This week we were asked to present at our annual Marketing and Communications away day. We decided to frame it around the big events of 2016 and end it with a 2017 message. Therefore, I've abridged this for this bumper final blog post of the year!

A lot has been written recently around the social media bubble and how that we are in fact completely insular in our connections. The hypothesis goes that it is human nature to seek out opinions which reinforce our own. This just makes our news feeds an echo chamber of people high-fiving each other for having the same opinions.

Similarly, all the online new aggregators are sculpting what we see online. The algorithms are prioritising content which we are most likely to interact with. Whilst this is in some way an effort to be helpful it is also intended to get us clicking more and these interactions increase our usage of their platforms. By ensuring that certain keywords are given extra heft it also means that interaction is maximised. For example, if you post that you're 'engaged' or 'congratulate' someone you're much more likely to appear on the timelines of your connections. The knock on effect of this can be partly showed in the result of the American election earlier this year:

So, are these systems using us or are we using them? By switching off these algorithms we can at least be more in control of what we see. Having an unfiltered news feed is a step in the right direction of democratising what we see but we must also be able to subject ourselves sometimes to opinions that differ from those of our self created hive mind.

I would certainly rank it as one of the chief issues for a brighter and fairer future. It certainly cannot be a positive thing if we are so insular as to never be subjected to someone with a difference of opinion. The art of debate is essential if we are to progress as a human race and to challenge our own beliefs.

Whilst the media like to paint an entirely negative picture of these constantly evolving forms of communication it's also important to remember that technology can also solve problems. There are some great examples of this out there and of course our business has seen some great success this year.

We have clear objectives which we are exceeding and one of these is to get the right balance of corporate and human news. One thing we are careful of is to not lose credibility as a brand with tenuous links to popular news topics. By being comfortable with who we are we avoid tenuous attempts to be ‘engaging’ and ‘current’ which culminate in brands being laughed at.

But of course, we now need to think about our plans for 2017. Our strategy has served us well but only by putting together some top level predictions we can ensure we are as prepared as possible:

Rise of the chatbots

With many examples already in major use (i.e Siri and Google Assistant) these act as automated messaging services. They can be used to answer common questions and therefore free up the customer service professionals to answer more in depth queries.


The more personal the message the greater it resonates. This has long been utilised in email communications and helps win limited attention in a busy space.

Live streaming video

Facebook and YouTube have made recent inroads in this area and video shows very high levels of engagement. This has a lot of potential to be used for live events or to showcase certain sites or facilities.

Employee advocacy

By using employees as beacons for the brand, getting them to share our content and being passionate social advocates we can really extend our reach.

Expiring content

Platforms such as Snapchat popularised this and are taking it one step further in 2017 with the launch of their 'spectacles'. Other platforms have emulated this feature such as Whatsapp, Instagram and Facebook and by making content time relevant it creates that extra demand.

More vicarious experiences

2017 is going to be less about 'tell' and more about 'show'. Photos are being shared as a way on conversing where previously they were primarily a way to record and document a time in history.

Virtual reality and 360 video

As this becomes more convenient and cheaper to use it will be an excellent way to immerse users into the scope of a building project or  service.

Survival of the fittest platforms

Finally, I foresee brands tackling fewer platforms in 2017 with a focus on those that work for their audiences. By narrowing the focus and refining we can ensure good content and engagement where it works best.

It's been quite the year with me and I'm definitely more exhausted than ever! See you in 2017...
I'll begin by holding my begging bowl in my hand! As this blog won Gold at the Hertfordshire Digital Awards in September I have now been automatically entered for the the next stage. This is the inaugural Digital Awards Champions which is a public-voted event. I will be pitted against the best from all six of our Digital Awards schemes in 2016 in Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent, Milton Keynes and Surrey. So, if you're reading this I'd really appreciate you taking 10 seconds of your time to vote for me. Just click on the the link below and select 'Deep Phat Digital' and I'll find out if I'm crowned winner in February at the ceremony at the BFI Southbank. Thank you!

Now, back down to business! This week has seen me both attending and assisting at events. The former was in our attendance at the 'Construction Marketing Awards' where we were shortlisted for team of the year. We didn't win but had an interesting time among the suppliers and agencies going for glory in the twenty-two categories.
The latter involved me putting my skills to the test in curating the communications for our annual client drinks reception. Historically this has been held at Lincolns Inn but this year building work necessitated a change of venue. The titular Banqueting House in Whitehall was chosen and the team set to work on the many arrangements to make the night go without a hitch. My role was to collate and send out over 3,000 invites and manage all pre and post-event communications. It sounds easy but required many skills which should be standard practice for all event marketing managers:
An excellent venue with some really rich history
  1. Design - The change of venue meant we needed a new design for the email invitations. It was important to conceptualise the right look and feel to appeal to the event’s target demographic. This also needed to be consistent across all collateral.
  2. Copy - In our multi-channel world different writing styles for each audience and medium is an increasingly important skill. We also were careful to correctly signpost any calls to action.
  3. Figures - Once invited there was constant monitoring of acceptances, declines and individual responses. Thankfully, we have a capable marketing placement student who I bought up to speed on producing the many reports required for the steering group. These needed cutting in many different ways and constant monitoring and refinement to ensure we didn't exceed the venue's capacity.
  4. Automation - This was essential to ensure smooth communication and to reduce manual work. We use Dotmailer and setup various programs meaning different communications were automatically sent to each defined segment. These included acceptances, declines, non-opens and various reminders.
    Meeting our actors portraying Charles I and Inigo Jones
  5. Organisation - We needed regular meetings outlining campaign dates, event roles, meeting planning and database building. Also, we needed to understand the use of our customer relationship management system (CRM) to keep detailed records of all our attendees for future event invitations.
  6. Teamwork - As with any small team we needed to be adept at working with colleagues across the business. On the night we pulled people from far and wide to help out. These skills extended to working with our suppliers (actors, florists, AV equipment) to make it appear seamless to the guests. We needed to be happy to assist wherever needed - even if this meant a quick run to Ryman to buy more name badge holders!
  7. Feedback - Once the event was over the post event communications needed to be sent out. This included separate surveys both to hosts and to guests. Collating the responses of these allows us to then learn what we can do better in the future. It also highlights the different priorities of each audience.
As with any marketing role the ability to switch between a variety of skills is essential. But in such a fast paced environment the most important traits to see you through are energy and passion. Despite my not having had a full nights sleep for the last eight weeks I managed two late nights in a row which was almost my biggest achievement of all. I haven't even needed to crack open my emergency Berocca which were given to us when we visited LinkedIn's London HQ in November for our team meeting!
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