Live fearlessly, become extraordinary – Let’s celebrate International Women’s Day

Live fearlessly, become extraordinary – Let’s celebrate International Women’s Day

In celebration of International Women’s day 2018 I thought I’d share my top five things that make me happy. I’ve stumbled across them at different stages of my 44 young years – some of them I’ve known for decades but haven’t actively embraced, others I’ve discovered in more recent years and now feature as a daily practice. Irrespective of your cultural, economic and educational background, or political views, I’m sure some of these will resonate with you.  

Focus on the journey not the destination 

Of course it’s a great feeling to reach a final destination – to be named as a winner for a prestigious digital experience industry award, to be awarded a gold medal at a sporting event (I’m thinking of Mo Farah as he stormed to won Gold in the 10,000 metres at the IAAF World Championship in 2017), and for those that know me and my passion for cycling, arriving at the end destination of a long distance, multiday ride, for example the Raid Pyrenean or the Raid Alpine.

But it’s not just about that mille-second when you are presented with your award, accept your gold medal, or pass the finish line – it’s about the relationships developed, new connections made, unique experiences enjoyed, places visited, conversations participated in, the up and downs, and learning’s along the way. 

The journey is 99.9% of the experience – the destination is the icing on the cake.  

Being grateful – for everything 

There are many benefits of practicing gratitude on a daily basis – from a stronger immune system and better sleep, to feeling more alive and experiencing more positive emotions. Some people create a gratitude jars and write a note on a piece of paper every day, then open the jar at the end of the year to read what they’ve written, making the moments captured more meaningful.  Others write letters to people who have had an impact on their lives to thank them properly. The simple act of being grateful can change your life

It doesn’t need to take much time, just a few minutes every morning or evening, which ever suits you best – I guarantee you’ll begin to see the benefits almost immediately. 

Play – do what you love 

For me this covers all aspects of my life. From being involved with work that I love and that inspires me, spending time with family and friends, making time to do things that I love – just for the sheer fun of it, to investing in personal development to stretch my thinking, and to keep my mind open. 

This quote says it well…

“I was early taught to work as well as play,

My life has been one long, happy holiday;

Full of work and full of play-

I dropped the worry on the way-

And the universe was good to me every day.”

John D. Rockefeller

I’ve made one small amend – you can work out what it is – the word ‘universe’ works better for me. 

Have a goal – and go for it 

Everyone has goals they’d like to achieve. It could be to launch your own business, to take your family on a special holiday each year to experience an amazing part of the world, to be financially independent by the time your 50, to live fearlessly, to handle conflict with integrity.

Some goals can be achieved in the short-term (3-6 months, like passing your driving test), or over a lifetime (like living your life purpose 24/7). The key thing here is to know what you want to achieve – what’s makes you tick, what’s your bliss, what’s your calling? 

Discover and identify your goal or goals, believe you can achieve them and go create.   

Go with the flow – change is good

Whether we realise it or not, we often subconsciously try to control situations to avoid change, or to engineer circumstances to achieve a specific outcome (and avoid change). Yet however I look at it, change is good. When one door closes, another door opens. Be open to change, to new ways of thinking, and new ways of doing things – you may just find change helps you make improvements in your life, and the lives of those around you. 

As the big man from Apple said:

“You can’t connect the dots looking forwards; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in the future. Believing the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even it if leads you off the well-worn path; and that will make all the difference.”

Steve Jobs

Marketing weaponry – Love your brand

Marketing weaponry – Love your brand

As someone who loves getting involved with the nitty gritty of what make a brand successful, working on projects to establish a brand’s identity, right from the outset, is one of the most exciting projects to work on. 

No only does your brand communicate your business’ beliefs, values, products and services to your customers, partners, suppliers, and other third parties – it also communicates to your competitors. It is therefore imperative to review your brand messaging at regular intervals, and when the market demands, to ensure you’re brand communications are on message and are relevant to your target audience. Moreover, from an internal perspective, your brand will also play an important part to attract, recruit and retain the right talent to your business. 

