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Claire Sully

All posts by Claire Sully

Branding: Skills, talent and the right attitude

As you probably know I run a digital marketing agency based in Bristol and Somerset.  Finding new recruits with the right skills, talent and attitude is challenging. In fact it is widely accepted amongst many digital media businesses in this region that recruitment is a nightmare.

Creating a platform for new talent to emerge, to be inspired, learn industry skills is the first step to solving a big problem.

With industry colleagues from Icon Films and supported by Aardman and other independent filmmakers and creative digital media companies in Somerset and Bristol, I set up Shepton Digital Arts Festival an industry showcase for the south west. This led me to Creative Skillset who were already tackling the problem head-on; from Government policy to engaging with education and businesses, to roll out a different training and education approach.

Investing in Potential: The apprentice question

I considered an apprentice for my company, but was apprehensive. They may need more support than we had time to provide and all hands count with a busy production schedule.

This all changed when I went to a Creative Skillset apprenticeship graduation showcase and heard from apprentices and most importantly their employers – employers like me. The stories were transformational. Employers said investing in someone’s potential was actually a big benefit to their business. This led us to take on our first apprentice. Taking industry ideas and practice into the training room

Creative Skillset focus on the end game, which is helping young people develop industry-based skills and find employment. They encourage training providers to work with businesses to ensure training is relevant to today’s work place.

So I found myself in the training room in front of a bunch of talented and bright apprentices last week. Working with apprentices from the BBC, Icon Films and other specialist Bristol businesses, my task was to talk about social media and I felt a buzz being in front of the next generation of creatives.

Social media is a big area to cover, there is the strategic marketing aspect, the technical aspect, and people have varying levels of understanding and experience. In my view, to embark on social media without understanding marketing principles is a non-starter. Using social media platforms in a business and media context needs an understanding of fundamental marketing principles.

Businesses also have varying levels of understanding of social media and marketing, knowing it’s important to engage with customers/audience online but not knowing how to go about it. Apprentices shouldn’t be tasked with the responsibility of social media marketing for their employers without guidance and a digital marketing plan to work to.

Understanding social media engagement with an audience is central to broadcasters and media companies delivering creative output; this is the digital game changer and where I started my session:

  • The businesses that succeed most in the future will be those who offer a complete and seamless experience across devices and platforms.
  • All growth driven by the creative sector is digital

My feeling was that if these apprentices understand the power and importance of the digital game changer and online engagement it would help them enormously as they also develop their other technical and creative skills.

My job as a trainer was to help the apprentices see social media slightly differently and start to pin this down to how they could apply this knowledge practically in their professional lives. Therefore the digital revolution needed to be understood, but for audience engagement to work marketing principles come into play, so my session was about marketing as well as social media.

So working through:

  • The digital game changer
  • Marketing view – how does it look digitally?
  • Creating a digital marketing plan – from vision to delivery
  • Web presence
  • Blogging
  • E-marketing
  • Social media tools/platforms
  • Goals and measure – web metrics

The students were asked to apply social media marketing to creating and presenting themselves as a Me-Brand. A Me-Brand is how you present yourself across the social media platforms, to represent what you stand for and where you want to be in your professional career, giving your employer a positive reflection at the same time. Thinking about your audience and being strategic is key. This is why a digital marketing plan is necessary.

My session was as interactive as possible and involved the groups own experiences. My intention was to take the apprentices on a journey from why do I need to think about social media and the digital game changer to how do I use social media in my professional career? I think this is a small but significant step to learn as the apprentices develop technical skills in the digital creative industry.

Claire Sully is a strategic marketing professional, MD of Bristol-based digital marketing agency Tickbox and has run industry training sessions for creative and digital media apprentices. You can find Claire @clairedesully

Website launch: Arthur Johnson auctioneers

We’ve just completed and launched our latest web project, for one of the UK’s largest auction companies Arthur Johnson & Sons.

It was an interesting and complex development, requiring some innovative approaches to integrating with existing auction platforms as well as complex planning to ensure the site worked seamlessly with the bidding processes of one of busiest auction room complexes in the country.

As part of the process, we created an online application which allowed Arthur Johnson to simply integrate their site with the bidding platform they have been using to manage their online catalogue.

