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 just yet!
I've purposefully deviated from my usual posting schedule to focus on some great news! A few weeks ago Kier Group was awarded the ultimate LinkedIn accolade - that we are now one of the top 25 companies to work for in the UK (number 21 to be precise). This firmly puts us as the top construction company where the UK wants to work in 2017. This is no mean feat given the other big hitters named on the list (Amazon, John Lewis, Virgin and Facebook). Especially given the resources at their disposal compared to ours!

This means so much to us as ever since I started in this role LinkedIn has been essential to our digital strategy. We have always been careful to post sparingly to a defined audience. We have differentiated between our other social media accounts with the type of content we share. This combined with our ongoing relationship with LinkedIn themselves has ensured that we don't get left behind on an increasingly complex and sophisticated channel. LinkedIn's London office is one of my favourite working locations and I'm there as much as possible to network and hear about the latest developments in their themed rooms!

This list of top 25 companies has been on our radar for a while and I've worked closely with our Head of Resourcing to make our inclusion a reality. The final ranking has been compiled by looking at the billions of actions taken by LinkedIn's 500 million+users and also some very specific metrics:
  • Job applications - We have a much greater than average number of people viewing and applying jobs through LinkedIn. We also have focused on championing different pathways into the industry through our Apprenticeships week campaign. This shows our strategy to target the right people is working. We are also putting a lot of effort into growing the recognition of the brand which is paying off.
  • Engagement - As part of our work and training to ensure all colleagues 'rock their profile' LinkedIn measured profile views and connections from across the company. This contributes to our impressive reach for our/their posts and an increase to nearly 80,000 followers.
  • Retention - With a large number of our employees connected to the company page LinkedIn measured how long they remain with us. We are a fun place to work and the amount of money raised for the Kier Foundation through various exciting and different initiatives proves this.

Being an in-demand company is a great accolade to have as career builders today work at more companies than any previous generation. In a competitive marketplace we've proven we can attract top talent and keep them. We now have more to do to ensure we leverage this award as much as possible and have begun planning how to communicate it both internally and externally. But first it's time to celebrate!

Intruder alert!
So last Tuesday our Head of Resourcing, PR Officer, HR Director and I headed to London to collect our award in style. LinkedIn's drinks reception was being held on the Deck of the National Theatre with representatives from all 25 companies in attendance. It felt strange attending an awards event where we knew in advance we'd won! The drink was plentiful (I abstained as it was a Tuesday night) and and the networking was varied as we were invited up one by one to pick up awards. I still don't know who the two identically suited interlopers were flanking us in the photo?!

And finally it's worth mentioning that we recently topped another list. We were named as the second most successful construction company on Social Media in the Civil Engineering Surveyor (page 39). In general I'd agree with all the methodologies used to compile this list but the author is quite disparaging on Blogger as a platform! I get that it's one for the veterans and is not the coolest (I use it for this blog) but in my opinion the CMS is only really relevant to the developer. I've seen good sites built in a bad CMS and vice-versa. Maybe the time has come to stop showing my age and move over to 'Medium' or, if I want to look really cool, 'Ghost'!
There is no doubt that we are living in a unique time in human history. The advances in technology have meant that we interact with each other in ways never seen before. For many, this is increasingly becoming the age of individualism.

Social trends have moved on in such a way that religion is in decline, marriage is postponed, ideologies are rejected and patriotism is abandoned. All of these represent a collectivism that is dying out among the younger generation.

In the past many have found that this collectivism has given them a sense of belonging. But now, freedom has become more about serving the needs of the individual.

The 'Collect for Peace' in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer reads 'in whose service is perfect freedom'. To the vast majority, the falling away of these collective ideologies has made this an alien concept. Achieving freedom through serving another is considered, by most, an unfashionable world view. To do this is to not be authentically true to yourself. We live in an age where to give yourself up to someone else's story is considered rather suspicious.

Democracy is now about individuals all talking to each other. The internet represents this almost literally as a system of correspondence without leaders. It allows the user to go anywhere and to make their own story. I'm sure we've all found ourselves down an internet rabbit hole of our own making at some point!

You only have to look at the current trends in pop culture to see this happening. The rise of talent shows in which one person attempts to 'better themselves' by becoming rich and famous. Or the dream of individuals setting up their own companies instead of aspiring to work for a corporation. The individual is everything and everyone wants to experience stuff their own way. The more immersive the experience the better - as in the case of the rise of virtual/augmented reality.

