Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Which 3 guests would you invite?

June 17, 2011

Sir Richard Branson by Jarle Naustvik
“If you could invite three people – dead or alive – to a dinner party, who would they be?”

I was recently asked this question by a prospective client whilst pitching for a digital marketing project. The type of questions leading up to this one had been the usual I’d expect in such a meeting: “What’s your past experience?”; “How would you set objectives?”; “When can you get things done?”. But this question suggested to me the client wanted to dig a little deeper and find out  what makes me tick and whether I’m the type of person they’d like to work with, regardless of my skills and experience.

Although I could think of many more than three people, three was all they wanted, and on top of that they had to be good – my answer could make or break the deal! So after about 10 seconds thought, I gave them the following:

Richard Branson

Richard Branson’s been an entrepreneurial hero of mine for many years, although my interest in him grew ten-fold after reading his autobiography in 2003 on a (Virgin) flight back from the US. Richard’s character, drive and desire to succeed is utterly inspirational and he has all the attributes I believe anyone (whether they work for themselves or somebody else) should have in business.

Seth Godin

Seth Godin first caught my attention when I saw his book ‘The Purple Cow’ in a bookstore many years ago. The concept and philosophy of ‘The Purple Cow’ (about standing out and being remarkable) is pretty much what Seth is all about and it’s something every company, brand or professional should aspire to.

John Lennon

If I could have invited four people to a dinner party I would have chosen all of four of the Beatles! But ever since I first started listening to them in the mid-1990s it was always John Lennon who I related to most. John was a passionate artist intent on creating unique and powerful work that was both pioneering and inspiring.


A sort of fairytale

April 30, 2011

The Royal wedding on the big screen
As I was scanning the tweets on TweetDeck last night, an update from Brian Clark (aka Copyblogger) stood out for me. It said:

“Why did we care about the royal wedding? Because we care about stories. We need fairy tales to come true, even if to others”.

And Brian is absolutely right.

Despite my natural inclination to consider the more cynical angle of any ‘feel-good’ event, I thought the royal wedding was a spectacular celebration, not only enjoyed by millions in the UK, but by billions across the globe. OK, I’m sure the money could have been spent better elsewhere and for some the royal family are not an accurate representation of modern British society, but who cares. With morale at a low across the country (and other parts of the the developing world) and wars kicking off left, right and centre, it was refreshing to put all that aside for one day and take in the fantastic pomp and pageantry that only the British can do with such majesty.

Unsurprisingly, the Americans really got into the spirit of the royal wedding, which is no great surprise. After all, the USA is a country whose national ethos is the ‘American Dream’, an ideal that proclaims that all men are equal and that anyone can do anything. A fairy tale, if you like, that anyone can buy into and aspire to achieve.

Stories are extremely powerful and can be used by anyone, including companies and brands, to differentiate themselves and capture peoples’ imaginations. They’re a way of creating a narrative and a connection that stays with people and leaves a lasting impression.

So what’s your story? If you’ve got one, get out there and tell the world. It might just make a difference.

An entrepreneurial boost from StartUp Britain

March 28, 2011

StartUpBritain initiative
Earlier this month, a wrote a blog post about doing whatever it takes to fulfil your goals. In the post, I talked about how the economic downturn is affecting peoples’ life goals and how many workers in the UK have been made redundant as a result of the economic downturn. However, I mentioned that anyone from any industry sector can take inspiration from entrepreneurs and how many enterprising individuals are looking for opportunities and starting up their own businesses despite the gloomy economic climate.

Today the UK government launched the StartUp Britain campaign, an initiative run by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs and supported by a whole host of companies (including Google, Microsoft and Virgin Media). Aimed at encouraging people to set up their own businesses, the campaign’s objective is to provide would-be entrepreneurs across the country the resources and information needed to give their ventures every opportunity for success.

I think this is an exciting initiative and one that I hope really does inspire people across the UK to take the leap and set up businesses of their own. Entrepreneurs not only instil a sense of belief and fortitude into the hearts and minds of others, but they also create jobs, competition and act as a catalyst for economic growth. StatUp Britain may be the boost many people who have always dreamed of owning their own business need, and I wish any new entrepreneur setting up on their own every success in the world!

Whatever it takes

March 10, 2011

there is no try - by alamosbasement

The ever-excellent Chris Brogan wrote a blog post last week about persistence and how we should all recognise it as a skill worth nurturing.

Keep on going despite the economic downturn

Chris’s post really resonated with me. With all the doom and gloom regarding the ‘economic climate’ at the moment, I wanted to expand further on the theme of persistence and why I believe it is such a powerful and important attribute to have during these tough times.

With government spending cuts, public (and private) sector redundancies, reduced budgets and rising unemployment, I have personally felt a little dispirited over the past few months or so. It all seems too much to bear at times, but this is exactly why perseverance and a will to succeed is so important.

