There are countless examples of companies who pertain to be 'digital first' thinkers but this merely amounts to them having a Facebook presence. Almost every company can boast of this now - even very traditional trades such as funeral directors or shoe menders! Simply having a digital marketing strategy is not enough to make a company innovative.

Having worked in construction now for nearly three years I've seen a very traditional industry commit to the innovation agenda by embracing digital pretty much across the board. This was no easy feat but now conversations all being by at least paying lip service to 'testing and learning' and 'user experience'.

But are companies with digital strategies actually implementing them properly? I've seen many examples of companies who have a very light-touch digital presence but still continue to be successful and forward thinking. Apple, for example don't even have an active Twitter account.

I've attended many meetings in my career where the internet has been addressed as a problem. It's seen as something which has to be addressed in the marketing mix but not in a positive way.

One to add to your bucket list!
Surely one of the most exciting periods to be a road planner must have been when the motor car was popularised. There were suddenly possibilities to design road layouts and infrastructure that never existed before.

This weekend we drove over 'the UK's first roundabout' in nearby Letchworth Garden City. It all seems rather ridiculous and quaint now but it got me thinking how the designers must have been very excited to see their new design finally come into fruition. It was a chance to innovate and really influence user behaviour.

Conversely, I've never seen a group thrilled by the prospect of the new canvas of mobile adverts or live video. Instead the default position is to take a small part of the advertising budget, re-purpose a creative execution from another medium and link it through to a website. Sometimes the creative execution may vary slightly, or a bespoke landing page is built, but this is the extent to the levels of excitement.

We know from the research conducted for our latest campaign that millennials are not hard to reach. They're surgically attached to their phones highlighting that we need to challenge everything that has been done so far. It's time to think positive, shake off defeatism and get excited by the new possibilities that are popping up all the time.

Of all of the questions I was asked at the CIM event earlier this month the one that stuck with me most was 'how long should I make my brand's videos?' What I should have said is that creating minute long case study interviews, or a series of 1 minute adverts, no longer gets me excited. Instead, it would be much more interesting to make 10 to 20 sequentially served 10 second adverts to tell a story.

Six second ads are hard, we can’t tell the whole story, we need to capture attention immediately, but what a great challenge. A story arch that peaks one second in, a handover to another unit that gives more information. A series of 10 or 20 units, served knowingly to individuals across screens, to hook them in and move them further down the funnel. Users who skip ads can be given a message to entice them in. Short ads are wonderful if we are to rethink how to earn and reward attention, rather than replicating the way old TV used to advertise.

This is one example of a change of attitude that is all too rare in how money is spent in digital. Instead we see countless examples of bad retargeting ("I've bought these shoes why are you still advertising them to me!") or adverts that aren't timely, relevant or just click through to a webpage.

Barry Parker and Raymond Unwin
By making things more interactive and immersive we cannot help but stand out and get excited about the opportunities new technologies bring. It’s been too cheap to pay attention to and too ineffective to spend much on media or production, we entered a spiral of decline that never worked for brands, publishers, agencies but most of all, people.

By raising our ambition we can then experience the excitement of Barry Parker and Raymond Unwin when they unveiled the UK's first roundabout in 1909!
Another week, another chance to hit the road to share some learnings both internally and externally. For the former I've been playing my part in the annual Kier Employee Roadshows. These took place over 9 days at the beginning of the month with 21 events organised in 16 locations across the UK. During this time, over 3,000 Kier people attended to hear about the latest financial results and to take part in discussions around the theme of innovation.

Last year I had the perfect excuse to not help out given I was on paternity leave. This meant it was time to pull my weight by attending the inaugural Roadshow in Liverpool followed by another in Sheffield. 

The bulk of the planning for these is expertly managed by our Internal Communications team. It is then up to us to ensure everything runs smoothly on the day and to liaise with the hotels, couriers and AV technicians. I am pleased to say that my shared duties of setting up the room, hosting the Q&A and MC'ing the event all went well. This all contributed to a success for what was a massive undertaking for all involved.