Why your brand message is so important 

Whether you are launching a new brand to market or you are looking at a brand refresh, various components need to be considered when you establish brand guidelines for your business. 

Here are some questions to get you thinking… What companies inspire you? Who are you up against from a competitor standpoint? What are your brand product and services? What’s your vision: what do you want to be? What’s you mission: how are you going to achieve your vision? What’s you brand essence: the core thought behind everything you do? What are you brand values? How do you want your brand (and people who work for your brand) to act? What’s your elevator pitch (this needs to be something you’d say to your mates down the pub)? What’s your tone of voice? What messaging do you need to specify around each product and service? Integrated with these questions is your brand personality – this helps to communicate what you want your customers to feel about your brand. 

When I’m working with a client to develop their brand messaging I always make sure each communication delivers a customer benefit, supports the brands values, communicates their personality and conveys a relevant message – always communicate in a fewer words as possible. 

Developing your brands look and feel 

To bring your brand to life visually you need to clearly brief your internal designers or external design agency with what you want you brand to represent. Having a comprehensive brand guidelines document to share at the briefing stage will help you do just that as they form the cornerstone and anchor for all branded communications. 

From here your design team or agency will be in a position to develop and propose various brand routes using the right colours, shapes, tones and imagery – all are equally as important as the written and verbal message you wish to communicate – they need to compliment and work together to successfully convey your brand clearly, succinctly and consistently. 

Never underestimate the power of your brand – love and nurture it – it is the most important part of your marketing weaponry. 

When to consider a rebrand 

Throughout a company’s lifetime it may choose to rebrand and create a new brand identity – this decision will be driven by a number of factors: 

Change in management and leadership 

All the CEO’s I’ve worked with have had a clear vision and direction for the business they are leading, therefore a new CEO may trigger a rebrand to breathe new life into a business. 

Customer engagement and wider audience appeal 

A drop in customer engagement with often prompt a business to re-access and refresh its brand communications.  Moreover, if you’re aiming to broaden your target demographic then your brand messaging will need an overhaul to engage a new audience. 

Mergers and acquisitions

These provide the perfect opportunity to consider a rebrand to encapsulate and update the brands USPs and to re-position a brand in the market. 

Demergers

When a company has been separated from a larger organisation it is essential for that business to establish it’s own brand identity to clearly demonstrate it is no longer part of the organisation. 

Differentiation

Every business has it’s own set of USPs that need to be clearly communicated through its branding. With such a competitive landscape, and rivals with similar messages to communicate, businesses need to make every effort to differentiate and create standout to stay ahead of the competition. 

There are a host of other reasons why a company many rebrand – to launch a new product or service to market; when expanding into new, international markets and the existing brand has negative connotation or associations; to create brand consistency that reflects transformation, and a new direction for a business – there are multiple opportunities and all need to have the right strategic plan in place.  

Building brand value and equity: what’s your strategy? 

Throughout the last 15 years or so I’ve had the pleasure of working along side some very inspirational, visionary CEO’s and MD’s to make things happen for their business. Together we have created some incredible, memorable journeys to establish and launch their brand to market, to incorporate the acquisition of new brands into their business, and build their brand equity to point of sale.

What are the long-term effects of social media on society? The good, the bad, and the ugly…

What are the long-term effects of social media on society? The good, the bad, and the ugly…

Technology and social media have become an integral part of society over the last decade. No longer a pastime of millennial’s – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, Strava and others, are social media channels utilised by all ages and demographics. As a lady who values her private time and family life, back in the day, I was a bit hesitant about social media and whether it would really be ‘for me’. However, when Facebook and Twitter came to market I was intrigued… not only from a person perspective, but I also wanted to understand how these channels could be utilised for business. 

