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!
Last week, my colleagues and I were discussing the merits of utilising our email marketing system for internal communications. What became evident was that when procuring new technological solutions, such as these, it is often marketing who take on the role as master.

This is because it is the marketing department who usually have the role of lead generation and ultimately sales. Streamlining this process ends up taking priority to maintaining a successful business and often other functions remain in marketing's shadow.

During our discussions it became clear that what we do externally needs to be mirrored internally. By interrogating these software solutions it's easy to see how they can be utilised for more than just marketing. Advanced features such as A/B testing, smart sending and personalisation can definitely add value to any organisation's internal communications. We all have the same strict targets so the more we can use our resources to prove the worth of our efforts, testing, learning and refining, the better. Gone are the days that a mere read receipt was seen as a win on an all staff email!

These types of digital communications are also the catalyst that has drawn public relations and marketing together. The main benefit of this integrated approach to PR and marketing is that both functions can learn from each other. For example, marketers are generally very good at measuring the success of a campaign in terms of ROI, whereas PRs might focus more on the amount of exposure and potential reach a campaign receives.

PR consultants are also good at telling a story and engaging customers and prospects without any hard sell, something some marketers can struggle with since traditionally their role is to promote a product and drive sales. Content marketing is a prime example of where this approach doesn’t work, instead content (blog posts, social media updates etc.) need to build trust, engage audiences, and raise brand awareness. Marketers can support PRs by helping them create content that also includes, subtly, some of the tools and tactics they use to get audiences to take the next step.

It's important to understand the difference between content and copy in that 'content' is material intended to educate, while 'copy' is material that you write to get people to take a specific action. Content can be more long-form - such as blog posts, white papers, or podcasts. Like this post for example! Copy has to be concise, hard-hitting and focused on what makes people want to take a specific action like: click, download, sign up, share something on social media or make a purchase. Every PR person should learn how to write more effective copy that doesn’t just educate - but also persuades and inspires action.

This action is important because it can drive media coverage and help clients with conversions, web traffic and increased sales leads. Ultimately it also helps to build a measurable public relations and growth marketing program which usually creates a major return on investment.

While there are specific activities that are easy to define as either a marketing job or a PR task, there’s a large pool of shared roles that can be even more efficient when marketing and PR collaborate. I'm very excited to be working in a department which has recognised the importance of shared goals to encourage collaboration.

Whether, it be marketing, PR or internal communications the customer doesn’t care who within a company is talking to them. They just want engaging content that speaks personally to them and adds value.
A recent trend I've noticed on LinkedIn is people posting about the importance of remote working. These posts all contain photos of cosy looking 'studios' at the bottom their gardens where they complete their work uninterrupted.

For anyone with a career in digital remote working is a breeze. A typical day can comprise a webinar, a Skype call, sharing a project plan on Dropbox/Google docs and some real-time messaging via Slack. Instead of a commute you stroll to the end of the garden, fire up the Mac and get straight to work.

This model makes perfect sense as many people's lives get more complicated. They can relieve the reliance on child care, and feel trusted by their employer to deliver their work at a time that suits them. It's also less costly for the business and the individual (no need for a work wardrobe!) Isn't working 9 to 5 a throwback to the 19th Century Industrial Revolution anyway?!

Whilst it is almost universally accepted as a good thing for most businesses, working from home takes real self motivation and discipline. They may not like to admit it but some people thrive better with a clear routine. Without specific hours it can be hard to switch off and distinguish between a home life and a work life.

Some people do need more socialising and the network support of their peers. This is why it's important to get some time in the office on a weekly basis. Regular 'out of the box' meet ups are a great idea for freelancers as well.

Working as a team is something to which we have been paying a lot of attention to of late. With a promise from management to support our company's health and well being agenda we looked at how we could combine the two. A healthy team who enjoy their time together is important for any workplace and it was with this in mind that eight of us signed up to take on the 'Bootneck Challenge'.

This new event comprised a 5K military style obstacle course through mud and rough terrain. To spur us on even further we setup a Mydonate page to earn money for Kier's chosen charity 'Alzheimer's Society'. Our intensive 6 week training regime began with regular regiment fitness sessions after work on a Thursday evening before the main event on Saturday 18th February.

We all had such a fun time completing the course and tackling the 22 obstacles together (including fairy liquid slides and a 9ft high vertical wall).

The team spirit came through as we all crossed the finishing line together, cheered on by family and friends, raising an incredible £1,230 for charity! I also proved to myself that I'm not old yet, despite being due to turn 40 later this year.

Building a good team requires a healthy balance between time spent alone knuckling down and that spent learning from and helping each other. I really like the Luxiflor flag, a little gadget you attach to your monitor signalling to your colleagues to back off when you’re busy. This helps you keep focus on the work you’re doing when you really need to lock in without interruptions. It's best used in an office environment though and not whilst you're trying to clamber over a tyre wall!
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