Recently on this blog I haven't been sharing a great deal of my current work projects. This is because we've been working flat out for months to deliver out latest campaign 'Shaping Your World'. After finally going live over a week ago it is the most complex campaign on which I have ever worked - including radio appearances, a research report, a public launch, hoarding designs and careers outreach. So, I intend to spend the next few posts giving an overview of my key (digital) tasks - the campaign look and feel, virtual plaques, stakeholder/client presentations, the website, videos and the social media strategy.

Working in the built environment means we have the benefit of having great relationships with our clients. We knew that if we could showcase completed/ongoing projects then we could highlight the legacy they add to local communities across the UK. Every site visit I go on I hear amazing stories about how they are delivered or how they are giving back to the community. Those stories are shared in the moment, but we have no way of showcasing all this great content in the longer term.

With this in mind we would create an enduring legacy touchpoint and an innovative differentiator with clients. These literal plaques would be either attached to client buildings we had delivered or would be placed on hoardings. Members of the public would then interact with them on their smartphones to link through to the campaign website and discover the details of the project itself or the build. This would be hosted by a unique avatar of a celebrity/historical figure of particular relevance to the project.

It was up to me to then look at the design of these plaques and how people would actually interact with them! We decided early on that our company branding would be kept to a minimum. This would ensure they benefited the clients as well as us but also so they didn't look like an advertising campaign.

We wanted a variety of ways for people to access the website and quickly settled on Snapcodes as an evolution of QR codes. The thinking being that the target demographic were much more likely to have Snapchat on their devices than a QR reader!

Alongside this we ran lots of trials with Bluetooth beacons. Of course, we didn't expect many people to have notifications enabled for these (or have the latest Android OS) but those who did would be alerted to the plaque's presence and content as they walked past.

Blippar's UK offices
Finally, we wanted something which made the plaque itself come to life in the form of augmented reality! After looking at lots of different solutions we settled on Blippar. Once the user had installed this app scanning the plaque meant the host avatar popped out in front of them and began curating the content. These vary from a Friendly Troll for Mersey Gateway to Emelie Sande for Aberdeen Music Hall.

Our visit to their office was particularly interesting in that we were the first non-agency clients who had ever approached them! They also had never seen their logo coupled with Snapchat's who they see as a competitor. The process was a lot easier than we initially thought too as we utilised their self-service 'Blippbuilder' (helping them iron out any bugs along the way!) The difficult part was ensuring the plaques were different enough for the plaque to register as unique but also all looked part of the same campaign.

Visiting a real live plaque in Manchester
Each of these methods would all have unique tracking URLs to ensure we could see which were being used and adjust future plaque designs accordingly. This unique collection of interactive elements led to us trademarking the plaques. Going forward we plan to add many more as part of our bid process. We already have lots of requests now that they have been spotted out in the wild!

My next post will look at how we then sold these in to clients to host on their buildings and the campaign website where the content is hosted. Why not take a look for yourself at where you can find one of our 'Virtual World Plaques?!'
Earlier this week there was a particularly amusing story in the local news . During an FA Cup preliminary qualifying round tie Baldock Town footballer Liam Kenner was subbed on with 10 minutes to go. This meant he couldn't fulfill his usual job of updating the club's Twitter account with the latest on pitch action. The absence of his tweets prompted him to post an apology on behalf of the club the following day, which quickly went viral:


As a result of this the FA have promised to do Baldock's tweeting for them in the next round so Kenna can concentrate on playing!

This raises an interesting point with regards to multi-tasking in Communications and Marketing. I see lots of evidence to show that these disciplines are very often just tagged onto people's job roles. Lots of people have Comms and Marketing listed in their job descriptions but very few actually have any qualifications, or advanced skills, in these disciplines. Of course, no-one would ever dream of asking a barista at Luton airport's Costa Coffee to fly a plane as part of their duties. So why is marketing not seen as a specialist skill which is best left to the professionals? For me the difference is between implementation and know-how.

In the past I have spent a lot of time training colleagues on social media strategy. Sometimes it's easy and they really get what is required to run a successful campaign/account. But sometimes no amount of training can teach the innate judgement and planning required to not compromise the business as a whole.

Another factor is that when people see the finished article - the advertising campaign, the packaging, the new flavour, the shiny social media campaign, it's tempting to think that these things are relatively simple and straightforward to plan and execute.