The good – Social connection

There are many things I love about social media – keeping in touch with friends and family who have moved away, sharing moments and memories with wider groups of friends or colleagues, being able to share opinions far and wide, being able to connect and engage with the world at large (news, business, sport), and of course being able to converse with people in multiple countries in real-time. For an enquiring mind, social media is not only amplification tool, but it has opened up a gateway of information to educate and learn. So what’s not to like?

The bad – Society is not set up to be patient anymore 

Social media has driven a culture of ‘instant gratification’ and encouraged a mindset of ‘I want it now’. It’s in our human psychology to want to be liked and all social media channels are set up to play on these natural human tendencies – to facilitate that instant hit of dopamine to our brain when content you’ve shared is liked, shared and commented on. 

The ugly – Is social media ripping apart society and exploiting psychology?

It’s strange to think that some people in our society are now more obsessed with their ‘social media’ life than they are about their real one. Social media has so many positives but it’s interesting to hear the thoughts from former Facebook Execs on the need to disconnect.

Chamath Palihapitaiya, formerly the longest original member of Facebook’s Exec team, in charge of audience growth says…

  • Social media is ripping society apart
  • “People are confusing truth with popularity, what is popular is not truthful’ 
  • ‘Social media exploits our natural human tendencies to want and need feedback”
  • “Facebook is designed to drip feed dopamine, you share some content, you get some likes, some comments, you get a dopamine hit, and that leads you to share more content.”

From here a social validation feedback loop ensues. But is this fake popularity? Are we seeking validation from external sources? Is social media rewiring our brains in a negative way so we’re all set on short-term fixes? As Palihapitaiya comments, perhaps this is the reason why Steve Jobs was anti social media?

He goes on to say there’s a real danger this ‘mindset of a short-term fix’ will impact on other areas of our lives – our work life, our personal life – and it’s not healthy. In my view, it’s creating a world where, ironically, we’re less connected; where we run the risk of becoming desensitised to those around us – you know, the real people in our lives – the ones we can see face to face and truly engage with, at home, at work, and socially over a cup of tea, pint or a glass of wine. 

Digital detox – take a hard break, embrace it 

Turn it off for a week – would you be able to do this? Some people would freak at this idea as they’re physically and mentally attached to their device, and feel naked without them. Personally I love embracing a digital detox – and not just when I go on holiday. Logging off has become a daily habit – meaning no access to the internet, no access to WhatsApp, no access to social – it’s liberating. 

Reconnect offline – Make time to log off and connect’!

Become super conscious and aware

I want to live in a world that’s super conscious, connected and aware. People are not predictable and that’s one of the many beautiful things about human nature – sometimes you just can’t predict what people will do or say – there’s great pleasure and excitement in not knowing what’s coming next. I value real interactions with real people, I value presence, and I value being around people who are conscious and aware. 

  • ‘Turn it off for a week’ – didn’t it get quiet in here? It got quiet in here didn’t it!

What is the short and long-term effect of too much information? Does it serve us well or is it creating an overloaded, congested mind? After years of intense, surface, information overload, there’s a reason why a wave of people are seeking a higher level of consciousness, to be aware of their actions, and the impact of their interactions on society. 

Don’t get swamped by the downside of technological innovations in our society – embrace what serves you and remain connected to the real world. 

London Sport – where technology and sport collide

London Sport – where technology and sport collide

Working in a career that you love is most certainly a privilege and it’s even more exciting when you learn about new businesses who’s premise is to encourage people to enjoy sport, and to make peoples lives richer and more fulfilling through actively participating in sport. 

On Thursday 5th October, I was lucky enough to attend the launch of the Sport Tech Hub Incubator Programme at the House of Sport in central London. With a vision to make London the most active capital in the world, the Sports Tech Hub brings together 18 SportTech, FinTech and HealthTech start-up businesses who’s focus ranges from driving mass participation in sporting events and at-home fitness, to social engagement and fully immersive experiences across a whole range of activity. 