Social media in particular allows for an infinite amount of possibilities to indulge the individual and their views. Dating has taken on a more precise edge with online sites allowing people to search for partners by matching personality traits. In particular, personalisation is now an essential part of marketing. In the pursuit of sales every online retailer is attempting to make the experience as individual as possible based on previous buying and behavioural patterns.

The way in which we communicate has also become more about the individual. The popularity of emojis serving the purpose of being able to convey your emotion as well as your message. Many marketers are also utilising avatar builders to further aid individual expression. By presenting the user with an alternative representation of themselves they fulfill their need to be individual and provide more content for their social networks.

In no way am I this much of a hipster!
I am as susceptible as any to this trend by continuing to author this blog. More content is being written in the first person than ever before and the popularity of YouTube stars/vloggers also bears this out.

So, as marketers we are as influenced by the current culture and trends as any. Sometimes, we help define them and other times we do what we can to appeal to the majority. The rising generation need to see what the proposition we are offering gives them personally. In an uploaded world where everyone is transparent to everyone else we have all gradually reassessed our strategies. This has meant 24/7 social media monitoring. This has been necessary by people mastering the art of becoming a serial Twitter complainer - with the end goal being to score that person free stuff!

Much of the work I now do necessarily plays to this individualistic culture. Without doing so would mean we would be old fashioned and un-engaging to the majority audience. Yet, I also think it's important to champion the collective where possible to highlight what is being missed. After all, carrying out your job focusing on what you do in relation to others rather than for yourself makes for a much more rewarding career in the long run.
The ultimate home accessory
Technology is continuing to encroach into our home lives. For years people have welcomed the VCR and home computer into their houses and with them an increase in electricity bill. Google and Amazon are currently pushing their 'Home' and 'Echo' products and the likes of Hive and Sonos all come with a certain degree of bragging rights. Of course, having a connected home is on the rise because it is an excuse to buy the latest new gadget. It's then pretty straightforward to plug in and start interacting with your new toy on a daily basis. I remember how liberated I felt when we bought a wireless printer!

Where this becomes a bigger challenge is outside the confines of our houses. On a crowded tube journey recently I was struck by the thought that almost everyone had a mobile phone in their pockets. That's a lot of batteries to charge! This proliferation is encouraging brands to engage wherever possible with 'Digital-Out-Of-Home' (DOOH) - yet another new technology based acronym!

Advertising to the public on digital screens is nothing new but doing it well is the real challenge. I remember our digital screens, at a previous workplace, being flanked by an army of pull up banner stands. Shouldn't the screen be able to do their job all in one?

'Oven can't!' Mistakes like this could be a thing of the past
The current growth in DOOH is being fueled by new technologies and innovative creative that plays to the medium’s strengths. Bigger more sophisticated digital screens are popping up in city centres all over the world. The old method of gluing posters to billboards is becoming increasingly redundant. Westfield London’s future expansion is said to include a full-motion screen that’s expected to be the biggest in London. You'd better make sure you've got high-production values for a screen that big

The real power of digital out of home though is by bringing it together with the aforementioned mobile. I've written before about the benefits of beacons and the limitations of QR codes. For me, the use of easy augmented reality apps such as Blippar are much more appealing. There is still a real appetite to make scannable codes work and last week's launch of Spotify codes proves this. I'm a big fan Snapcodes to encourage this interaction with physical outdoor markers. This is because it's much more likely that younger demographics will have Snapchat on their device than a QR code reader!

Importantly, DOOH and mobile are not to be looked at as separate channels. The two are intimately linked, and must be approached with a view to how they complement each other. For example, this is how you can get the most out of beacons.

A regular conversation topic at work recently is that of Smart Cities. By surfacing useful information for passers-by brands will see much more interaction with their content. Some good examples of this are apps such as Street Museum or the talking statues initiative recently launch in nearby Bedford. The real benefit though, is to ultimately help in improving the mobility and infrastructure of cities. Like any digital innovation the intelligent use of data is essential in making this work.

There's also no excuse to neglect the importance of targeting. Whilst is may be a bit more challenging when advertising on giant digital screens creative can be targeted according to weather conditions, time, location, or based on live data feeds.

