As our Head of Client Strategy, Jonathan works with clients to understand their business goals before devising and implementing effective paid and organic content strategies.
Now we’ve got the boring stuff out of the way, why not find out what tickles his pickle, grinds his gears and sparks his interest? From growing up in Burnley to studying in Preston and living in Peru, his journey to Knapton Wright sure has been an interesting one!
KW: What’s an average day like as a Head of Client Strategy?
Jonathan: When I get to my desk, the first job is to check the paid campaigns of our clients. This is a brief overview to ensure there aren’t any obvious issues that we need to action immediately. From here, I look at the tasks I’ve written from the end of the day before and get the most pressing done before looking at where we are in our latest client campaigns.
I attempt (operative word!) to leave the afternoons free to work solely on the strategic approach we’re taking for a client(s) and how we can best achieve the goals we need.
KW: Your social media bio is “born in Yorkshire and bred in Lancashire to Lincolnshire parents”. Talk us through that…
Jonathan: Well, it’s a bit ‘peak northerner’, and that’s how I like it. We had a phone call to the office last week and someone said: “I forgot how northern you are”. Somehow I’ve managed to base my life around two (politically) forgotten northern towns, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
My formative years were spent growing up in Burnley and travelling two hours every other Saturday to watch Grimsby Town (I had a season ticket from about 8). I was fairly academic and always knew that I’d go to university but I was also quite complacent with it and didn’t know what I wanted to do.
KW: So how did you decide what you wanted to do?
Jonathan: One day, I was speaking to a career adviser and he asked me what I was good at and what I enjoyed. “Writing and football”, was my response – “do sports journalism then”, he replied. And that constituted career guidance in Burnley in the early noughties, absolutely stealing a living them lads.
Anyway, I did Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire in Preston for three years. Those were the days when journalism was clearly on a downward spiral, even then there was no real push to get us to pivot in how we trained to be journalists and a lot of my friends and fellow students now do marketing much like me.
KW: How did your journey progress after university?
Jonathan: I had a couple of marketing jobs, one contract and one freelance, in the year after graduation but nothing was really falling into place. And then, one day – and I may have mentioned this once or twice in the office – I was looking for jobs abroad and an internship in Peru came up. I went for it and within four weeks I was there.
KW: That must have been quite the culture shock… What were you doing there?
Jonathan: It was a year-long thing for a company selling Peruvian products into the USA. Turned out it was really old hat SEO stuff and basically a content farm.
So, I stayed for a year and it was the best thing I ever did. People say you find yourself at university, but this was the real moment for me and I couldn’t recommend living abroad – particularly in somewhere so different where you don’t speak the language – enough.
When I arrived in Peru, I didn’t speak a word of Spanish and knew very little about the country. Upon getting there, I was having a walk around in order to acclimatise and saw the Golden Arches (of McDonald’s) so thought that would be the easiest place to get food. I couldn’t even order a Big Mac meal without someone’s help! That was a real wake up call.
KW: Have you always been interested in travelling?
Jonathan: Yeah, so a lot of people have said to me “oh I wish I did something like that” or “I couldn’t do what you did” but I find that bizarre. Most people could do it if they were so inclined.
I was fortunate in that I’d travelled a lot as a child. The thought of a day-long journey with two stopovers to get to South America wasn’t really that scary. In fact, it was the only continent I hadn’t been to and I got there before my brother so that’s excellent.
KW: What came after your internship?
Jonathan: I moved back to England for six months to work on a business with my friend – JDG Sport – but I’d met a girl (classic) and moved back to Peru again to give that a try.
On moving back I set up my own company where we partnered with a few marketing agencies to create content. I did this for about five years before Knapton Wright and for a time I had about 10 freelancers writing in five different languages, producing around 300 articles a month for some huge brands as SEO link building (when it was quantity over quality).
KW: Was it difficult to run this from Peru?
Jonathan: Not really, the digital world makes everything much easier – and working from South America made us more competitive price-wise.
It was tough building relationships with people within the businesses and also capturing new clients but I came back to the UK every six months.
KW: It’s a running joke in the office that you talk about Peru a lot, so what does it mean to you?
Jonathan: Ha, how long have you got? Peru means the world to me. I said in my wedding speech that I’m British by birth and Peruvian by heart. And I mean that.
If it wasn’t for the opportunity of moving there then my life would be majorly different – undoubtedly worse!
I met my wife, some of my closest friends, started my own business, got to live in an unbelievable country, visit some of the most incredible places and grew so much as a person. I’m not usually one for corny stuff like this but I’m a walking Peru tourist board ambassador and I mean every word.
KW: The obvious question to that then, is why move back?
Jonathan: Great question, and one my wife asks me on a regular basis! Nothing lasts forever, and the time had come for us to do something else.
What that was had a question mark over it, but moving back to the UK was the obvious thing to do next. So that’s what we did… with a hundred-page visa application and about £1,500 lighter but I won’t bore you with those ridiculous loops.
KW: So where does Knapton Wright fit into this crazy journey?
Jonathan: I’d been back in Grimsby for about three years before that came about. We moved here first but didn’t expect to stay. My partner got a job within a couple of weeks in her industry though, and we decided to stick around.
I wanted to move agency side, I’d sort of done things invertedly with the business first but was interested in moving across. Nothing suitable came up but one day I was introduced to Alex and we got on well. Both Lancashire lads, it was a match made in heaven.
KW: How has the business evolved since you joined?
Jonathan: I think in the past 15/16 months we’ve made real strides. We’re still a small team but we’re structured well, work together smoothly and are growing our client base.
What’s exciting is that we have a real foundation here of people committed to Knapton Wright and buying into the culture and values.
There have been a number of reasons for this and everyone involved has to take credit. There’ll be some bumps in the road but we’ve expanded our offering and are moving forward.
KW: Outside of work (and Peru!), what are your passions?
Jonathan: Unfortunately, thanks to my dad, I’ve been lumbered with a turbulent relationship with Grimsby Town. They were my first love and I still go every week.
Other than that, I love eating out, travelling and trying new food. Oh, and I have an unhealthy addiction to Football Manager… And, thanks to the last few years, I’m now quite political.
KW: What book or film do you recommend the most?
Jonathan: The White Tiger always comes to mind for a book recommendation. I’m also currently reading Utopia For Realists, which is excellent. I’m not a big one for films, but if prompted, I’d likely recommend a rom-com, probably one with Hugh Grant in…
KW: Name one thing on your bucket list…
Jonathan: Build my own house.
KW: Describe yourself in five words…
Jonathan: Husband. Brother. Son. Lad. Northern.
KW: What advice would you give to your younger self?
Jonathan: Go to Peru.
KW: What do you look for in a brand?
Jonathan: Authenticity and holding similar values to me. In terms of authenticity, I’ve done two KnapChats recently with Garry and Glenn, both of whom have talked about authenticity too. It’s a real buzzword right now.
So there you have it, the go-to guide to Jonathan Bell: husband, brother, son, Northerner and walking-talking Peru tour guide.
Whether you have questions about your own marketing strategy, an upcoming trip to South America or are pondering whether 4-4-2 is an outdated formation on Football Manager, JB is the man to ask!