Persistence in sport and business

Never giving up and doing whatever it takes to get where you want to are the qualities that champions display. In the sporting world, Manchester United at their best spring to mind, scoring goals late on in a match to win the game, or Raphael Nadal and Roger Federer fighting it out – two fierce competitors focused entirely on their personal objectives and completely unprepared to back down.

In business, I always think of Richard Branson and his ceaseless desire to create companies and products to rival others. The story of Virgin Atlantic Airways and their rivalry with British Airways is a perfect example of a visionary leader doing whatever it took to get what he wanted. Despite fierce opposition from British Airways, Branson persevered and eventually met the goal he had set himself – to become one of the UK’s major airline operators.

Take inspiration from entrepreneurs

It’s so easy to give up and yet it’s also so wrong. Throwing in the towel and surrendering is simple – anyone can do it. But what if you stayed focused, stuck to your plans and kept on going, regardless of the naysayers?

That’s what entrepreneurs are doing all around the UK in the face of cuts in public expenditure and increasing unemployment. Resilient and resourceful people who have been made redundant or are looking for a better way of life have rejected the notion that they’re not good enough and have persisted with their own personal goals and objectives. Many of their stories are inspirational and are proof that hard work, seeking out opportunities and persistence pays off.

What motivates you to keep on going? Do you have any success stories to share?

Make your own luck

February 13, 2011

Somebody once commented to the great golfer Gary Player “Boy, I’ve never seen anyone so lucky in my life.” Player responded by simply saying “Well, the harder I practice, the luckier I get”.

This exchange perfectly sums up the the notion that everyone in life must make their own luck if they want to be successful. Its very rare (if entirely non-existent) that anyone successful reaches the top by pure chance alone. Those that have reached the pinnacle of their career have often had the odd lucky break or rub of the green. But more often than not there has been a plan or strategy in place that the individual has followed. It may not be written down or put into a formal document, but there is a clear sense of direction in their mind that has helped guide them along the right path.

There is also research to show that people can create good fortune for themselves. Professor Richard Wiseman published a book called ‘The Luck Factor’, in which he suggests that anyone can make their own luck by following the four basic principles that lucky people use to create good fortune in their lives:

Principle 1: Maximise chance opportunities
Lucky people create, notice and act upon chance opportunities through networking, being open to new experiences and taking a relaxed attitude to life.

Principle 2: Listening to lucky hunches
Lucky people make good decisions by listening to their gut feelings and acting on intuition and take steps to boost their intuitive abilities though meditation and clearing their mind of other thoughts.

Principle 3: Expect good fortune
Lucky people are confident that their future will be full of good fortune. As a result, these expectations become self-fulfilling and help lucky people persist in the face of failure. It shapes their interaction with others in a positive way.

Principle 4: Turn bad luck to good
Lucky people use psychological techniques to cope with bad fortune. For example, they might imagine how things could have been worse and take control of the situation.

History tells us that it doesn’t matter how talented or clever you are, success, money, fame or winning is never a given. But if you work hard, remain positive and stay focused on the goals and objectives you want to achieve, then you are more likely to create opportunities for success for yourself. It’s then down to you to make those opportunities count.

Good marketing + great content = success

January 25, 2011

I recently watched ‘The King’s Speech’ at my local independent cinema and walked away feeling very happy. The film was wonderful! It was brilliantly performed, very well directed and beautifully shot, capturing the atmosphere and the feel of England in the 1920’s & 30’s perfectly.

But I can’t help but feel that without the promotional backing from its makers the film might not have gained the same success it is currently finding during the early part of the awards season. ‘The King’s Speech’ is an exceptionally accomplished film, and yet it is not your conventional ‘Hollywood blockbuster’. I’ve seen many other British, indie-inspired films struggle – particularly in the multiplexes – when they’ve gone head-to-head with big name, star-driven US movies. But ‘The Kings Speech’ has proved to be a big hit – both in Britain and abroad.

First of all, it’s worth briefly looking at some of the tactics the studios used to promote ‘The King’s Speech’:


I first heard positive murmurings about ‘The King’s Speech’ back in the autumn as the film was gaining plaudits at film festivals both in the UK and overseas. The film continued to gain a lot of exposure on movie podcasts, television and in the press over the last few months with positive word-of-mouth being fully exploited. A lot of buzz was generated as a result of Colin Firth’s excellent performance as well as the story behind the film itself (the writer of the original stage play suffered a stammer).


As with all modern movie posters nowadays,  the poster wasn’t particularly imaginative but got the main points across – clear photos of the lead actors, strapline and clear typography. The absence of critical endorsements was slightly puzzling as a British historical drama isn’t a money-making guarantee (in comparison to aliens or slap-stick comedy, for example).