Then last Monday, I headed into London to present as 'The Construction Blogger' to over 100 CIM members and students. This event took place at the Saint Gobain Multi-Comfort Centre which was conveniently only 3mins walk from our London Office. It was organised by Chris Ashworth of Competitive Advantage who was presenting their latest research on the use of Construction Media. I was pleased to write an article for the social media section of this which will be shared as a guest blog post at as later date. Su Butcher, director of 'Just Practising' communication consultancy was to be the chair and we also had case studies from Will Scott of LinkedIn and Anna Hern of Ridgemount PR.

I had previously conversed with all of these people via social media so it was great to meet them in person. It's a good job we all have up to date social media profile pictures! Some key takeaways from the other presentations for me were:
Ready to go!
  • People don't want to hear from the company on LinkedIn - they want to hear from your employees
  • LinkedIn blog posts are most effective at weekends
  • LinkedIn video is definitely worth trying
  • Facebook is not free - it’s algorithm requires you to pay to get traction (unless you’re a celebrity!) 
I was pleased that Su Butcher, in particular, set up my presentation so well in that we both echoed each other's points. This contributed towards making the whole event look perfectly planned and aligned! I have never presented specifically on blogging before but the feedback was excellent, as were the questions. You can view my full presentation below:


One thing that struck me is that some of the attendees asked for magic solutions for the right length of video or exact time to post content to gain traction. If only it was that easy! For me this depends so much on the message, your audience, the medium and your brand. Whilst you may get a head start from the learnings of others the only way to accurately gather this intel is to start posting and analysing yourself. In time you'll know exactly the right messages, timings and creative executions which work.

It was a great event and should hopefully be the first of many given that it was oversubscribed and the positive feedback.

Of course, no recent blog post would be complete without a mention of our campaign 'Shaping Your World'. The aforementioned CIM Construction Group are responsible for running the annual Construction Marketing Awards in London. Each year I've been working in this industry we've been shortlisted for these but are yet to win the big prize.

For the third year running we'll be there but this time in the 'Best Contractor Marketing Campaign' category. These awards are due to take place on 30th November and I put nearly as much effort into the submission as I did the campaign creative!

Roll on 30th November. I'll be the one biting his nails and rocking back and forth in the corner as our category is announced...!
For my final post in this trilogy of focusing on our new campaign I'm going to look at another industry-wide issue which we sought to address. Working in the built environment there are many misconceptions of the sector among students, parents, teachers and careers advisors. These range from it being poorly paid, just consisting of manual work or that it is male dominated.

To prove these stereotypes exist we surveyed 2,000 parents, teachers and careers advisors at secondary schools and academies in the UK state sector. This was published in a report alongside one-to-one interviews with careers advisors and education professionals across the UK. This highlighted the key issues (listed above) which 'Shaping Your World' was devised to address.

For launch, we wanted to set out these issues in a way which would be picked up by the media from broadcast and national to regional and trade. Due to us having a clear solution to a well known industry issue our PR team manged to get some great high profile coverage. This ranged from an 8 minute interview on Radio 4 Today programme to quote of the day in the Independents ‘I’ newspaper.

Securing the support of the Institute of Directors (IoD) and the Government backed Careers & Enterprise Company (C&EC), we then created our 1% pledge. This allows us to measure the impact of 200+ colleagues working with schools and colleges across the UK, engaging with at least 10,000 pupils in the next 12 months. I've signed up myself so will be going back to my roots (I worked in a secondary school for 5 years many moons ago!)

Our people will share their pride and passion and help students better understand the breadth of roles available across the built environment. While this activity was already taking place in pockets around the business, the pledge and universal training ensures that we all sell the full spectrum of the built environment. One of my responsibilities was the build of an internal microsite to communicate this and to act as a repository for the training materials. On here colleagues can also order our ‘Awesome Career in the Built Environment’ a new printed booklet to hand out at school visits that contains key facts about the industry, including real life examples of people doing their jobs and routes into the industry.