But those of us "in the know" know. It's a long hard slog. It involves hours of analytics, focus groups, competitive intelligence gathering, furious debate and days of navel-gazing, followed by panic and frenetic middle-of-the-night calls as the deadlines loom. Followed by more furious debate - over semantics, phrases and word choices. And that's just to write a halfway-decent brief!

The point is that we marketers need to own our skills gaps, and we need to do something about addressing them, so that we deliver world-class marketing and world-class advertising for our brands and our businesses. We will potentially lose the privilege of a place at the top table and could be viewed as a "nice-to-have", rather than as an essential business driver in the cut-throat economic times we live in. Marketers must try something different with their campaigns and spend our budgets wisely - we can't afford to waste those resources.

It's up to us to champion Marketing and Comms as professional discipline and not just something which anyone can pick up and put down. The real way to do this is to instill discipline in teams and to act as consultants who recommend and advise on the best way to achieve results. If all we are doing is serving up a menu of channels for clients to pick from to get their message out then there's no hope of succeeding. By presenting evidence, a clear opinion and judgement we'll be taken much more seriously.

The same is true with demonstrating practical skills in writing, designing and project managing. Where these are lacking people will be quick to assume Marketing is something which they can pick up and play with.

As it stands Baldock town's Twitter account isn't actually half bad in the content it posts if the aim is keep people updated on the match. But brands need to be much more sophisticated with the variety of content they post if their social media strategy is going to evolve in the long term. I was always the penultimate person to be picked in football at school which gave me a good idea of where there was room for improvement!
Whilst on holiday I've been following some of the London 2017 World Athletics Championships. These have mainly been notable for the final races of both Mo Farah and Usain Bolt. The latter in particular has been at the top of his game as 'the fastest man in the world' for many years. His legacy as a top athlete and sporting personality is indisputable, however his swansong proved not to be the party many had hoped for.

Both of these athletes proved that their best days were behind them as they took home silver and bronze respectively. Of course, age catches up with us all eventually and remaining at the top of the game is hard enough at the best of times. There's always someone younger, hungrier and more confident ready to take your place.

Within digital marketing the struggle is still there. Whilst there is by no means the same pressure or expectation, staying motivated to always do your best can sometimes be tough. Where this differs as a job is that things are always changing and you have to be constantly running to keep up.

There's that project that feels as though it will never come to an end. Sometimes you can’t even begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. You try your best and still don't see any results but your boss demands more. A little bit of your soul can lose motivation.

The truth is that this happens to everyone at some point. Even to the most talented individuals who make awesome feats look effortless. The trick is to stay positive and not lose hope. You can rebuild and retain your motivation to return you back to the awesome digital marketer you know you are.

One great way I've found to deal with this is to get out on the road to meet some DM friends. Friends who don’t know me too well think I fix computers. Those that know me better think I do something with Google. That’s fine but when I need to talk or vent about Google’s unfairness my frustrations fall on a mixture of deaf ears. I especially get bemused facial expressions when I start talking iterative or responsive design!

Marketing events, conferences and training sessions all open up great networks of similar professionals all solving the same problems. These people can sympathise with your HTTPS rankings drop, or nod knowingly when you try to explain about the hardships of getting buy-in from senior management. And it’s all done in an atmosphere far less stuffy than your regular corporate networking breakfast sessions.

I'm actually booked to present at a few of these events in the near future. The first of these is the Digital Engagement Conference in Manchester on the 19th September. I had a really good time there last year and even the just the process of writing the presentation can be therapeutic. It's like compiling your own winners speech where you can thank everyone who made the campaign delivery possible and celebrate completion. I was even awarded 'Top Rated Speaker 2016' meaning I get to deliver the keynote this time instead of being given the graveyard shift as per last year!

The other event I'm due to present at is the Chartered Institute of Marketing 'Social media Engagement within construction' on 23rd October. This time I'll be discussing B2B blogging. It's going to be great to meet other marketers in exactly the same industry to share challenges and best practice.

Of course, we all reach a point where we're past our sell by date but by ensuring we're among other hungry individuals who are really innovating you can learn so much. Even sports such as athletics have massive teams behind the individual. No-one can truly succeed without support and a shoulder to cry on. The success of the British relay team at the World Championships proves that other people can be your best asset when times get tough!
Sorry Dad!
I've just got home after a week's holiday in the British sunshine. During this time my wife and I have celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary which has gone pretty fast. On returning home, and seeing it with fresh eyes, it was even clearer to me that after all this years our house is in need of redecorating! It doesn't seem that long ago that I took on this mammoth task myself but the wear and tear of four children has taken its toll... The more I look the more I see evidence of missing wallpaper, chipped radiators and dented skirting boards.