There wasn’t a great deal of online promotion. The film’s official website is pretty basic and there wasn’t an official Facebook or Twitter presence to promote the movie. Instead, ‘The King’s Speech’ was promoted through the studio’s page and feeds.


Although not particularly inventive, the film’s trailers demonstrated both the funny and serious aspects of the film and clearly showcases the wonderful performances from all the lead actors. The trailer does its job – sums up the best parts of the movie and builds anticipation on the back of the positive word-of-mouth that has already been generated.

Overall, the marketing campaign for ‘The King’s Speech’ was solid, if unremarkable. However, the campaign successfully raised awareness and made great use of the positive word-of-mouth that followed the film’s earlier showings at film festivals.  Even so, the marketers job was made a lot easier because the product was so good. Marketing is key, and without it the film would have surely floundered. But ‘The King’s Speech’ would not have been the success story it currently is without being a truly great film. Regardless of the promotion and the amount of ‘noise’ created, without great content the attention will only last so long. Good marketing builds interest – but you need a great product to really make it count in the long-term.

This can be applied to anything – blog posts, magazines, theatre or sport. If the content isn’t up to scratch, you’ll be found wanting. You can only blag it for so long!

I would like to say ‘thank you’ to Chris Thilk, who’s blog post on ‘The King’s Speech’ provided inspiration and information for my blog post.

Planning is everything

January 12, 2011

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” – Benjamin Franklin

I’m a big Test cricket fan and last week I had the pleasure of watching the England cricket team win the Ashes in Australia for the fist time in 24 years. The England team played really well. They were supremely fit, bowled to perfection, batted as though their lives depended on it and showed absolute precision in the field.

But as skilful and precise as they were, it was the meticulous planning and preparation on of the team and the backroom staff that allowed them to go into the Test series with every chance of retaining – and winning – the Ashes.

Regardless of what sport, industry or area of business you’re in, effective planning is essential.

Preparation allows you to:

  • Provide direction – to have a goal, a set of objectives and a strategy to reach them
  • Reduce uncertainties – effective planning allows you to assess what problems  may or may not be around the corner and put strategies together in order to tackle them
  • Allocate resources – what will you need to meet your objectives? How many people do you need? What type of people? What kind of equipment will you require?
  • Efficiently use those resources – resources are finite and proper preparation allows you to work out the most efficient way in which to use the resources at your disposal
  • Anticipate action – what is the competition doing? What plans might they have? Don’t blindly assume, but make an educated assessment of what actions you might have to take based on a set of different scenarios
  • Reduce risks and loss – by being prepared, you’re giving yourself the best chance possible to minimise the potential risks that may lie ahead
  • Facilitate assessment – whatever happens, you will need to assess how you’ve performed. By planning ahead you can work out how, what and when to make those assessments
  • Make good decisions – more than anything, good preparation allows you to make better decisions. The more information you have to hand, the better prepared you are to use that knowledge to make the right decisions

“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining” – JFK

Following their historic Ashes win, the England cricket team are now ranked third (as of January 2011)  in the world. And this is something that should inspire them to train even harder, prepare even more effectively and set their goals even higher. Most people tend to celebrate when they win and analyse things when they lose. But surely it’s just as right to analyse things when you win – what went right; how could things have been improved – and perhaps have a drink or two when you lose!

It’s clear that the best companies, the best sporting teams and individuals, the best writers are often the ones who prepare and plan well. Preparing effectively is not a guarantee for success- but it will give you every opportunity to succeed.

What are your views and opinions on preparation? How does planning work for you? Why is it important?

2011 beckons!

December 31, 2010

Well, 2010 has certainly been a topsy turvy year. Although we’re no longer in a ‘recession’ in Britain, the affects are hitting the country hard, with unemployment, slow economic growth and increasing job insecurity for many people, especially the public sector. The coalition government has made a number of cuts (and are probably planning more) and the jury’s out as to what 2011 will hold.

Nevertheless, it’s important to look ahead in as positive way as possible. As a marketer, I’ve been really excited to see the growth in social media over the past year. Amongst many other things, Twitter has continued it’s meteoric rise, Facebook registered a whopping 500 million ‘friends’ and the number of blogs being created around the world has continued to grow rapidly. It will be great to see how social media continues to develop next year. I’m confident that social media will become an increasingly important feature within companies’ marketing departments and we’ll see more and more social media led campaigns – both online and offline.

I try not to make New Year’s resolutions anymore. I think they’re pretty much a waste of time. My philosophy is that if you’re going to make a change, just do it. You don’t need to wait until the beginning of a year to make a fresh start.  However, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having realistic goals set for a New Year so you can work towards achievements during the year. I’ve got a number of personal goals in mind (although I haven’t been organised enough to wirte them all down yet!).

I often find the end of a year quite sad because it comes and goes so quickly.  But it will be great to usher in a new year and make the most of it. The possibilities are endless and I hope everyone has a happy, fun and prosperous 2011.