Black, white and the reality of grey

As a wet-behind-the-ears graduate my first real job was as a graduate trainee at retailer Boots. I joined the marketing scheme in their Nottingham head office. I spent many hours in meeting rooms being drilled in the disciplines of marketing and management. One of the mantras that Boots drilled into us was a management philosophy called value-based management (VBM). At its core was a focus on taking management decisions that added shareholder value. As a major listed company the logic of this was clear. And the congruence between what made sense for the company and what that meant for our decisions as newbie graduates was clear as well. But where VBM went wrong was in its implementation. It paralysed too many managers (and graduates too) by encouraging them to look for data-led evidence of whether a decision would add value. Analysis of data became paramount as the means to making Continue reading "Black, white and the reality of grey"

Guessing the price of websites

Over on the Deeson blog I’ve been writing about agencies writing proposals for client websites. Having been back agency-side for almost two and a half years now, it’s fascinating to see how many of the norms of the digital agency business remain unchanged from almost ten years ago – including the fixed scope, fixed price website proposal. In my post on the Deeson blog I talk about why this is a bad idea for both agencies and clients. But I also know that for many agencies there’s no choice but to enter into the guessing game that fixed price/scope tenders really are – that’s a commercial reality as fixed price/scope is the norm for our industry. So if you want to learn why I’m so convinced about the inadequacy of this way of delivering client-agency digital projects, check out these two links:
  1. The iron triangle of project management
  2. Why fixed Continue reading "Guessing the price of websites"

Guessing the price of websites

Over on the Deeson blog I’ve been writing about agencies writing proposals for client websites. Having been back agency-side for almost two and a half years now, it’s fascinating to see how many of the norms of the digital agency business remain unchanged from almost ten years ago – including the fixed scope, fixed price website proposal. In my post on the Deeson blog I talk about why this is a bad idea for both agencies and clients. But I also know that for many agencies there’s no choice but to enter into the guessing game that fixed price/scope tenders really are – that’s a commercial reality as fixed price/scope is the norm for our industry. So if you want to learn why I’m so convinced about the inadequacy of this way of delivering client-agency digital projects, check out these two links:
  1. The iron triangle of project management
  2. Why fixed Continue reading "Guessing the price of websites"

London to Paris cycle ride – in under 24 hours

I’ve always been one for a challenge of one sort or another. Inspired by the brilliant Sean Conway, Sophie Radcliffe and Donald Hirsch, the idea of cycling from London to Paris in under 24 hours seemed like a good one to take on to celebrate my 40th birthday this summer. The team So last weekend we hit the road out of London and rode to Paris. And we made it in under 24 hours too, having a brilliant time along the way. I’ve shared more details about our trip, routes, experiences, kit list and more on a dedicated page at www.simonwakeman.com/london-to-paris-by-bike-in-24-hours/. If you’d like to know more details about cycling from London to Paris in under 24 hours, drop me a line. The experience has certainly got me thinking about next year’s cycling challenge – it’s amazing what you can pack into 24 hours on your bike.

Looking for great designers

Building a team is hard. Building a great team is harder. But that journey always starts by hiring the right people. At Deeson we’re on a sustainable path to grow the business, and right now we’re looking for designers (as well as experienced Drupal developers and solutions architects). With the arrival of a talented new Creative Director last month, I’m now looking to grow our creative firepower as an agency. We’ve reinvented our discovery stage on digital projects to put creativity right in the centre of the way we solve problems for our clients using digital technology. To help roll this out we need great people to join us as designers. Find out more about how designers at Deeson work in Andrew’s blog post. While we’re a distributed agency with homes in London and Canterbury, our designers are physically located in London (Angel) and Canterbury so you’d be based in Continue reading "Looking for great designers"