So what's the best way to tackle the revamp? Rip down everything and start afresh or work on patching up what we have? Like any big project the temptation is to opt for the latter. The danger is that once it's all done the money is spent, other more pressing concerns get in the way and things start to fall into disrepair. Everything starts looking out of date and before long it's embarrassing to invite any visitors round!

The above is also true when undertaking any big design project like launching a new website. An old rotting website can cause visitors ending up with a bad impression and rarely returning causing damage to the brand. The cycle then repeats itself again at considerable effort and cost. The chief danger here is that for most of the website's life it is operating below peak efficiency.

Goodbye and good riddance
No website is 100% awful yet the most attractive option for a redesign is to bin everything and start again. That means a lot of useful (positive and negative) intelligence is wasted at a considerable cost. It's only once a site goes live that proper intelligence can be gathered on people's reactions (even with a decent amount of user research and testing). But the way in which these projects are planned means that this is the exact stage the money runs out.

The single worst thing that can be done is to migrate any content across. The equivalent of this is me using old bits of skirting board to make new ones. See it as the perfect opportunity to reduce the size of the site and write only what is needed. By listing the questions the user may have and prioritising them it ensures that no page is wasted.

During the build it's easy to try and glory in what has been learnt from the previous site. But by making so many changes all at once, and completely replacing it, how is it possible to be sure?

It's not quite this bad!
So it turns out I only have myself to blame for my house needed so much cosmetic work all at once! I should have been making incremental improvements all along and not just fixing things when they needed it.

By taking this approach to website management the site is always being optimised. It also helps spread the cost rather than having to find a massive lump sum for a complete revamp every five (or ten!) years. There's also no throwing out of good working elements just to recreate them. And of course at risk of sounding like a broken record it allows for "evidence based decisions" (I'm quoting my past self there!) and not wasting time and money building unnecessary features. This approach also helps get new features up and running before the competition and keeps users coming back to what's new on offer.

To get this model working there needs to be a decent set of in-house skills. A scaleable CMS means not relying on an agency to access the more advanced features. If the design isn't too wedded to the technology it's even better to allow adaption to any new developments.  This team needs to have skills which involve stakeholder management and content creation alongside the usual technical expertise.

Let's do this!
If the site is built in such a way that it has an excellent pattern library, reusing various components keeps it consistent and easy to update. This way, and just like in the case of redecorating, it ensures that this will be the last big expenditure. After one final big redecoration effort it's time to keep making those improvements and to make sure there is the team to do so.

I guess I'm literally the 'in-house' team when it comes to our home improvements. At least one of the many perks of working at Kier is I get a Trade Point card. How long does Google Maps say it is to the nearest B&Q?
May the force of four AA batteries be with you!
A couple of weeks ago my news feed was full of articles defining a new term - 'Xennials'. This is used to describe tiny micro-generation of people between Generation X and Millennials and was coined by associate professor of sociology Dan Woodman from the University of Melbourne. Essentially, those born between 1977 and 1983 (the time of the original Star Wars trilogy) were identified to have very similar character traits. This is that they had a unique experience of pre-internet childhoods that led into a tech-centered early adulthood.

I was particularly fascinated by this as I fit within this category (only just!) My formative years were during a time when I didn't have to worry about phones or social media posts. If I wanted to meet up with friends I had to ring their houses and ask their parents if I could speak to them! As the definition of Xennials is quite flattering I was also guilty of feeling proud to identify as one. We are considered less pessimistic than Gen X, defined as being born from the mid 1960s to early 1980s, but not as entitled as Gen Y, born from the early 1980s to late 1990s. While not young enough to be 'digital natives', Xennials grew up with technological advances, and tend to be more comfortable with them than Gen X. To me this explained how I can be old but still possess a grasp of the importance and practical applications of digital! It played to my ego as someone who likes to see themselves as understanding the benefits of technology but not ruled by their devotion to it.

