Business Performance Personal Development Social Media

Digital talent: riding the wave of change

In his post ‘Social Media requires a different perspective on talent – developing a social workforce’, Felix Wetzel referenced a comment from Brian Halligan’s (Hubspot) presentation at Dreamforce:

‘No traditional marketing skills and background are required, instead “hire people who speak digital without an accent. Hire people that blog, have twitter followers and are on G+”

I’m sure it’s a bold and contentious statement for many, but from where I’m sitting it has merit.

For me, Social and Digital are about attitude. The skills can be learned, but it’s more about whether you ‘get it’. We’ve long since passed the point where we should be discussing the potential of the internet as commerce and communication channels, yet to some the thought of discussing – let alone doing – social media, ecommerce or digital is worse than a trip to the dentist. The words ‘tweeting’, ‘klout’ and ‘conversion optimisation’ don’t even appear in their vocabulary.

No, to be a success in the digital age you need to freely and readily embrace change.

The attitude I mentioned, includes the ability to question and experiment. Any of those pioneers at the dawn of the commercial internet had that ability in spades. They looked at the web and saw a way to challenge the norm, the traditional, and do something in a new and better way.

And because they needed staff to make their venture work, they hired people with the right attitude and skills – but not necessarily internet experience – who figured out a way to make it happen.

When I joined Jobsite in 1999, I was an unemployed photographer; our Marketing Executive was a part time doorman and our SEO expert was hired out of the kitchens of the local army barracks. None of us had any marketing experience, let alone any internet history.

Over the subsequent years, as the internet community and talent pool has grown, new hires into the team came with valuable web experience. Regardless of background, the ones who truly made a mark are those that continued the tradition of curiosity.

Today, as I welcome two new recruits to the team I now lead 12 years later, I urge them to question the way things are done, bring alive their ideas and not to be wary of experimentation. Standing still is no longer an option. Neither is being afraid of change.

And change is coming. Like the internet was a catalyst for change in traditional commerce, now social and mobile are changing the web. As traditional marketers were afraid of digital, now their counterparts must in turn face their own challenge. You cannot be a marketer today and not embrace social media. You cannot be a marketer if you can’t see how Mobile is totally changing how your customers are going to be using your product. Stand up and face the oncoming storm, throw open your arms and embrace it.

As Felix concludes:

Depending on where you stand, it’s either beautiful or scary.

From where I’m standing, it’s a bit of both. And that’s why it’s so exciting, right?

Business Performance Digital Marketer+ Personal Development

Does it make the boat go faster?

This article is part of a series entitled Digital Marketer+. The series is aimed at marketers already working in the digital marketplace, but also to others looking for new ways to promote or build their business online.

The intention of the series is to take a second look at what you’re currently doing and approach it from a different perspective. It will include tips, best practice, case studies and a fair amount of opinion. Not just my own, I’d love your input too. If you have any great ideas or experience, please do share it, as I’m keen to become a better digital marketer too.


We are creatures of habit. We get comfort from routine. We struggle with change.

Generalisations, yes, but you can’t deny you’ve noticed those traits in yourself at times.

We do some things, because we did it yesterday. And the day before. We find it easier to carry on doing it that way, rather than analyse what we’re doing and change direction. Who has time to do that anyway?

Then there’s safety. It’s, of course, in our best interests not to take risks or rock the boat, better to toe the line and do it the way you’ve been told to do it, the way we’ve always done it.

Unfortunately, all that does is lead to disappointment, to average, to bland, to a loss of contention.

Albert Einstein was describing insanity when he said it was “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”, but he could have equally been referring to our unwavering routines.

Interestingly, I’ve not mentioned anything about work yet, as this could as easily apply to any aspect of our lives – relationships, sports, health and yes, our jobs.

I’ll leave the relationship advice to others, so let’s focus on our work and career. How to break the pattern? How do we change things for the better?


Hopefully you have objectives (no? Okay, that’s task no.1, top priority), so you know what you supposed to be achieving.

Take a look at them. Now look at your recent output and your current task list. Be honest, are you working on the right stuff?

“Will it make the boat go faster?” was a guiding principle of Sir Peter Blake, who led his crew to the 1995 America’s Cup win. Before undertaking any activity they would ask themselves this simple, yet powerful question. If the answer was no, it wasn’t worth doing.