Following an extensive selection process, the 18 businesses involved represent a snapshot of the potential future for technology-supported physical activity – all will benefit from guidance received through the first six-month Sport Tech incubation programme and working with the partners involved such as Sponge Marketing,CrowdcubeLondon and Partners, and more.

Everyday sports tech 

The bond between sports and technology has been getting ever closer for many years – just look at the advances in wearable technology, there’s no shortage of ideas coming to market. In January Wareable outlined the 50 wearable tech game-changers for 2017 – predicting an essential guide for what’s going to be available to consumers in the year ahead. 

As wearable technology becomes more integrated into everything we do, more and more ideas will be born to monitor many aspects of our life – from wristwatches that track steps taken during our day to monitoring our sleep patterns at night. 

A marketing-cycling-techie junkie

Being the marketing-cycling-techie junkie that I am, my everyday go-to apps and technology devices are Garmin, Garmin Connect, Strava, My Fitnesss Pal and Relive.cc. For those not in the sporting world here’s a quick debrief…

  • My Garmin device records and captures my mileage, shows ascent/descent, tracks my heart rate, cadence, speed and more, and is synced to my Garmin Connect account which presents all my activity in one simple dashboard
  • Strava is a social network (kind of like Facebook for sports people) and is widely known as ‘the’ social network for cyclists – I use this to share my ride with my Strava pals for them to comment and give me ‘kudos’
  • My Fitness Pal enables me to track and monitor calories burnt during exercise so I can plan my diet more effectively
  • Relive.cc does what it says on the tin – it enables me to relive my rides and geo-locates photos taken en route – it’s a fabulously fun platform

These apps and technology platforms have the ability to sync and talk seamlessly to each other – they’re also intuitive and really easy to use – but what’s more interesting is they are all bring together sports and technology, and are based and built around sport, living a healthier lifestyle and supporting our general well being.

I wonder what’s next on the horizon? Perhaps one of the 18 incubator start-ups will launch the next ‘must have app’ to support making London the most active capital in the world.

Orange Box – Big Ride to Work 2017

Orange Box – Big Ride to Work 2017

In three short weeks I’ll be joining a group of wonderful people from Orange Box when we cycle from Huddersfield to London – the purpose being to raise money for two very important charities, PWSA UK – Prader-Willi Syndrome and Velindre Cancer Centre.

  • Day 1: 100 miles, Huddersfield to Melton Mowbray, approx. 2575m climbing
  • Day 2: 95 miles, Melton Mowbray to Stevenage, approx. 1000m climbing 
  • Day 3: 35 miles, Stevenage to London, approx. 500m climbing 

Raising money for two wonderful charities

Two employees from Orange Box, Andy Hiscocks and Dave Carter, have selected these charities as they have personally helped to support their families. You can read more about their stories below.

DONATE HERE: Please give generously – our target is £5,000.00

Nancy’s story (words from Andy Hiscocks, Nancy’s dad)

Our three-year old daughter, Nancy, has Prader-Willi Syndrome (‘PWS’). It’s a rare genetic condition, caused by a chromosome disorder that is estimated to affect 1 in 22,000 children. 

As a baby Nancy was very weak and required a constant flow of oxygen for a few months and a feeding tube for several months more. The condition affects Nancy’s muscle tone so she is not yet able to walk very far unaided, although she’s getting there slowly with physio and hydrotherapy. PWS also affects the part of the brain that controls appetite so as children get older their appetite will become insatiable. 

This coupled with her poor muscle tone and a decreased calorific requirement means that children with PWS need to have their diet strictly monitored to prevent potentially life threatening obesity. 

People with PWS have central nervous system and endocrine gland dysfunction causing varying degrees of learning difficulty, short stature and impacting upon emotional and social development. 

The Prader-Willi Syndrome Association (‘PWSA’) has been a huge support to us as a family; not only in providing us with a wealth of information and support about the condition, but by organising regional family days out to allow us to meet other affected families. We feel very lucky to have the support of this charity and are so grateful to anyone that makes a donation – a huge ‘thank you’!