Creating space in leadership

This is something that’s fascinated me for a while now – how to create space for teams to thrive, solve problems and do their best work while shaping direction and managing risks as a leader? Years ago when I led communications and marketing teams in the public sector, I used to frustrate my team regularly when they came to me to ask for help. I’d reflect the question back to them and ask them what they thought before sharing my opinions. In that role I had the professional domain expertise to have an informed enough opinion – I’d started my career in communications and marketing and had a good few years experience to draw upon. But I always had a nagging doubt that even with that experience, there was no way I could have a better way of solving an issue than the person who was bringing it to me. Continue reading "Creating space in leadership"

Review: A Mind for Business by Andy Gibson

Psychology and neuroscience fascinate me, even if I do have trouble spelling them when writing a blog post. With every day that passes I become more convinced that genuine leadership requires leaders to have a good understanding of these two disciplines and what they mean for the human interactions that make up our day-to-day working lives. So that’s why when a copy of A Mind For Business by Andy Gibson dropped on my doormat (yes, a real life paper copy), I was keen to get stuck in and see what it had to offer. As my interest in psychology and neuroscience has grown over the past couple of years, I’ve read some pretty heavyweight books on the subjects. This has been intellectually rewarding but, to be honest, pretty hard work. A Mind For Business is different – and refreshingly so. For the newcomer to this field it does a good Continue reading "Review: A Mind for Business by Andy Gibson"

Abseiling 114m from the Arcelor Mittal Orbit for charity

This weekend I’ll be descending the UK’s largest sculpture along with colleagues from digital agency Deeson in aid of Porchlight, a charity supporting the homeless and vulnerable across Kent and Croydon. At Deeson we’ve worked with Porchlight for some time on projects and we’re happy to be able to give back to this wonderful charity – although I’m not sure I’ll be so convinced about that as I lower myself into thin air 114m above Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. From there on, it’s over the edge and down on an adrenaline-fuelled ride to the ground, taking in the breath-taking views across London including iconic buildings such as The Gherkin, St. Pauls, Canary Wharf and Wembley Stadium, as well as the world-famous sporting venues of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. If you’d like to support us in raising funds for Porchlight, you can make a donation here.

Abseiling 114m from the Arcelor Mittal Orbit for charity

This weekend I’ll be descending the UK’s largest sculpture along with colleagues from digital agency Deeson in aid of Porchlight, a charity supporting the homeless and vulnerable across Kent and Croydon. At Deeson we’ve worked with Porchlight for some time on projects and we’re happy to be able to give back to this wonderful charity – although I’m not sure I’ll be so convinced about that as I lower myself into thin air 114m above Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. From there on, it’s over the edge and down on an adrenaline-fuelled ride to the ground, taking in the breath-taking views across London including iconic buildings such as The Gherkin, St. Pauls, Canary Wharf and Wembley Stadium, as well as the world-famous sporting venues of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. If you’d like to support us in raising funds for Porchlight, you can make a donation here. This article originally appeared on Continue reading "Abseiling 114m from the Arcelor Mittal Orbit for charity"

Drupal for marketers in 2015

It’s clear from working with our clients and keeping an ear to the ground that big data, open source, content marketing, personalisation and online communities are just a few of the trends that are high on the agenda for this year. Providing the backbone of a good content management system (CMS) allows marketers to develop and deploy innovative digital campaigns and initiatives, empowering them with instant control and flexibility, All too often we meet clients and companies who are struggling with quite the opposite, engaged in a hand-to-hand battle with their CMS, a tool designed to make their lives easier. In a horrible turn of events, the content management system has become an obstacle to getting the job done. Too much energy goes into finding ways around content management systems that have failed to keep pace with the needs of the contemporary marketer. So how can you avoid these issues? Continue reading "Drupal for marketers in 2015"