'Could you tell me how to setup a MySpace page sir?'
Of course, treating a cohort of people like one person with one set of values is problematic. Essentially it's no more sophisticated than horoscopes and can be dangerous if taken too seriously. This concept of generations can however be fun for reminding us of a social context and the experiences that shaped our lives. Sharing jokes about the sound of dial up internet ('nobody use the phone I'm going online!) or 'Asking Jeeves' is about as far as the usefulness of this concept goes.

For me, digital marketing was a career which I naturally fell into. I'm thankful that a path opened up to me where I could progress my skills and stay relevant. I put a lot of this down to always having the ethos of being able to see an idea through from start to finish without always having to go through different lines and levels of management. Having a skillset which allows for this is essential. For example, when video editing I edited, produced and directed – that’s three or four jobs being done by one person. Being able to do this means you can present fully realised ideas to management and get the buy-in you need to progress a project. Without this you're very reliant on resources from other parts of the business.

I'm definitely too old for this hipster office wear!
Succeeding in marketing today is having the foresight to not see this method of working as a threat. Many middle managers might be concerned over their job future which is why they stop new, more efficient ways of working getting through.

It's also about being open minded enough to realise that different age groups work differently. Being able to listen and learn from both is important. I can honestly say that I've learnt as many skills (both strategic and technical) from those younger than me as from those older than me. To only learn from your superiors means you may become a great corporate thinker but will increasingly lack the latest skills required to actually do the job.

To finish I'd like to apologise for writing another age related post. Clearly turning 40 later this year is clearly playing on my mind. I for one can't be so stubborn as to not accept advice from someone younger than me as they are increasingly making up the majority of my colleagues...!
One in the same!
Keeping up with the amount of new features on the main social media channels can be pretty intense. Recently, it seems companies are releasing weekly updates in their attempts to stay relevant. The drawback of this is that they are in danger of all blending into one. As a digital professional trying to retain which channel can now do what requires a lot of brain space. I'm in danger of pushing out vital pin numbers!

With our new campaign on the horizon I've been researching how we can ensure the best possible exposure on social media. Therefore, this post aims to summarise a few of the most impactful updates released over the last few months for marketers:

Facebook:

As the most established (and arguably most well resourced) social media channel Facebook are particularly busy at the moment. They have released lots of new features over the last few months so here's my pick of the most interesting ones:

Video banners:
For some time now, Facebook has collaborated with selected brands to test using video-format cover images. Once the new feature is rolled out globally, the cover video needs to be a minimum of 20 and a maximum of 90 seconds long. The recommended video crop size is 820 pixels by 462 pixels and cover videos should auto-play and auto-loop.

Live features:
Facebook live has seen an increased amount of usage of late. With the addition of their new 'Live With' feature you can now stream conversations as they happen. For advertisers, this new feature could present a set of opportunities for broadcasting interviews, courses or webinars right in the Facebook news feed. Live video can also now be broadcast from desktop and laptop computers (it was previously exclusive to the mobile app).

Location-based camera filters:
In a homage to Snapchat users can now make custom camera "frames" that others can overlay over photos and add to their profile pictures. Frames can be seen by everyone near an area if they are tied to a certain Facebook page with a location. Like a free version of Snapchat's geofilters!

Twitter

Nowadays, Twitter advertising is continuously overshadowed by new trendy marketing channels such as Snapchat and Instagram. They also invited a torrent of complaints a few weeks ago following a major redesign. The biggest issue being that, unlike it's rivals, it didn't introduce an edit button. One interesting feature of this update was that users can now watch the engagement numbers with tweets increase in real time within the app.

Moments
Whether you want to feature your own tweetstorm, content from other people, or both, anyone can now make a shareable Moment to tell a story. You can go into the Explore tab (or the Moments tab on Twitter's desktop site), and create a new Moment there. Or, you can find a tweet you want to feature and create a Moment while you're scrolling or on your own profile. Moments present another opportunity for users to get discovered and shared on Twitter.

Snapchat

This is another channel which recently faced a media backlash after introducing a new maps feature. 'Snap Maps' allows users to see each other’s locations. If two users follow each other, they can share their locations and see where the other person is and what they are doing. The idea is that users can stay up to date with their friend’s lives and meet up easily. This feature needs to be used with caution as seeing the location of others could potentially compromise their safety. It is automatically turned on for users so the message is to be very careful when adding people as friends. Cynics see this as another way to encourage more people to use Snapchat so they could then use their data to sell to advertisers.