Tom’s story (words from Dave Carter, Tom’s dad)

From an early age Tom’s been sport mad and with a special love for cricket (he’s been a demon batsman from the age of 8!). He went from being captain of his school team, to playing at county level for Gwent and then at just 17 years old found himself playing for Newport 1st team. 

Soon after though, Tom was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma of his left tibia and was referred to Velindre Cancer Care Hospital and started his first chemotherapy at the teenage cancer trust unit in Cardiff. 

After two courses of chemo he had to have his left leg amputated above the knee. 18 months later, the cancer had spread & he underwent a further operation to remove his right lung. Despite all this, Tom kept playing cricket & even went on to captain the Wales disabled team. 

More recently, Tom started complaining of headaches and double vision and a CT scan showed a tumour on the brain, which has meant yet more chemo and radiotherapy back at Velindre. 

All through his treatments the care Tom’s received there has been outstanding and the support for our family has been amazing too. You can’t really explain how much this means to you until you’re in this position and we’re so grateful for any donations to help them support many more families like ours.

Through Virgin Money Giving, you can sponsor us and donations will be quickly processed and passed to our two charities. Virgin Money Giving is a not for profit organisation and will claim gift aid on a charity’s behalf where the donor is eligible for this. We really appreciate all your support and thank you for any donation, no matter how big or small.

New friends – creating memories through sport

This will be the second time I’ve ridden with the Orange Box team. The first was cycling from London to Wales a few years back, when myself and a few other Kingston Wheelerslead riders from the Orange Box office in Northampton Road in East London, out into the Surrey Hills, where the route continued down to their head office in Cardiff, Wales. 

It’s a privilege to be invited to join the team again, to help map out the final leg into London and generally enjoy time with riders on the road. He’s to three fun filled days of adventure, camaraderie and friendship.

  • 4000+ metres of climbing 
  • 200+ hilly miles
  • 32 riders
  • 5 support staff 
  • Three days 

DONATE HERE: Please give generously – our target is £5,000.00

A big ‘Thank you’ in advance for your support.

Follow our journey on Twitter – @EmmaPotter73 #BRTW2017

My love of the two-wheeled machine – the power of cycling to inspire

My love of the two-wheeled machine – the power of cycling to inspire

I was recently asked why I love cycling so much… For me the answer is simple, and several words quickly sprung to mind, amongst them friendship, laughter, adventure, community, comradeship, and travel, to name a few… What’s not to like about some, if not all of those aspects of the sport? When combined together, in my book, they make a truly compelling mix.

Ten years ago I used to be ribbed by work colleagues for cycling so much (I think they thought it was a bit square and not so trendy to wear Lycra, especially by choice). In recent years the tables have turned – many of those very people have adopted the sport and now regularly ask my advice on what to wear, they request information on recommended routes to ride, and trips to plan, both at home and abroad. 

Locally in London the Ride100 has done wonders to drive interest in cycling. In addition Froome, Wiggo and their Tour de France success has also been a key driver to raise awareness of the sport. Essentially cycling is accessible to all, irrespective of your age or your fitness level, and that’s one of the many reasons I love it so much. 

For me cycling has become a major part of my life. And this is why…

  • Friendship 

I’ve met some amazing people and made some wonderful friends through cycling. They span multiple decades and cycle rides have been known to feature friends in there 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. We share great times together both on and off the bike – beer, food and fun are a regular feature!

  • Laughter 

We laugh a lot and then a bit more – you know the kind of laugher that makes your belly ache and your eyes leak – that’s my buddies and me. We take the mick out of each other, play pranks on each other, celebrate birthdays together, and generally have a bloody good time.