Dangerous driving around cyclists

I cycle pretty much every day now, including a six mile round trip to and from work. So I see a lot of pretty poor driving around cyclists, including cars pulling out into my path as a cyclist, dangerous overtaking and passing far too close to be safe. And I see some pretty bad cycling too, although that is rarely dangerous to anyone other than the cyclist themselves. A little while back I got so fed up of all this that I got myself a helmet camera to record the things I was experiencing far too regularly for comfort. On 31st October the driver of YM53 GYW completely ignored my presence on a mini-roundabout and decided to not give way and proceed to drive straight across my path as I turned and signalled right: I reported this incident to Kent Police and supplied the video evidence. I’m not sure realistically what I expected to happen, but given I clearly had right of way and the motorist passed at some speed close to me, I hoped that Kent Police would take some action against the driver – particularly as I had a clear video of the incident. I completed the paperwork that Kent Police sent me and supplied a statement about the incident. Today I had a letter from Kent Police telling me they wouldn’t be taking any further action about this. Letter from Kent Police In a way I wasn’t surprised. I know how stretched police resources are and this wasn’t the crime of the century I know. But what annoyed me was the reason that nothing would happen as a result. Between Kent Police and the Crown Prosecution Service it seems they’ve decided that dangerous driving around cyclists and ignoring the rules of the road is OK for drivers – as long as the cyclist doesn’t have to “brake or deviate from their path of travel”. In this incident I actually did have to brake as I’d seen the car not giving way to me at the mini-roundabout and had braked to avoid the car coming into the side of me. So if you’re a cyclist and you experience dangerous driving – make sure you brake, swerve and record it all to have any chance of Kent Police actually doing anything about it – even if you have video evidence that shows a vehicle clearly not following the Highway Code. Not impressed… This article originally appeared on Simon Wakeman’s communications, marketing and public relations blog at www.simonwakeman.com.

It’s been a while…

It’s been almost five months since I joined Deeson – the Canterbury-based digital agency – looking after the company’s marketing, creative, user experience and strategy work. And it’s been a good few months since I last blogged here too, although I have been contributing the odd post over on the Deeson blog. So I thought it was really about time for an update here. Looking back over the past few months, I’ve had a great time really getting into my role. Working in a new environment has been a great professional challenge. I’ve loved the feeling of being able to learn at such a rapid rate and have found that professionally reinvigorating. I’ve enjoyed getting to know a new team of dedicated, professional people who care about the work they’re doing. Last month we launched a full rebranding of the agency – repositioning the business to reflect the nature of the work we’re doing and to provide a platform for our marketing in the future. The rebranding project was one I approached with some trepidation. It had the potential to be complex to make sure we ended up with a new brand that was right for the business. That’s why I was determined that we’d follow our own client project methodology – which puts users at the heart of the creative and technical development of digital properties – for the rebranding of our agency. The best digital experiences come from genuine insight about what a business or organisation is seeking to achieve and where this intersects with the lives of its users, customers and clients. You can read more about how we relaunched the Deeson brand in a blog post by Mike – one of our user experience specialists – here. The experience of our project and the results we’ve achieved so far have reaffirmed for me the importance of a user-focussed approach to marketing, digital and communication. It’s the only viable way to ensure that we avoid our own biases and pre-dispositions to build experiences that users will find compelling and engaging – as well as achieving the business goals that are behind the project. This article originally appeared on Simon Wakeman’s communications, marketing and public relations blog at www.simonwakeman.com.

Want to work with Deeson Group?