Before and during launch we delivered a full social media strategy via our organic channels. This encouraged engagement with the campaign and supported outreach by providing useful content on the use of the Virtual World Plaque technologies and encouraged conversations with schools to support our outreach targets. We also asked Kier colleagues to change their social media profile picture to their Avatar for the first week of launch to generate viral recognition.

I was complimented at least twice on my attire.
Clearly a waistcoat is a good look for me!
To launch the campaign externally we held two large public events on Saturday 2nd September; at the Arndale Centre, Manchester and Westfield Shepherd’s Bush. I was at the former and used the opportunity to join other colleagues in dressing up as Brunel! We used digital kiosks to attract people to make their own avatar, take photos with our Instagram/Snapchat boards or take away our careers booklet. This was one of my favourite parts seeing all the team's hard work be so well received.

This campaign has been an enormous labour of love for all involved. I have worked flat out on it for months, alongside the whole team, to show our commitment as an innovator in a sector that is often quite conservative. It has already sparked conversations and invitations to present to our peer community of contractors who have been crying out for new pride and passion collateral and an Ambassador toolkit. I love a good presentation!

The complexity of this campaign is impossible to do justice to in three short posts. We still have lots to add and develop over the 18-24 months we intend it to run. No doubt I'll be mentioning it again at some point as it really has been all encompassing...!
With our Virtual World Plaques working as an enduring method of linking to a digital archive we needed somewhere to host the content. Due to the size and objectives of this campaign this had to be much more than merely an archive of projects. This is why we set to work on building the 'Shaping Your World' website (subtitled VIBE - The Virtual Interactive Built Environment').
The user journey of this was to begin with something more fun and interactive before guiding them through to more in-depth careers related messaging.

To make this site more engaging and socially sharable we created the VIBE avatar builder, a fun and irreverent 2min quiz that results in a built environment avatar. This element proved to be the most complex and contentious of the entire campaign. In setting the tone we would fail before we began if it wasn't immediately easy, fun and quirky.

The meetings to design it were certainly fun - ranging from designing images for the questions, the results text and the elements of the final avatars themselves. These ranged from 'VIBE' caps to road sign necklaces to an Australian hat with traffic cones instead of corks!

Once we had designed all the elements we set to work on defining the logic and animation based on the answers to 8 questions. On completion these avatars could then be shared socially or can join the 'street party'. This element populates the street scene with all of the avatars that are created meaning people can find their friends.

The second section of the site is the interactive built environment itself. A 3D street scene with clickable elements to break down myths around the breadth of areas covered by ourselves and similar companies. Once clicked, these elements open lightboxes giving detail on the each element and, as we begin to pepper in some brand messaging, the contribution of Kier.

Of course, the third section comprises the projects themselves easily navigable via a Google map. We skinned this to ensure it was in the same style as the campaign and even manged to include some animation (e.g. boats and sea creatures bobbing around). These projects will be constantly added to and all contain unique host avatars to curate the content produced in liaison with each individual client.

The final section contains the most meaty content as we weave in our brand messaging. We also used the resources available to us by prominently featuring our people. Our research showed that our target demographic engages more with emotions as opposed to facts and figures. With this in mind we interviewed people from around the business with amazing stories to tell and set to work animating them in the style of the campaign. We then asked for submissions from across the business to showcase the variety of job roles (we have over 2,000) as lightbox mini-interviews. This coupled with a selection of social value stories and images gives a complete picture of why our people enjoy their roles and covers a vast spectrum. The meat behind this section is then the links to our job search and new careers resource.



An enormous amount of work went into making this website a reality. With so many different interactive features it needs close monitoring and maintaining and is designed as toolkit to our forthcoming schools engagement programme. I'll cover analytics and measurement in my final post on this campaign but we are already overwhelmed with how quickly it has taken off.

I was pleased earlier this week to be able to share some of of my key learnings from this project at the annual 'Digital Engagement Conference' where I presented the keynote. Although it meant a 5.15am wake up call to get to Manchester I had a great time meeting other digital professionals and sharing our experiences. As always, new technologies were a key theme and I feel very favoured to be able to constantly try new things in a way that many large corporate companies do not.
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!
Previous PostOlder Posts Home