  • Adventure 

Sometimes it’s just fun to go with the flow. Last summer a friend posted on Facebook – “Anyone fancy riding from London to the Isle of Wight and back?” – and I thought, sure, why not! What was meant to be a 300km ride turned into 373km and 14.5 hours of riding; I left home at 5.30am on Sunday and got home at 1.15am on Monday. Basking in the sunshine, relaxing on the ferry crossing, and consuming lots of food – a memorable, great day was had by all.

  • Community 

I’m a member of the Kingston Wheelers Cycling Club – a fantastic club based in South West London. From fast, short TT’s and LONG Audax routes, to Summer BBQ’s and Sunday Club rides – there’s something for everyone. We’re a pretty social bunch. 

  • Comradeship 

We’ve all had bad days when we’re suffering on a bike. Where we’ve not eaten enough food, not had enough water to rehydrate, our lungs aren’t working or simply our legs have had it; that’s when you really want and need your friends around you to keep you going. No one ever gets left on the road.

  • Travel 

I’ve experienced many countries and cultures. From the high and midi Atlas mountains in Morocco where there’s truly breathtaking scenery; the classic cols of Mallorca, Corsica and Sardinia that again offer stunning views and an amazing array of seafood to refuel; to Raids in the AlpsPyrenees, and Dolomites, where there’s climbs and descents for all abilities, there’s hundreds of amazing places to visit. I wonder where I’ll go next?

A sport for all to enjoy… any time of the year 

There’s something invigorating and refreshing about feeling the fresh air, wind and sometimes rain on your face. So whether the sun is shining and there are blue skies above, or whether there are grey stormy clouds and the sun is no where to be seen – I always feel compelled to get out on my bike. It won’t surprise you to hear I have a two-wheeled machine for every occasion.

Be part of something special 

Whatever your reasons – health benefits, weight management, socials, adventure, and travel – get in the cycling mix. You’ll be amazed what you discover about yourself, your resilience, and what your body can do when you put your mind to it.

The power of content to engage your audience and drive lead generation

The power of content to engage your audience and drive lead generation

The motto ‘Content is king’ has been around for decades and at it’s core this statement still remains true. For those investing in content marketing there are several stages to consider from outlining your content strategy and selecting the right content platform, to content creation and defining the metrics that measure perceived success. 

Moreover, depending on your objectives, you’ll need to decide if responsibility for your content marketing resides internally with your in-house marketing team, or externally with your appointed PR or digital/SEO agency. 

One thing is for sure – both will want to get involved with defining, building and executing your content marketing strategy: And quite rightly so as they have different, yet complimentary skillsets to bring to the table. In my personal experience it makes sense for any agencies you’re engaging with to work together in a collaborative fashion to achieve the desired results for their client. 

8 reasons why investing in content marketing is good for business

  1. Releasing updated articles and interactive content within digital solutions can have up to 70% more conversions in comparison to static content, which is around 36% (Source: Markereer.Kapost)
  2. Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about 3x as many leads.  (Source: Demand Metric)
  3. 46% of UK marketers struggle to produce content consistently 
  4. 78% of consumers believe that organizations providing custom content are interested in building good relationships with them (Source: McMurry/TMG)
  5. 77% of consumers have chosen, recommended, or paid more for a brand that provides a personalized service or experience (Source: Forrester)
  6. 78% of consumers will only engage offers if they have been personalized to their previous engagements with the brand (Source: Marketo)
  7. 72% of marketers are producing significantly more content than they did a year ago (Source: CMI)
  8. Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about 3x as many leads. (Source: Demand Metric)

The perfect pair – Artificial Intelligence and Emotional Intelligence

The perfect pair – Artificial Intelligence and Emotional Intelligence

Machine learning (ML), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data – have we arrived at a point where, fundamentally, these buzzwords have merged into one and they mean the same thing? They certainly seem to appear to be joined at the hip.