Our solution greatly simplified the processes involved allowing user-friendly management of their online auction presence.

Record Sales

Our work with Arthur Johnson has already attracted interest from one of the UK’s largest auction software companies.

The site was also planned to improve the user experience of the thousands of auction goers who visit it each week – with intuitive information architecture, improved search facility, personalised auction alerts and clear user interface.

Within a week of the launch of the new site, Arthur Johnson & Sons saw record online sales and passed the 50% mark for bids coming from their online users for the first time.

Using Social Media to Engage and Empower Local Communities

In today’s “Big Society”, there’s increasing importance for local authorities and other public bodies to engage directly in a two-way dialogue with the people on whose behalf they are working.

Social Media  can be an extremely effective tool for empowering and giving a  voice to communities, but its use needs to be carefully planned and managed.

On the positive side, Social Media is in widespread use, and has low barriers to entry in terms of cost and technical difficulty.

On the negative side, without being part of a wider engagement strategy it can exclude important sections of the community and can become directionless,  with no real ROI.

Although Social Media is about learning by doing, often the lack of basic IT skills and experience with using Social Media platforms can prevent valuable members of a community from being included in a wider online consultation and engagement.

A multi-agency engagement approach

The Somerset Coastal Change Pathfinder Project (SCCP) is a multi-agency body tasked with consulting coastal communities on the future of the coastline.

As part of our work with SCCP, we have been running social media engagement workshops – bringing in interested groups and members of the public in the communities affected by coastal change.

The philosophy behind the workshops is to educate and enthuse local people in engaging with the project via social media.

The keys to making this work include:

  • Its about engagement, not social media – not everyone who want to get involved in the consultation will know, or want to know, about social media. It’s important that the workshop is sold and promoted as a platform-neutral engagement opportunity. Members of the public can engage in consultation any way they want to, but it’s good to let them know how useful social media is as an engagement tool, and to help them use in case they want to learn how.
  • Creating a shared learning environment – rather than just showing people “how its done” you allow them to work together to solve problems and find solutions.
  • Identifying levels of engagement – make sure you understand where individuals are in terms of their understanding of social media and allow those who know more to help those who know less.
  • Keep the project at the heart of the workshop – any training or practical examples should be focused directly on engagement with the project. Let delegates actually have their voice heard as they learn.
  • Make it goal-focussed – if you are showing people how to use Flickr, for instance, teach them by allowing them to create – for example in this case – a gallery of images of coastal change in  particular part of the coast which will feed directly into the consultation programme. By creating something that is directly relevant to the consultation, you are doing more than just teaching skills you are beginning the engagement process.
  • Evaluate and follow up the session to help drive future engagement with the community project.

You need to bring not only expertise in the technology involved, but also in the project issues and in the local community. The best workshops are those where the delegates feel empowered and because they will know their own community better and the project issues, they should be  the  real experts in driving forward the social media.

It is important to remember it isn’t about the technology, but about the conversation. People need to be shown how to use the technology initially, but then they should forget about it and think about the engagement. Just like we don’t think about the fact we are using a telephone when we call someone up,  or even the mechanisms of using e-mail.  True engagement through social media begins when it is just about the engagement, not the social media platform.

Social Media Marketing Workshops

With a glut of “experts” offering their services on social media, we’ve made sure to differentiate our training by focussing on marketing engagement strategies, not just doing the technology.

We don’t just want to excite you about the opportunities new technologies can present, but we help you to plan and use the tools that will make a real difference to how you engage with your clients/customers/communities and ultimately help you to achieve your marketing goals.

Our training is based on evidenced research, benchmark studies and client feedback.

How we work:

  • We keep our workshops small to allow for personalised and practical training
  • We bring sector/industry knowledge and understanding to contextualise the training
  • We use an e-adoption ladder to help you set goals and evaluate your progress
  • We believe in a shared learning experience and make this integral to our training

While each workshop is tailored, this is a general framework we use for our workshop:

1.  Showing examples of social media in action that is relevant to you

Outcome: This gives delegates an understanding of how and why social media works and the relevance to them.