Look at your task list again and ask yourself the question. If it’s not making your boat go faster, why are you doing it?


What are your career goals? Do you want progression, status, money, perhaps greater challenges or enriching experiences? Your goals can be varied and many.

Stop and reflect on this – is my current job helping me achieve what I want?

Or in other words, is it making my boat go faster?

The routine and inertia in our careers can be worse than in the tasks we undertake. The risk is certainly greater. We have responsibilities, such as families and mortgages to consider and the fear of the unknown, or of making the wrong decision.


If you answered NO to either (or both) the work or career question then you need to make a change. This doesn’t need to be something dramatic. It could be something small, like stopping certain tasks (who reads that report anyway??) or doing something in a different, more useful or effective way.

It could just be to clarify purpose, to re-examine objectives or goals.

Or of course, it could be a rip off the plaster moment.  A big change. Something that fundamentally alters the way you work. In your current company or somewhere else.

As a friend is wont to say: “Fortune favours the bold”.

This is not the easiest route. The road less travelled is not always the safest. It might not work, but is it at least worth trying? What if it’s better than you could imagine?

If in a few years you reflect back, what will your journey have looked like? If you do things exactly the same way as you’ve always done, then you already know what the path looks like, the same as the one you’ve just trod. If today you decide to step off onto the grass, imagine where it might take you.

Business Performance Digital Marketer+ Personal Development

Know your Objective

This article is the first in a series entitled Digital Marketer+. The series is aimed at marketers already working in the digital marketplace, but also to others looking for new ways to promote or build their business online.

The intention of the series is to take a second look at what you’re currently doing and approach it from a different perspective. It will include tips, best practice, case studies and a fair amount of opinion. Not just my own, I’d love your input too. If you have any great ideas or experience, please do share it, as I’m keen to become a better digital marketer too.


Know your objective

There are probably far more exciting things to talk about to kick-off this series, but it’s important we start here, with Objectives. We need to know where we’re going, before we can work out how to get there.

Ask yourself this – do you know why you’re crafting that email newsletter today? Or why your display adverts are using that creative? Why that particular wording in the press release? Or why you’re monitoring mentions of your brand in Twitter?

If you don’t knowwhy are you doing it?

How much of what you’re doing today, is because you did it yesterday, and last week and because the person who trained you said you should do it that way?

The key to being a better digital marketer – or any marketer or business person for that matter – is to know what you’re trying to achieve and why. Only then can you unleash the creative beast inside you and deliver the outstanding results you want.

Tip: As toddlers we drive our parents mad, asking them “Why? Why? Why?” to everything. It’s a habit we grow out of as we get older. Try it again today, question others, and question yourself. But don’t just blunder on regardless.

There are three areas I’d recommend you consider:

Business Objectives

What are the objectives of your business? This is crucial to know. Each employee, each department, will have their own objectives, but they should all serve the objectives of the business.

Jim Sterne, in his book ‘Social Media Metrics’, says there are only three true business goals:

  1. Raise Revenue
  2. Lower Costs
  3. Increase Customer Satisfaction

According to Sterne, “If the work you do does not result in an improvement to one or more of these Big Three Goals, then you are wasting your time, wasting money, spinning your wheels, alienating your customers and not helping the organization”.

If you’re not sure of your company’s goals go ask your boss. If he/she is not sure either, maybe you need to go find a new boss too.

Project Objectives

Moving to a more tactical level, let’s look at what you’re trying to achieve from your own work, using a few examples:

  • Customer email newsletter: what is its purpose? It’s notoriously difficult to achieve high open rates on B2B newsletters, mainly because most are full of promotions to get the customer to spend more money. But is that your objective? Should it be? Or should it be about providing additional value to the customer and developing a longer term, more profitable relationship?
  • Campaign landing page: You have all your campaign ducks in a row…display ads, pay-per-click (PPC), email, facebook ads, video pre-rolls…all pushing potential customers through to your landing page(s). What do you want them to do when they get there? Purchase? Register? Vote? Follow? If you have a clear objective in mind, you’ll know what goes on the landing page – and what doesn’t. Just getting traffic to come in and dumping them on your homepage, hoping they’ll do something positive is not really a viable – or successful – strategy.
  • Social media monitoring: you’re ahead of the curve; you’re monitoring mentions of your brand in social media. Great. Why are you doing it? Watching out for negative comments is the most likely answer; protecting your company’s reputation. There are so many opportunities here, its important to be clear on what you want to get out of it. Yes, there is reputation management, but consider customer service, ideas for new product development, relationship building, sentiment on advertising campaigns and yes, in the right situation, a revenue opportunity.