Instagram

Instagram now have a whole suite of supporting apps (Boomerang, Hyperlapse and layout) with Boomerang starting the trend for short looping videos that you now see EVERYWHERE!

Location Stories:
In the past few weeks, Instagram has released a feature where users can add location stickers to their stories. This means that they can now tag your business in the stories they’re sharing with their friends. This can help build brand awareness and recognition, and it’s a powerful form of User Generated Content. When users tap on the location sticker, they’ll see the option to 'see location'. When they click, they’ll be taken to the page of the tagged location, where they’ll see the business name, a pinpoint on a map, and all the top posts about that location.

Instagram live:
Instagram Live broadcasts can now be saved onto your camera roll. After the broadcast is over, save it to your phone, and then upload it as a regular video post. If the video is too long for Instagram, you can take it straight to Facebook instead. Either way, you can now save your valuable live broadcasts, allowing you to build momentum from them and drastically increase their visibility and engagement.

Hashtag stickers:
Whereas previously you could only add hashtags to stories manually with text now, when customers watch your story, they can click on the “See Hashtag” prompt. Because the quirky nature of the Stories feature is perfect for the hashtag sticker, it’s a great opportunity to promote a campaign or inspire user generated content (or both).

So there's my run down of some notable new social updates. I hope you find them useful. I know I will as writing them down means I won't have to rely on remembering them!

When I rebranded this blog over two years ago I wanted a tagline to sum up its contents. I wanted something that would highlight how it wasn't going to be another blog merely listing out the latest tech developments. 'Digital Marketing with Morals' sums up my approach in the workplace and also how this blog may differ to some others. But sometimes it can be a challenge to stick to this ethos. After all, people don't trust marketers.

For years, marketers have created highly-crafted campaigns that have one aim: to sell. As consumers, we know that this is their main aim, which is why we tend to be skeptical of everything they say. Of course they’re going to say their product is the best in the market.

This lack of trust has been built up over the years, ever since advertisers and marketing departments began coming up with fictional stories about their products and creating characters to give their products the edge. But now consumers are wising up to that.

For the most part, it’s safe to say marketers don’t lie on purpose. They have goals to hit and a target to reach. For as long as advertising has been around, the aim of the marketer has been to highlight the benefits of their product and show consumers how it will improve their lives.

Like food ads that promise you’ll be healthier and happier. Or car ads that promise you’ll be cooler. Creating narratives around products to encourage people to buy is not a new thing.

However, the emergence of the internet has allowed consumers to have more choice over what media they do and don’t engage with. These days, marketers won’t get away with weaving fake stories and highly photoshopped outcomes, because their audiences are on to them. No longer passive receptacles to the media, consumers are now in charge of the marketing landscape – which means teams all over the globe have had to make a huge shift in how they promote and sell their products. Authenticity has become the latest buzzword in the marketing world, but it’s here for the long term. Here are four key ways we can embrace this ethos (and sleep easier at night as a result!)

1. Stop talking about you 

I've lost track of the amount of people to whom I've spoken who want to set up a social media account as a broadcast medium. As we all know, someone who only talks about themselves becomes pretty boring pretty quickly! Instead, consumers want to know how you're going to help them. Rather than touting your product as the best show how it can inspire them to live happier lives.

2. Use your experts 

Most companies have people working for them who are experts in their field. Where possible use these people to highlight industry issues either through blogs or media interviews. This builds your authority, to become the go-to brand in your niche, and shows your audience why they should trust you.

3. Share real stories 

By opening the door and publishing either your employees. The important part here is not to focus on telling the facts too much. It's a well known fact that people don't remember what was said but what they felt. One authentic 'pride and passion' story capturing a moment in time will always beat something just showcasing the facts.

 4. Go easy on the branding 

Many brands are now going light touch on the branding in their campaigns. The aim of this is to highlight how they are trying to improve the industry landscape as a whole. It becomes more about public service rather than a quick sell. Of course, this is a brave strategy but the idea is that it creates some brand interest and loyalty. McDonalds and Bose tried this in their latest campaigns to great success.

So as marketers how can we make attempts to keep some of our morals intact? For me it's trying to give back to the local community where possible which is why I've helped out the local Pre-school and have built them a new website. It's not much (and it took me nearly a year to get round to) but it means this particular marketer won't be chased out of the village with flaming torches and pitchforks just yet!
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