2. Planning your social media, to cover:

  • Goals
  • Target Audience
  • User processes
  • Social media tools/platforms
  • Measures
  • Resource allocation

The outcome is for delegates to create their own draft social media plan/strategy.

3. Social media tools/Platforms

We look at the different social media tools including Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter etc

To help delegates decide on which tools would work for their social media marketing strategy.

4.  Introduction to the Social Media tools

This involves practical training on using the tools.

5.  Resource allocation

How to evaluate the time value investment for implementing social media marketing.

We provide half day or full day workshops as well as 3 hour taster sessions.

Please get in touch with us if you require further information or wish to book a place/workshop.

Public Sector Business Engagement Benefits to the Local Community

When I saw a tweet adverting a local event: Local by Social (Apps for Communities) I instantly knew this was something not to be missed.  As a business you can’t fail to notice that times are a changing, the economic landscape is almost unrecognisable in a relatively short period of time.  For some businesses it has been like sailing a choppy sea, battening down the hatches and weathering a fiscal storm.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Isn’t this a time to seek out new opportunities a bit closer to home?

Putting ideology to one side, Government has tried to argue that it’s time for business and the community to work together, the obvious area is where the public sector is withdrawing its investment.

The Regional Growth Fund has been set up to seek out and invest  in “private sector employment in regions where there is an imbalance with the public sector” and “to build up the private sector in the long term.”   For the RGF bid I was involved in that meant an opportunity for a solid public/private partnership with an “oven-ready” business model and vision to get investment.

To benefit from a substantial RGF grant, sustainability and providing wider benefits  such as job creation, new skills training and encouraging new business start up, were key words with real meaning rather than buzz words.

Local by Social seem to sing the same tune as RGF.   During this two day open forum, we were asked to consider how can technology solve everyday problems and develop ideas, there was even a cash prize for the best App idea.   Essentially we were asked to look at Apps in a different way ie consider the wider benefits to the community.

One example given was an app developed by local Bristol company Overlay Media.   The “Hills are Evil“  App has a very practical purpose, “the creation of a dynamic map overlay that provides people with restricted mobility, cyclists, skateboarders, the elderly, and people pushing pushchairs, the ability to identify the most appropriate route between two places.”  They’ve made this app “fun” by providing “a pain scale to make levels of steepness more meaningful to users, as the raw numbers of distance, ascent and descent are not conducive to the best user experience”.

Users can upload their accessibility issues, such as unexpected drop curbs, troublesome cobbles and steep hills “that kill” and this data can be used to improve people’s lives not just by taking the pain out of not being able to get to your destination, but also by feeding back to say those who make decisions about where to spend money on roads and pavements.  One Councillor said that money was already being spent on consultation with the public on accessibility issues, but with this app that could mean such consultations would not neccesarily be required.  A win win and cost saving.

Hills are Evil was commissioned by Media Sandbox – a project that invests in smaller and local creative technology companies to  develop inspirational ideas and projects that have an emphasis on community.  So I guess I’m getting around to the idea of Social Enterprise.  The reason Hills are Evil is so good is that innovation and “inspirational ideas” came from investment in the right people for the right reasons.  At the same time these savvy technological social entrepreneurs get their idea off the ground.

The ambition for Hills are Evil’s concept is to be as ubiquitous as Google Maps, yes this makes sense, but wouldn’t that start to attract the attention of  business investors?

Social by Local was missing something for me and that was any mention of Enterprise.  Businesses looking to adapt to the changing economic landscape and seek opportunities by working with the public sector can lead to benefits to the local community.   Local by Social was an ideal forum for this discussion, making us think of Apps and technology in a way that has wider benefit to society, I see also an opportunity for business as well, but there wasn’t many of us (business investors) there to share our ideas.

Businesses are often seen as totally separate to the local community by the public sector, even though we often live and work in the very same community.   Social by Local needs to engage with the local business community as should Local Government.   The RGF initiative kind of forced this into being by providing an investment opportunity aimed at businesses but wrapped up in the language of the public sector.  There needed to be public/private partnership to understand the application form at the very least!   We have firsthand experience of three local authorities that find engaging with the business community challenging, maybe this was why only 400 bids were submitted to the RGF fund, when 6000 were predicted.