Whatever the project, start by asking what do I want to achieve, swiftly followed by how will I measure it. Key to your objectives will be knowing when you’ve achieved them.

Personal Objectives

It’s not all about the company (unless you happen to own it). Think about your own objectives too. What do you want to get out of your work? Is this the best company and the right position for you to achieve what you want to do?

I consider myself fortunate that I work for company that has a culture of innovation and experimentation. It enables me to be creative, to test new products and ideas and recognises there is no harm in failing a few times along the path to success.

This works nicely for me. I deliver results for the company, while building my skills and experiencee, which in turn makes me more valuable to my current employer (and those in the future).

Have a think and write down what it is you want to be doing now in your role and again the same for 5 years time. Then think about how you’re going to get there. Will working for your current employer enable you to do that? If so, what do you need to learn and what experience do you want to gain?

And if its not the right company, well, even in this climate there are other jobs available that may suit you better. Follow this series and hopefully you’ll pick up some ideas that will boost your current performance and give you something to help you stand out from the crowd at your next interview.

So there you go, the beginning of your journey to becoming a better digital marketer. It all starts with the objectives. You have some thinking to do now. You’re at Point A and need to work out what Point B looks like. Then comes the fun part of making the journey.

Other posts in this series:

Personal Development

Fighting Lizards: How to overcome nerves when presenting

Recently, I presented at an event for I Spy Marketing, the search and conversion agency. I spoke on the theme of re-marketing to unconverted visitors using behavioural targeting. By all accounts, the presentation went well and the feedback I received from attendees was positive.

However, in the days leading up to the event, the thought of presenting made me incredibly nervous. That in itself is not uncommon – most speakers experience butterflies – but public speaking has never featured particularly high on my ‘Top 5 ways to spend an afternoon’ list.

The funny thing is, once it’s all over, I do sometimes wonder what the fuss was about!

Whilst preparing for my presentation, I learned a lot about why I get nervous and how to overcome my nerves when presenting. I found the process so valuable I thought I’d share it, just in case it can help you too.

So here goes. My not so definitive guide to overcoming nerves when presenting. It’s a story of two parts.

Part 1: Preparing your presentation

Taming the Lizard brain

This may sound strange but trust me, I’m not making this up. According to Seth Godin in his book Linchpin, there is a pre-historic part of our brain that tries to keep us out of harms way. It’s been looking out for us humans since the beginning of time, telling us when things get hairy to fight or flight.

It’s the part of your brain that tells you not to stick your neck out – for heaven’s sake don’t get up in front of this ferocious crowd of people and tell them what you think! What if they say you’re wrong? What if you fluff your lines? They’ll be out for blood, the sky will fall and you’ll look silly.

It’s the Lizard brain that says no to public speaking opportunities. It would rather you hid away. Godin believes you should seek out discomfort:

“Discomfort brings engagement and change. Discomfort means you’re doing something that others were unlikely to do, because they’re busy hiding out in the comfortable zone

So if you’re nervous about public speaking, just do it. You might not like it, but you’ll get value from it, you’ll learn and grow and it will get a little easier each time.

It’s a good book, worth the read.

Knowing your subject is better than memorising your speech

It’s pretty difficult to memorise a 30 minute speech. In fact, in trying to do so, you may just end up causing yourself more stress. You’d be far better off ensuring you have a good understanding of your subject than being able to recite your presentation word-for-word.

You can forget a line and it won’t matter. You can be interrupted by a question or be taken off on a tangent and it won’t faze you, because you know your stuff and you can adapt and work your way back on track.

Break and practice in segments

I discovered an excellent article by Tim Ferriss (author of The 4-Hour Workweek) that covers the subject of preparing for a speech. His approach is to break his speech down into segments and rehearse them all separately. He never learns the speech verbatim but he does memorise the first and last 2-3 lines of each segment.

I found this technique very useful, especially in regards to the introduction. For me, it’s the most nerve wracking part of a presentation – no one wants to look a bumbling fool in front of an audience – so having this squared away is reassuring.