The lesson for me is that digital marketing campaigns are so much more than targeted adverts fed to individuals smart phones. For a fully immersive campaign to be a success it needs to make the most of all technologies available.

Weaving these together to form a cohesive narrative is the real challenge and means planning and monitoring are more important than ever. A fully tiered and real-time approach can make going live with a new campaign more intricate and exciting than ever. It definitely makes it a lot more complicated when communicating the nuances to senior management!
Last year, the entire marketing, PR and and Internal Communications teams were encouraged to undertake an SDI assessment. This form of 'strength deployment inventory' is one of the many popular methods of understanding both yourself and your team. There are many different iterations (including Myers-Briggs) of these types of psychological tests. The common opinion of these is that a team with a good mix of personalities is much stronger and more resilient. With the SDI the idea being that once we have determined what motivates and interests someone the easier it is to communicate with them. The reason for each individual's motivation are split into 3 types:

  • Red: Concern for performance
  • Blue: Concern for people
  • Green: Concern for process
By answering a series of questions we were then plotted on a graph depicting which of these makes up our motivation. Of course, it is possible to be a combination of all three (a Hub) meaning that we were equally motivated by them all. Our results also showed how we would act in conflict (i.e. become more concerned about the people).

For everyone there are no right or wrong answers. Just different ways of acting. As a digital marketer I was fascinated by what would be seen to motivate me. Everyone in the team expected me to be predominantly green (i.e. analytical) as I am always the one in meetings to bring the conversation back to meaningful measurement. So how did I do?

Well, my persona was graded as red/blue. This put me in the 'Assertive-Nurturing category'. Mentoring and encouraging others to do their best but focused on results. In conflict I was noted to become a 'hub'. This means that I can take on any type of behaviour depending on the situation - unpredictable!

It was a surprise to many that I was not motivated by the analytical nature of my role. To me though, my constant insistence on measurement and proof is motivated by that (red) part of me which needs to see solid results. It's not a behaviour I enjoy but I can do it in order to satisfy another part of my personality. This is the best way to ensure you are not cherry picking only the tasks you enjoy. If you find something more challenging then look at how it can contribute to your overall work satisfaction.

This leads on to another part of my work methodologies for which I'm often teased - saving money! It is definitely true that I am reluctant to spend company money compared to the abandon shown by some others. But this is why I think I have found my niche in digital marketing. For a long time now marketers say they’ve reduced their traditional advertising budget to fund digital marketing activities. The measurement and ability to test and learn makes it second to none. We no longer have to guess as to why a certain activity is not working.

Coupled with this is my regular insistence with agencies in making our resources scaleable. By this I mean building them in such a way so that we can continue to maintain them in house.

This process has been especially enlightening when looking at what motivates others. For example, if someone is a pure 'red' it's worth remembering to keep your emails short and get to the point in meetings! If they're 'blue' then you'll need to spend some time discussing their feelings and if they're green why they they been assigned a task.

Of course, it's never totally this clear cut and aspects like the ability to stay up to date with the latest technologies, be creative and pass on knowledge via presenting and mentoring are great forms of job satisfaction.

Some of the happiest, most successful people in the world were those who completed some kind of personality profile in their youth. Once you can understand your perceived weaknesses, not only can you make sure you point yourself in the right direction but you can also work on those weaknesses.

What's your digital marketing motivator?
The Green Room at the Century Club, London
In my role as the digital lead for the central marketing function I receive a lot of invitations to networking events. Many of these look particularly inviting in that they are hosted at stunning venues. These breakfast briefings boast views from locations such as the Shard, London Bridge or a fancy hotel. Inevitably though the format is always much the same. The benefactors are a series of agencies who use these forums to hawk their services and pick up new clients.

For some, this is a great opportunity to meet potential creative agencies and interview them before starting out on a project. Whereas I find this a rather false environment in which to do business. As outlined in my previous post there are lots of better ways to find a good agency. The only benefit of attending these briefings for me would be to have boasting rights with my children that I'd visited another cool building!

Let the presentation begin!
At the end of last year I was invited to deliver the keynote at the first UK B2B Marketing Masterclass event. I'd never attended one of these before and the agenda looked great given few specific B2B marketing events exist. After planning my presentation (keeping it to 15mins was the biggest challenge) we arrived at the Century Club, Shaftsbury Avenue for a 1.30pm start. I'm sure there was some clever behind the scenes work done on the seating plans as I was next to both competitors and clients!

