Helen Burness is truly a woman who wows, and I am so excited to feature her in this series. I met her – where else? – on LinkedIn! I am such a fan of her posts on every social media channel and so thankful that social brought us together from across the pond.
After many years at the forefront of change in legal, she set Saltmarsh Marketing to champion innovative founders and businesses in legal to give them a powerfully recognisable voice. Her work involves crafting strategies and plans, developing distinctive brands, creating memorable campaigns, building stand-out websites and harnessing the power of social media on the company, the founder and team level.
Helen is also CMO of She Breaks the Law, a global community of women change makers who are passionate about the power of innovation and collaboration.
Learn more about Helen.
What do you love most about what you do?
There are so many aspects of my professional work that I love. I am always thrilled to breathe life into legal founders’ ideas with marketing. Seeing brands and business ideas come alive and being part of that, seeing businesses scaling successfully, watching founders grow in confidence and developing a recognisable voice in the marketplace, is all very rewarding. I love the space of the legal marketplace I operate in, which is with a lot of disruptors who want to break the mould and challenge norms.
Running my own business is helping me all the time to be more commercial in terms of how I work with my own clients – and that is invaluable. I also, of course, love growing the global community of She Breaks the Law, my pro bono passion, watching lawbreakers across the world connect, share, develop and create and lift each other up on their career journeys. Which is in fact how you and I met!
What do you wish you could tell your younger self?
I would tell myself to be proud of my story and to own my roots more. It felt, coming into a big City law firm some 20 years ago, that I needed to fit in with the narrative. And so I did. But my greatest career successes have come about when I have stayed true to myself, my story, my eccentricities and passions. I think when we liberate our true selves, this is when career magic really happens. I think everyone should be empowered to be proud of their story, their roots and to be able to speak up for what they believe in. But I am also aware of my privilege in being able to do this and know we still have a way to go before we have a working culture where “bringing your whole self to work” is an option for a broader range of people. I want to help pave the way for that.
How do you achieve work/life balance?
I think we need to rename work / life balance and think about work / life harmony instead. Even before the pandemic, the world had moved on so much more in terms of being able to leave work at the office! (I am old enough to remember such days.) Work / life harmony is less about tipping some kind of imaginary set of scales and more about finding harmony. And to do that I need to do things like find time to exercise and rest lots, but also make conscious choices about where and with whom I spend my energy. I read once that work / life harmony is like an orchestra, so it’s all about keeping every instrument in tune.
How has the pandemic changed you?
I cannot tell you in how many ways the past year has changed me. It’s been a crash course in so many things and as we emerge from eternal lockdown here in the UK, I am trying to make sure I carry as many of the positives forward as possible. I know more than ever how important it is to invest in my own well-being. To give the most for everyone, making time for me is no longer an option and I have stopped feeling guilty about it. I have become more efficient and more productive in my business (having to work whilst home schooling younger children really helped facilitate this process.) I have found a calmer, more creative approach. I savour those really simple moments we were denied for so long and have learnt to build security for myself and the family with rituals.
Losing a year has made me see more than ever how fleeting time is, and that we have to make the most of it. And it has of course, stoked my existing desire to champion change in so many aspects of life!
How are you breaking barriers faced by women in your field?
By growing a global community of lawbreakers with She Breaks the Law and empowering amazing women to form a supportive movement. Because I think there is such strength in building communities
What is a surprising/fun fact about you?
Ha ha where do I start? I adore cold water swimming and am one of those bonkers people who gets in the lido when it is five degrees. Oh – and I keep pet rats. They are supposed to be for my son, but I am obsessed with them.