At Deeson Group we’re hiring. We work across digital and print to deliver top quality projects for an exciting range of clients that includes big names like Johnson & Johnson, ITV and Robbie Williams. At the moment we’re recruiting to three roles: Online Producer Our project managers / producers work with clients and the internal teams to deliver high quality results on time, every time. They liaise with clients, help specify features and provide accurate estimating and planning information. A combination of deep industry experience combined with planning and analysis skills is required to provide leadership to both clients and project team. You’ll have credible commercial experience in delivering comparable digital projects, ideally using an Agile (Scrum) methodology. Digital Designer We’re looking for a designer with a portfolio that demonstrates your ability to create something special. Versatility and flexibility are important, as well as a real passion for design and creative thinking. Specifically you’ll have experience in:
  • translating requirements into a user interface via wireframes
  • working with UX teams
  • creating stunning web layouts in Photoshop
  • building responsive front-end templates
  • collaborating with development teams to integrate front-end code into CMS templates
Digital Marketing Executive We are seeing increasing demand for integrated digital marketing services from our existing clients and from new clients. This new role will help us provide a broader range of digital marketing services including on and off-site SEO, analytics and online advertising. We’re looking for someone that is:
  • great at web analytics and evaluation (ideally with Google Analytics IQ)
  • knowledgeable and comfortable with Google Webmaster tools
  • Google Adwords certified
  • visible and credible on social media
  • interested in social media, content marketing and the next big thing
  • comfortable with data, analysis and evidence-based thinking
  • able to communicate effectively with clients and colleagues through written reports, blogs, presentations and conversations
  • always researching trends, analysing and communicating knowledge to with clients and colleagues
All three roles are based in Canterbury and salaries are negotiable. Plus we’re a friendly bunch to work with. And do groovy stuff like our recent charity picnic. Interested? Drop us a line at web-recruit@deeson.co.uk and introduce yourself. This article originally appeared on Simon Wakeman’s communications, marketing and public relations blog at www.simonwakeman.com.

Digital neanderthals, marketing and the shiny new things

I was talking last week to a friend who’s a qualified children’s football coach. He was explaining to me the difference between coaching five year olds and coaching eleven year olds. At age five the biggest challenge is to stop all the team members chasing after the ball at once. The idea of positions, tactics and linking together as a team aren’t worth thinking about at that age. Yet coaching a team of eleven year olds is a different matter. There’s a different maturity to work with as a coach which means there’s greater potential to coach different skills and disciplines. I was reminded of this conversation when I spotted a blog post on David Taylor‘s Brandgym site over the weekend. In “insights from a(nother) digital neanderthal” he talks about how the marketing industry has rushed headlong into social media, much in the same way as the five year olds chase the ball in a football game. He uses some entirely sensible statistics to back up his views and I can’t dispute the statistics David uses. And he’s right that our profession does have a tendency to over-emphasise the value of shiny new things at the expense of a more disciplined and rigorous assessment of the old and the new. But I’m not sure the analysis of the reach of different marketing channels tells the whole story. What it doesn’t do is consider the changing patterns of media consumption and interaction. As Ofcom’s Communications Market Report puts it:
Huge growth in take-up of smartphones and tablets is creating a nation of media multi-taskers, transforming the traditional living room of our parents and grandparents into a digital media hub.

The challenge for marketers is to really understand the complex multimedia landscape and how to compete effectively for audience engagement That’s about more than understanding marketing channels, whether they’re new or old. It’s about understanding audiences and how they engage with content, however it’s delivered to them. That is why the content-led approach, while it has fallen victim to the marketers’ love for the next big thing, remains a sound strategic basis for marketing in the complex digital lives of most audiences. Understanding how audiences receive, interpret, understand and share content is the right way for marketing to remain relevant and effective. The challenge is to cut through the marketing hype around content marketing and determine what’s effective and why…as well as to behave more like the eleven year olds rather than the five year olds as well. This article originally appeared on Simon Wakeman’s communications, marketing and public relations blog at www.simonwakeman.com.

Free communications and marketing event in Canterbury

Socialbury is a monthly free knowledge sharing event for communications and marketing people in Kent. It’s run by Kent communications and marketing agency Deeson Creative where I’m now based as director of communications and marketing. Following on from the success of the monthly Socialbury breakfast event, we’re extending the Socialbury concept to include a new evening event – it’s called Socialbury Lightning Talks and takes place on Wednesday, 28 May in Canterbury. Socialbury Lightning Talks is an opportunity to hear six great 10 minute communications and marketing presentations in an informal setting with like-minded professionals (as well as having a beer at the same time). We’re really excited about the line-up for 28 May: The event is completely free and takes place at the Gulbenkian at the University of Canterbury. It starts at 7.30pm and there’s plenty of free parking on-site. If you’d like to join us at Socialbury Lightning Talks next month, you can bag your free place now. And if you’re planning on coming along let me know so I can pop over and say hello too (tweet me @simonwakeman) BlaBDKPCIAIY4rZ This article originally appeared on Simon Wakeman’s communications, marketing and public relations blog at www.simonwakeman.com.