For those that would like a definition, according to Tech Target ‘Machine Learning is a type of AI that allows software applications to become more accurate in predicting outcomes without being explicitly programmed. The basic premise of machine learning is to build algorithms that can receive input data and use statistical analysis to predict an output value within an acceptable range.’

The growth of MarTech 

The growth of MarTech platforms has been exponential. In the CRM space HubSpot and Salesforce probably have the highest market share when it comes to managing a businesses sales and marketing efforts, with both platforms offering a range of cool features to monitor and track prospect engagement throughout the sales funnel, including lead prediction and scoring. At launch, both businesses were relatively early adopters of emerging technology. The co-founders of HubSpot, Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah set out to launch an online marketing platform, to address the flagging success of direct mail and other more traditional marketing activities – seeing amazing growth, the company brought in $82.3 million in revenue in Q1 2017.

Investment in AI takes centre stage 

I am a firm believer that the technology and software we have access to today needs to serve humans, and bring faster, more cost effective solutions for businesses seeking to solve challenges around customer engagement, loyalty and retention. 

Other big tech companies continue to flex their AI muscle – Microsoft, Amazon, and Google to name a few, all have huge research budgets to help them stay ahead of the competition.  Moreover, interest and investment into AI has experienced incredible growth with Google acquiring Deepmind for $400 million in 2014 and Microsoft launching a new fund for AI start-ups in December 2016.  

We’ve even seen industry associations such as the IAB launch an AI / ML Working Group to help marketing, technology and advertising executives understand, and navigate the impact new and emerging AI / ML MarTech platforms are having on the industry. As awareness in big brands and corporations is considered to be low, gathering knowledge on how this topic – and how you can use it – will definitely aide ones career.

GAFA – tech giants to watch 

The big four to watch in the tech space are Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon. Big money is being spent on acquisitions and R&D with Google reported to have spent between $20 and $30 billion on AI in 2016 (with 90% spent on R&D and deployment and 10% on AI acquisition), according to McKinsey. Launched in 2014, Google’s Alexa has certainly become the leading digital assistant in many homes across the globe.  

Deep learning AI provides a wealth of data to help brands and businesses better understand their customers, and the insight and tools to better engage with them. Having already introduced facial recognition technology in 2010, Facebook now plans to personalise what matters to each user, populating timelines with things they genuinely care about, rather than presenting posts and people they would prefer not to see.

Moreover, it has speculatively been reported that Apple, post the acquisition of AI start-up Emotient in early 2016, will focus on facial recognition technology and customers reaction to advertisements.

Is it just me of is it all starting to feel a little bit ‘BIG BROTHER’? 

Emotional Intelligence – the human element 

Whilst technology continues to evolve and global businesses lap up solutions being delivered to market, in my eyes technology most certainly does not replace the human brain. Data, through AI does provide tremendous insight, along side the great minds of many a data scientist – but it does not automatically deliver answers to all of the challenges faced.

Many CIO’s and CEO’s maintain the view that the application of ‘Emotional Intelligence’ (EI) has been critical to the success and growth of the businesses they build and lead. In this era of digital transformation, more than ever businesses need senior level executives that have the ability to lead, to influence, to perform and to manage a growing team. And whilst AI provides rational, factual information, there remains a huge role for human interaction, authenticity and connection. 

It’s the team of people you wrap around your product or platform who are the ‘guardians’ to make your business a success. These ‘guardians’ build relationships with stakeholders; manage conflict by having strong social awareness, are aware of both verbal and non-verbal communications between peers, and have the ability to show empathy and really listen to ensure nothing being expressed is overlooked. 

In high-pressure environments those with high levels of EI out perform others – for example, Gartner reported that ‘Top performers in computer programming were measured to have a 1,272% higher productivity rate than the average programmer’. Imagine what you business would achieve if all of our team had high levels of EI? 

In very simple terms, it’s about enabling people and showing them the benefits of becoming super aware, being socially aware, choosing the right response, and being able to positively influence those around them to achieve a shared ‘end result’. 