Oh yes, and practise out loud and at the same vocal level you would use during the presentation itself. You don’t want to hear it for the first time in a ‘live’ environment and discover it’s stilted and doesn’t flow.

Tell a story

Using a story can really help structure your presentation and aid comprehension for an audience. We’re not talking Three Little Pigs here (though I sure that would make a great analogy somewhere). Instead, paint the picture for your audience, give them context, let them relate your story to theirs; show them how they too can have a happy ending.

But keep them wanting more. This is the Cliff Notes edition not War & Peace.

(Plus if you’re nervous and lose your track, it’s easier to find your way back if you can remember the story)

If you want to learn how to structure using stories, head back over to the Tim Ferriss post to check out his Point-Example-Point and Example-Point-Example approach. Works a dream.

Prompts not essays

I’ve witnessed a nervous speaker reading, head down, directly from several pages of A4 notes and whilst I feel for the guy, it doesn’t make for a good presentation. If you need notes, use little prompt cards. It’s inevitable when you’re nervous that you’re going to forget what comes next at some point, so just make partial notes of the first line of each segment or the key points. This is all you’ll need as a little prompt to remember the line you’ve rehearsed.

Part 2: The day of the presentation

Be you

When you’re nervous it’s easy to regress into a monotone, expressionless robot, which makes it very difficult to engage the audience. People don’t go to seminars and conferences hoping to see someone mess up, so they’ll more than likely understand if you’re a little nervous. So try to relax a little and inject some of your personality into your presentation. A little self-depreciating humour or insight into your life can go a long way to making your presentation more interesting for the audience.

Testing, testing, 1-2-3

For piece of mind, arrive a little early and if possible, run through the technical set up of your presentation. If you’re running a Powerpoint presentation and need to switch to the web for a demo or an example at some point, make sure you can see for yourself that it all works. It probably will, but making sure will reassure you that you won’t be standing up there alone, appealing to the wings “Is this thing on?

And make sure you have a back up plan if technology fails on you. Can you deliver your presentation without the slides? If you know your subject, have rehearsed well and have your prompts, you should be just fine.

There’s no rush with public speaking

Final tip, make a concerted effort to speak slowly. If you’re nervous, you’re more than likely speaking faster than you normally would. Add in a pause when making a pertinent point, it gives the audience a chance to think and controls the rate you talk.

So there you go, my take on dealing with nerves when public speaking and making presentations. As I said, I’m no expert on giving presentations, but I am a bit of a semi-pro at feeling nervous giving them.

I hope you found the tips useful. Please do share any of your own. Improving how you handle your nerves when public speaking is a continuous process, so anything you can add from your own experience is most welcome.

Personal Development

2010 Resolution: Read One Book a Fortnight

Last week I read, and was inspired by, Julien Smith’s article ‘How To Read a Book a Week in 2010‘. Take a read, maybe you will be too.

In a nutshell, Julien set himself a challenge last year to read a book a week, 52 books a year. He read 54.

Why, you might wonder?

In his words, “It feels awesome. It gives you an amazing amount of ideas. It helps you think more thoroughly. It’s better than TV and even the internet. It makes you understand the world more. It is a building block towards a habit of completion. Did I mention it feels awesome?

Double use of awesome; this man is passionate about books. Me, I love books too. Or at least I did, before the internet came along and I let it spoil my infatuation. There never seems to be time anymore. True, I’m married with a small child, own a house, have a busy job and half a dozen side projects on the go. Somewhere along the way, it became more convenient – and perhaps more instantly gratifying – to reserve my sporadic reading for the internet (and yes, I’m looking at you too, Mr iPhone).

Julien’s article made me remember how much I used to read when I was a kid and up into my 20s – and specifically, how much I used to get out of it. Not just the learning but the joy of entering other people’s heads.

So I set myself a resolution – I will read a book every fortnight throughout 2010.

I shall keep a log on here to keep track of the books I read. I’m rather intrigued to see what that list will look like come January 2011. Please feel free to comment on the books I list, I’m happy to discuss or debate opinions on any of them.

Rather fittingly, the first book I’m reading is Trust Agents, co-authored by none other than Chris Brogan and Julien Smith.

Laptop is shutting down now, off to read a book.

You can follow Julien Smith on Twitter.