Every business is a digital business

Here’s an interesting (and quite long) piece of thinking from Accenture on the relationship between digital and business. The overall argument that’s put forward is:
Becoming a digital business is no longer simply about how we incorporate technology into our organizations; it’s about how we use technology to reinvent those organizations to get out in front of the dramatic changes that technology is creating.

You can download the full report here. Screenshot 2014-03-25 20.57.05   They pick out six trends worth noting in this space, namely:

  1. Digital–physical blur: Extending intelligence to the edge
  2. From workforce to crowdsource: The rise of the borderless enterprise
  3. Data supply chain: Putting information into circulation
  4. Harnessing hyperscale: Hardware is back (and never really went away)
  5. The business of applications: Software as a core competency in a digital world
  6. Architecting resilience: “Built to survive failure” becomes the mantra of the nonstop business
The section on the digital-physical  blur and the rapid growth of edge-enabled devices particularly caught my eye. It’s this space that is likely to yield the greatest innovation in the business to consumer marketplace as the “internet of things” moves beyond the early adopter phase. The technology will create the opportunities for new user experiences with digital in contexts that simply wouldn’t have existed previously – and that’s an exciting space to be experimenting and innovating in.     This article originally appeared on Simon Wakeman’s communications, marketing and public relations blog at www.simonwakeman.com.

Do you want to be Head of Communications?

Do you fancy doing my job – or strictly speaking the East Sussex part of it? Well here’s an opportunity. I’m moving onto exciting pastures new next month, so the job of Head of Communications at East Sussex County Council has just been advertised. It’s a great local government communications role based in Lewes, East Sussex. Here’s the full advert:
This is an exciting time for communications and marketing at East Sussex County Council.

Following a major review, we launched our new communications team last year. We aim to provide a modern, flexible and responsive service which helps to deliver the Council’s priorities across all channels using the latest communications and social marketing techniques. We have a client-focussed team that has recently been awarded the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) Communications Management Standard accreditation.

The Council works in partnership with Medway Council as part of the Bluewave communications partnership. This helps provide resilience for both teams, sharing campaigns and experience and developing opportunities for providing communications services to other local public sector organisations..

We are seeking an experienced communications and marketing professional to lead the East Sussex team and share responsibility for developing and managing the partnership with Medway. If you combine experience of delivering strategic, evidence based communications and marketing activity that has real impact, with leading and developing teams, this could be the next role for you.

For more details and to apply visit Access East Sussex Jobs. The closing date is Sunday, 13th April 2014. Image credit:  “Cuckoo Bottom, Lewes” by Jonathan Tweed This article originally appeared on Simon Wakeman’s communications, marketing and public relations blog at www.simonwakeman.com.

Time spent on digital media now exceeds TV

Spotted a useful bit of research from eMarketer earlier in the week that looks at how long UK consumers spend on different media types each day. The big headline is that the rapid growth in use of mobiles means time spent consuming content using digital devices now exceeds the time spent consuming content via television:

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  The research counts time spent using multiple channels simultaneously separately – so an elapsed hour spent dual screening between TV and online counts as one hour for each channel. You can find more details on the research findings and methodology here.   This article originally appeared on Simon Wakeman’s communications, marketing and public relations blog at www.simonwakeman.com.