The initial presentations were by a series of agencies but they must have been briefed on not delivering sales pitches. There was some interesting insight delivered and how you analyse your data was a big theme. The key message was that smart data collection and analysis is not happening universally. By being clear on your sources and when to stop collecting data you can have actionable outcomes to constantly improve your offer.

A series of roundtable discussions then took place which were by far the most useful bit for me. Having the opportunity to meet and discuss various challenges and ideas with peers is vital to anyone's professional development.

I was pleased to see that everyone stuck around to listen to my keynote. I framed my final points around my lessons learned for my ancestor John Fryer to make them more interesting and memorable:
I always enjoy presenting and there were some great questions at the end. The organisers even congratulated me on this as apparently no-one ever asks questions! I guess the post-5pm finish time means people usually run for their train. My favourite question was around why I was beaming out a link to our corporate film to Android phones. This was because I'd forgotten I had a working test beacon in my bag for our upcoming campaign! At least I know it works...

As a result of this afternoon out I've taken away lots of great insight and have made some useful contacts in the B2B sector. My LinkedIn connections are going from strength to strength!

My next speaking event will be in September in Manchester at the Digital Engagement Conference. I'm particularly looking forward to this one as by then our top secret new campaign will be in full flow. More of that to come very soon...!
Now the clocks have gone forward for another year and we've 'lost' an hour's sleep it's a reminder that time is of the essence! Work in particular seems to be always picking up pace and some days I can work flat out without even glancing at my task list.

To sustain this fast pace it's important that we are partnered with the right digital agencies. If you're not meticulous when selecting these agencies deadlines (and the quality of work) will slip. Taking the right amount of time to plan before you even start shortlisting is essential. This process, and spending the time it takes to do it right, is almost as important as staff recruitment.

Here are my 7 top tips for selecting the right digital agency to work alongside on your next big project:

1. Know your digital

If you are the main person tasked with bringing in an agency you need to be digitally literate. I've seen lots of examples of agencies who have been bought in based on the fact they know the latest buzz words alone. Then, when they're asked the difficult questions they crumble. If you are a skilled digital practitioner yourself it makes it a much more interesting conversation. You can discern whether the person you are talking to can add the value you need.

2. Plug the gaps

Many agencies boast that they can deliver your entire digital strategy from social media to website design. But in reality the majority of them have specialisms which you can tap into. You need to work out where an agency can compliment the skills you already have in your internal team. But what if you don’t know what you need? Then go back to the first point and learn more about the different Digital Marketing elements and how they can help you.

3. Practice what you preach

Do your research on the agency before you meet them. Are you impressed with their website? Do they blog and position themselves as thought leaders? I've been told by agencies in the past that their own website is poor because they are so busy with client work which is an easy get out. If you can't visibly see them adding value to social media groups online the chances are they don't know their stuff.

4. Full transparency

Your chosen agency are going to be working with you through good times and bad! This is why it's essential you feel that you can have honest conversations with them. The best agencies I've worked with function like an extension of the team. A good test is that they're willing to share the raw design assets with you. This shows a confidence in the quality of their work.

5. Do you history homework

As with recruiting a new team member you need to be gathering your proof. Take a look at their portfolio to determine if the type of work they've undertaken before is what you're after. Almost all agency pitches contain a slide of company logos of who they've worked with. The real test though is delving into what they actually delivered and the proof that it worked. You also need to tap into your own network for advice from fellow professionals on their agency experiences.

6. Hard questions

I like to leave an agency meeting feeling that I've been challenged. If they've asked me a lot of hard questions then this is proof they are as invested in the project as me. It may not be that enjoyable to begin with, and it may be quite tiring, but this is how you get results. Being surrounded by a team of sycophants doesn't bring out the best in anyone. Good agencies know how to say no.

7. Bring to account

Continuity of account management is essential. Without this you're left explaining your working methodologies and work ethic over and over. A good account manager should be the mediator who ensures both client and agency are getting what they want. As the client you don't want to feel that they are just paying lip service to your needs. They need to care about the project succeeding as much as you.

I still feel like I'm always learning and so are the agencies. It's about being able to take this journey together. At this time of year, when we're all a little bit more tired, we need all the help we can get!
Previous PostOlder Posts Home