at Gleam Futures, a digital-first talent agency. Having kickstarted her career working in-house for Benefit Cosmetics in Europe to Style Haul in Los Angeles, Claire created her own path, while relying on intuition and taking many risks along the way. From content creators, photographers, artists, comedians, singers, and more, Claire works with various types of talent to build a strong brand for each and reach a global audience. We got a behind-the-scenes look at the long term goals of the company, what goes into working in a “people” business, and how you make a viral video (just kidding, there’s no real answer to that one).
Day Job: Global Talent Manager, Gleam Futures
ProjectNextUp: You’ve got a really interesting job! Tell us a little bit about what you do.
Claire Collins: Everyone who I meet, particularly those who work in digital and social media, has this conversation — how did you get into this? In this industry, people are really young or they’ve really only been doing it for 5 or 6 years, so it’s really interesting to hear people’s route on how they got to where they are. I feel like it really varies from person to person.
For me, I’ve been in Los Angeles for 6 years, and I’ve been with Gleam Futures for two and half. I head up the LA office and the main office is based in London. A lot of the talent we represent are also based in the UK but a big part of what we do is represent talent on a global scale. They have a truly international audience, which sets them apart because ‘traditional talent’ tends to be more localized. We opened an office in LA to have boots on the ground here and to be able to properly procure interesting opportunities and U.S. business to the existing roster. We felt the only way to do that was to have an office here to support that side of the business — and that was almost three years ago. The long-term plan was always to create a U.S.-based talent roster. We wear two hats in the LA office. We support all of our U.S.-based talent and then we work on U.S. based business across all the talent roster.
PNU: For those who don't know, what is Gleam Futures?
CC: We are quite simply an extension of the talent we represent. In music and entertainment — industries that are fiercely competitive — creative individuals get to a point where instead of waiting for their big break and relying on someone else to make the decision, they’ll just go out there and create. That’s what’s really exciting about these different platforms now on social media. It’s giving people a platform to regain control of their own destiny.
At Gleam Futures, we work across absolutely everything. From licensing to consumer products to brand endorsements, brand partnerships, publishing, editorial support and brainstorming new ideas for the content, optimization, live events — we do the whole thing! We work with a small pool of talent and that’s the only way we can really do that. The key to our success is that we’re a pretty boutique company, and we don’t ever want to get to a point where we work with thousands of people. We want to keep it small and really be the resource that our clients need to continue to build their careers.
PNU: What does a day-to-day look like?
CC: It differs. We have to be ready to deal with curveballs thrown at us. One day we could have clients in town, maybe to come in for a brainstorm or strategy meeting. We build business plans and strategies with the talent and set KPIs. We have action items to get from point a to b. It’s easy to be in a very fast-paced environment and get caught up in the day to day and not necessarily accomplishing what we want to do long-term. I think that’s very important from a business standpoint but also from a client standpoint. A big part of our day to day is initiating and executing brand partnerships. In the last 18 months, this industry has had a fire lit under it, there’s been a lot of interest. We need to figure out what is interesting, what is a good fit for our clients and what works within their ‘big picture’ goals, we advise on that. We joke that sometimes it’s about knowing our clients even better than they know themselves. We know our clients so well. And we truly see it as a team effort.
PNU: What’s the biggest challenge?
CC: The biggest challenge of what we do is the sheer volume of work. We are always saying that the best skill anyone coming into the company should have — from intern to full-time employee — is to be able to multi-task and prioritize but in a very efficient way. We have to be open to being nimble and changing a lot, not only because the industry we’re in is so fast-paced, but because we’re dealing with different kinds of people and needs which change on a daily basis. Being able to deal with that in a way that is calm, precise, and efficient — without getting overly stressed is essential. People at the company should be very methodical.
PNU: How do you scout talent? I know you’re selective with who you pick and bring to the table.
CC: In the U.S. market it’s quite saturated. There’s a lot of talent. You’re placing your bets on who could be the next big thing. There are some people who got to where they are today partly because they have had an incredible support system and team — but that can’t be the only thing. It can’t totally be manufactured. There needs to be a hook. What exactly that is can be hard to define. Every day I wish there could be some secret sauce on how to be successful in this business…how you become successful online, how you make a viral video… unfortunately it’s not as clean cut as that. I sometimes see talent and content creators, and I’m like “This is one of the best things I’ve ever seen.” But then the reach isn’t there, the views aren’t there, and I can’t wrap my head around why. But it really does need to be more than that. We’re always looking for that special something. Of course we do look at data — how someone is growing, how they’re engaging their audience — that’s definitely interesting. However, it’s really about finding someone who is a little bit different, has something extra special, but also is commercial and offers a broad appeal. We ask ourselves, “What is the unique offering or point of view?”