How to be a great marketer and stand out from the crowd

A few weeks back I spent some time at a major marketing show. Over the years I’ve always noticed that the largest stands in the highest visibility locations typically belong to the latest trend to hit the world of marketing. This year was no exception with a plethora of firms offering a variety of technologies bringing together marketing automation, campaign management and social media. The systems on offer from the likes of Adobe Marketing Cloud and ExactTarget are pretty compelling and give the marketer an impressive range of tactics to deploy easily through a powerful web-based interface. But this started me thinking about the value of skills and knowledge in delivering marketing campaigns. The capabilities of these kinds of systems mean that a generalist marketer has at his or her fingertips the power to implement campaigns that not that long ago were the preserve of some pretty niche specialists. This commoditisation of the technical skills to implement marketing campaigns is an interesting phenomenon. It means a greater emphasis on the strategic and analytic side of the profession. That’s the space that marketers have to differentiate themselves in to stand out from the crowd. Think about it like this: I’m a keen amateur cyclist and enjoy riding my bikes on the road and on the trails. I like to think I have the basic all-round bike handling skills to be able to cycle most places (although my cycling companions may disagree). One day I could go to a velodrome, hire the same kind of professional bike that an Olympic cyclist would use and then make a pretty valiant attempt to spin the pedals and make it round the track in one piece. I’d be able to do it at a basic level, but my lack of ability, skills and training to perform at the level of the Olympian would be pretty obvious. I’d be using the tools of a high performer but not be able to perform at a high level. The new generation of marketing tools are much the same. They mean that anyone can place pretty complicated campaigns across multiple platforms and produce detailed analysis. They can set up complex, rules-based campaigns using conditional logic and path analysis. And they just need a fairly basic level of skills to be able to get started. But in the same way that if I rode Chris Hoy’s bike I wouldn’t be setting world records round the track, having a powerful marketing tool at your fingertips won’t make you a great marketer. It means to be a great marketer, there’s a greater emphasis on being able to spot opportunities, conceive great ideas, interrogate data intelligently and think creatively. You need to understand a broader range of marketing, relationship and network theories than ever before. You need to be thinking about what the latest advances in neuroscience mean for marketing effectiveness. You need to live and breathe multi-channel marketing and know your target audience inside out. And you need to have a wide understanding of the broad strategic context in which a particular activity is deployed. Customers don’t live in isolation from the outside world and neither can the work of marketers. The power of the tools available to marketers mean that anyone can place technically complicated marketing campaigns but that doesn’t mean anyone can place great marketing campaigns. And where great marketers can really shine. Image courtesy of 24oranges.nl This article originally appeared on Simon Wakeman’s communications, marketing and public relations blog at www.simonwakeman.com.

Flight MH370, crisis public relations and social media

The tragic mystery surrounding the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has captured the airwaves worldwide since 8th March. As the story has changed in real time since then, there can’t be many communicators who haven’t looked at what’s happening and wondered how on earth they’d handle such an unprecedented crisis situation. But sometimes it’s hard to draw meaningful conclusions on a particular public relations or marketing issue as it’s rare to have the same information as those practitioners making the decisions. There are almost always things that outsiders don’t know that affect professional decision-making in ways those outside the situation don’t know. It’s all too easy to highlight what could have been done differently with the benefit of hindsight and at a safe distance from the crisis situation. But a couple of posts on the public relations and social media side of the crisis caught my eye as they provide helpful insight for communicators on what they can learn from how communication is being handled. Jane Wilson, writing in The Drum, provides a strong analysis of the challenges that this complex and unprecedented crisis presents for communicators:
I sense that this combination of lack of precedence, highly complex interdependencies between Malaysian agencies and international partners, the absence of traditional tracking sources on board and a lack of coordination within the airline have led to public confusion and poor public relations. Even the best PR team may have buckled in these circumstances.

She also draws out several useful insights that communicators can learn from how the PR around this crisis has evolved. You can read Jane’s full article here. Meanwhile Deeson Group‘s Emily Turner takes a useful look at the day-to-day practicalities of digital and social media in times of crisis and uses examples from the MH370 crisis to illustrate this well. She identifies seven things that Malaysia Airlines have done across their digital portfolio in response to this crisis situation. You can read Emily’s full article here. This article originally appeared on Simon Wakeman’s communications, marketing and public relations blog at www.simonwakeman.com.