Joining the dots – choices, lessons and opportunities

Joining the dots – choices, lessons and opportunities

Throughout my career in marketing and communications I’ve had the privilege of working alongside some really interesting people in some truly inspirational businesses, from large corporate PR agencies such as Weber Shandwick UK, one of the world’s largest global public relations firms with offices all over the world, to entrepreneurial technology business like on-demand staffing platform Coople who launched in the UK in March 2016.

Big Corporates versus SME’s & Entrepreneurs

Working with large corporates has lots of benefits, especially when starting out in your career. I know I was extremely lucky to be presented with fantastic opportunities for growth and promotion, training to further my career; I was constantly meeting new people and building my own personal network of contacts. However, early on in my career I discovered working for big corporates wasn’t a natural fit for me.

Through making a move from global PR agency Weber Shanwick UK to a small marketing agency called Riddle International, I discovered my love of working for, and with, smaller businesses that have the ability to be more nimble and innovative in their approach. Having started out as PA to the CEO, Nelson Skip Riddle, I swiftly moved into a new business role, supporting the team on new business pitches, research projects, mystery shops and a whole lot more. 

And yes, for those music lovers out there, Nelson Skip Riddle is the son Nelson Riddle, one of the greatest arrangers in the history of American popular music, having arranged for and played with many famous vocalists including Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Dean Marti, Ella Fitzgerald and Linda Ronstadt. So as you can imagine, karaoke evenings often presented a battle for the microphone.

So, whilst working at Riddle International, not only had I unknowingly discovered a secret love of singing, I had found my love of all things marketing AND a love of working with small, nimble, exciting businesses with big ideas. 

Mobile technology – a booming industry beckons…

There is never a dull moment when working with entrepreneurs and for some reason one sports brand slogan springs to mind – IMPOSSIBLE IS NOTHING – this is a core belief I think all entrepreneurs hold close to their hearts. 

In fact, at the next company I worked with where I held the position of head of brand and communications, we chose the slogan ‘ENDLESS POSSIBILITIES…’ – it was very apt for a business that extended it’s product offering from a mobile technology and services provider (incorporating mobile billing and mobile messaging) to being an award winning, fast growing technology business that comprised a unique blend of services including mobile advertising, mobile marketing, mobile technology and services provision, multi-channel digital solutions, mobile internet publishing, experiential design and application development.

Mobile Interactive Group (or MIG as it was fondly known in the industry), held innovation at it’s core, was creative in its thinking, thrived on a challenge and delivered some incredible, ground breaking multi-channel concepts to market that delivered real results for its customers. Check out some client news stories with ITV, FIVE, O2VodafoneComic Relief, M&S and Skype

I joined MIG when the business was 20 people strong and 12 months old – fast forward seven years to it’s acquisition by Velti for $59m in November 2011. During this time the company had grown considerably to over 250 staff, operated in multiple territories, had acquired a couple of technology businesses en route to bolser growth, namely mobile payments provider Zaypay and mobile marketing and CRM software provider Piri, and scooped up many awards, for example… 

Opportunities to be thankful for 

It was during these seven years a MIG that I learnt the most – about how to do lots of things really, really well, and some valuable lessons about how not to do some things. It’s also where I had the fortune to meet some incredibly inspiring people that have made their dreams a reality.

As my knowledge and network grew, I wanted to give myself the opportunity to work in a plethora of businesses and it’s from the foundation of my previous positions that the idea to contract for a bit came to mind. In my latter years at MIG I was regularly asked ‘When are you going freelance?’ – ‘Do let me know when you’re available for contract work, I have some great projects I’d like to collaborate on’. 

I am extremely grateful and thankful to all of the people I’ve met so far on my career journey, and for the lessons and opportunities that have presented themselves along the way. It is only upon reflection that one is able to join the dots and I still love working with, and for, entrepreneurs who have founded technology businesses – their energy, spirit and ‘can do’ attitude is contagious.