PNU: So you love your job?
CC: I love my job! It makes me so excited. I find myself getting cheesy sometimes — I really care about all our clients so much. The clients that I have brought in I feel so genuinely passionate about what they do. You experience the highs and lows with them. Their successes become your successes. When you’re in a talent-driven industry, there’s no way you can’t feel personally invested in people. Don’t get me wrong, that comes with challenges as well. You’re in a people business. But it’s so incredibly rewarding, and I get really excited about projects coming up with clients.
PNU: What does success look like for you and Gleam Futures?
CC: Our success has been through a very personal approach — a small pool of talent and lots of resources. We have about 30 clients and 30 employees across the UK and United States. That’s not a talent manager per person, though. We structure it in a different way with talent pools made up of managers and coordinators per pool of talent. It really is high-touch. We’re dealing with our clients all the time. We’ve been able to offer that level of service because we’ve kept it small. We work in a very quick fast-moving industry. And because we’re small we’re able to chop and change. We’re also aware of the fact that because we have this very unique type of talent, who have a global appeal, that we always want to support our clients from an international perspective. Our U.S. clients are supported in the UK as much as they are supported the other way around. We have come so far over the past 12-18 months. We have grown in terms of square footage and employees but slow and steady in terms of new talent, which is kind of cool because it goes to show we’re investing in the talent we have and give them what they need instead of scaling up and having hundreds of clients.
PNU: The word "influencer" has been thrown into the mix. What do you usually call your clients?
CC: We refer to them as talent. The reason why we refer to them as talent is because we feel that’s what they are in the very sense of the word — they are multitalented individuals. They are also people of influence, definitely. But I feel like that could pigeon-hole them in a way. They’re more than just people of influence. They’re business owners, entrepreneurs, content creators, directors, producers, and thought-leaders. More and more they’re seen as artists in their own right. These days more and more talent are being hired by brands as creators and as artists and not just to leverage their audience. That’s exciting. That’s been a real tipping point and a real change — talent being taken seriously as creatives and not just people of influence. Still, people are surprised at how powerful they are.
PNU: What kind of advice would you give to someone who is looking to get into a similar line of work? Just a few years ago you didn’t know this is where you were going to be…
CC: I would take this part from my clients. If there’s something you really want to do, it is totally on your shoulders to make it happen. It’s great to get as much experience as possible. I don’t believe there are too many internships you can do or trial runs at companies. I’m one to seek as much experience as I can get. That is key. Yes, it’s so important to study hard in high school and college and get as much education as you can. But I would say there’s nothing as important or helpful as gaining real work experience and being able to work with different types of people in different industries. That’s the only way you really know what you want to do and how you find the area of work you’re interested in.
The only way you really figure it out is by trying it out. That being said, I think in the meantime while you’re doing those things, find your outlet wherever that might be. For a lot of our creative clients, they’ve gone out there on their own, created a YouTube channel or blog, put out content because they just want to create. Find an outlet and start doing it. It’s the only way to walk the walk. From being on the business side of things, find ways to just do it. Whether that’s consulting or starting your own business on the side, I think it’s always helpful for people who want to work in the digital industry to have a good understanding of what goes into being a creator. It’s quite an undertaking. I want them to have a good grasp on what it’s like being on the ‘front-line’, so to speak. When I was at Benefit Cosmetics in Marketing, we all had to work at a Benefit store or beauty counter at the beginning to experience: “This is where it’s happening. This is where we’re making sales, converting, and finding new customers.” It doesn’t matter what role at the company, whether you were in marketing, finance or product development, you needed to understand that the store was essentially the most important place.
Additionally, I think it’s important to be a yes person. If it’s a challenge, I always want to be like, “Yep, we’ll take that on. We can figure it out.”
PNU: What’s something that you’re really proud of?
CC: My natural personality is that I’m a real procrastinator. I overthink everything. For almost all of my twenties I think I could have talked myself out of everything, including moving to a different country and entering a slightly different career. It was all scary so I could have stuck with what I knew. But I didn’t. I just went with my gut and didn’t overthink things. I got opportunities, and I went with it. That’s pretty alien to me. I’m not a spontaneous person by nature, so I have to fight it. A lot of those decisions I’ve made, though, have been the best decisions of my life. Taking some risks have paid off. And because that isn’t who I am as a person, I’ve had to push myself out of my comfort zone.
PNU: Tweet your purpose in 140 characters.
Songs on Claire’s Desert Island Playlist (the must listen-to songs you would have on a playlist if you were stuck on a desert island):
- The Magnificent Seven by The Clash
- My Moon My Man by Feist (Boys Noise remix)
- He Got Game by Public Enemy
- Da Rockwilder by Method Man and Redman
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