2016 marks twenty years since I became a headhunter. While that makes me feel incredibly old, it has been a fascinating time to be an observer of the media landscape across the UK and beyond.
When I first started, the internet existed, but was a hard-to-use and limited resource with dial-up access. Email also existed, but not in my office (we relied on faxes). Things were changing, yes; but no-one had really grasped the magnitude of what was about to happen.
If you really want to know how much the media world has changed in the intervening years, imagine saying this back in 1996:
“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”
It is one of the most derided quotes of all time: simultaneously mocked both for its obviousness and its obscurity, Donald Rumsfeld was trying – ham-fistedly – to explain US foreign policy in Iraq. And we know how well that turned out.
With Christmas round the corner, some retail advertisers are raising fears about the effects the rise in ad-blocking could have on their digital operations. But where the focus was once solely on desk and laptop computing, experts are now asking what steps need to be taken to prevent mobile consumption suffering the same fate.
Earlier this month, my colleague Matt looked at the public appetite – or lack of it – for viewing ads online and suggested some of the creative ways publishers are attempting to combat that antipathy.
In 2013, communications strategist Zan McCulloch-Lussier wrote about the overwhelming torrent of content that consumers face.
In the article for charity leaders, published in NTEN Change, he wrote: “48 hours of new video on YouTube. 684,000 pieces of content shared on Facebook. 100,000 tweets. This is just a sample of what happens every minute of every day on social media. Overwhelmed yet? The people you’re trying to talk to certainly are.”
Stats vary: but the challenge for brands to be heard amidst such noise is immense. McColloch-Lussier argues the only way forward is to curate content – on behalf of the audience – so you are seen as a trusted source of information. There is, in his view, no point in shouting louder. The only way to be heard is to become so trusted that your voice can be heard in a whisper.
It’s all too easy nowadays for marketing messages to be avoided. In such a super-saturated time it seems obvious to say this but, nevertheless, it’s true. Print advertising is growing less effective; ad-blocking software fights against pop-ups and intrusive Google Ads; and YouTube has provided us all with the ultimate get out – the ‘skip ad’ button.
With so many firms throwing digital campaigns in our direction, it’s a wonder any break through and connect with individuals. It’s almost like we need a guide on social media to sift the rubbish on our behalf, tell us what’s stylish, and what to buy. Well, welcome to Influencer Marketing and its cabal of hip, young things waiting to fill us all in on what’s made the cool list.
With so many interested parties involved in the conversation over content marketing, it’s understandable how criticisms – and occasional notes about its limitations – can sometimes get swept under the carpet.
So it’s refreshing to see, in recent days, two well-meaning – if not entirely earth-shattering – counter punches.
At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this year, Mark Zuckerberg made an interesting comment about what he looks for when making important hires.
“I will only hire someone to work directly for me if I would work for that person,” he said. “It’s a pretty good test and I think this rule has served me well.”
To a large extent, it’s obvious that Zuckerberg’s model has served him well. It has helped create one of the most successful and fast-growing businesses in corporate history. And the principle of wanting to work alongside like-minded people, with whom he enjoys working, is a good one. Who wouldn’t want to work that way?
Shifting demographics, rapidly emerging markets, and new digital technologies have fundamentally reshaped the way the world does business – but if you think change in the last decade has been acute, then the next few years are likely to blow your mind.
The future is set to look ever more different, particularly in the way the global workforce is sourced, organised, and managed. By 2020, PwC predicts that twice as many employees as today will need to be ‘mobile’ within a business to ensure it has the flexibility to react to shifting times.
Estimates suggest paying staff can constitute anything up to 60% of a firm’s revenue, yet when we hire members of our senior team, rarely does the process become technical or subjected to scientific rigour. More often than not, gut-feeling can be the determining factor. Well, all that could be about to change.
Welcome to the world of People Analytics – where firms apply theories associated with the collection and analysis of Big Data to their workforces.
People Analytics is the move to help firms understand their employees better; to know what drives them, what causes demotivation, and to examine how that could change the criteria on which hiring choices are made.
Bringing in new staff to run and, hopefully, improve the performance of a business means that payroll – alongside commercial rent – is often the biggest expense a company faces; but a typical business knows comparatively little about the real motivational factors that drive their workforce once they have got them through the door.
What if smart use of data could help firms understand their employees better? How would that change the criteria on which they base their hiring choices?
Big Data is usually talked about in terms of what it can do for consumers and customer relationships, but what happens when you apply its principles to staffing?
What happens when a firm starts to look scientifically at information about its employees? What happens when it starts to apply People Analytics?
Off the top of your head can you guess where Britain’s fastest growing technology hub is located?
East London? Manchester? Cambridge? Liverpool?
Nope, it’s none of those places. According to this year’s Tech Nation report, Bournemouth is by some distance the fastest-expanding tech cluster in the country. Between 2013 and 2014, it saw a 212% rise in new tech companies forming. It’s growing nearly twice as fast as Liverpool, its nearest rival.
Data, data, data… it’s everywhere. Regardless of whether your role is commercial or creative, a good understanding of the uses of data is evermore important if you want to progress.
As an executive search firm used to hiring content teams and senior digital heads, we work closely with client organisations to source the best possible candidates – and questions about their knowledge and experience of working with data are asked increasingly.
One of the growing requirements for content specialists, we have found, is knowing what data to gather, analyse, and how to use that to personalise, and successfully shape on-going content programmes, build a loyal following, and convert into leads, and eventually customers.
Now, content managers don’t have to be data specialists, but a bit of knowledge can be very useful.
So when recruiting content managers, a hiring firm might be tempted to look for candidates with a good understanding of how to use data constructively and in a way that is timely, cost-effective, and entirely practical for their business.
Workers rejoice! The days of firms barring employees from looking at social networking websites could be at an end. Why? ‘Cause Facebook is aiming to help everyone do their jobs just that little bit better…
In-house recruitment professionals should be especially excited by news that Facebook has launched a new social network specifically for office communications – it’s called Facebook At Work.
The speculative amongst you may care to think that sounds a bit like Facebook making inroads into LinkedIn’s territory, albeit in a different way – we’ll come to that…
So far just a handful of companies have be asked to join an extended trial of Facebook At Work, but the service is expected to be rolled out to the wider business community in the coming months of 2015.
Like its big sister site, Facebook At Work lets users create an account, post content, and interact. But instead of doing that with friends, it’s with co-workers.
Mention Drudge Report to any web publisher and they’re likely to grow wistful and yearn for the days when a single link from the site could send their annual traffic sky-high.
With few referral sites, small audiences and less competition, things were simpler for web publishers in the not-so-distant past. What traffic a site drew was usually direct, or via a search engine, and the volume of pages published on any given day often determined the size of the audience.
Fast-forward to today and the situation couldn’t be more different: the competition for eyeballs is more fierce than ever and (thanks to social media) the number of high-volume referrers has gone through the roof.
Picture the situation: your firm is an airline, a customer enraged by the delay in getting back to him about lost baggage pays to promote a tweet about the ‘horrendous’ customer service. It gets seen by 76,000 people, what do you do?
Well, if you’re British Airways, you take eight hours to reply, enrage him all the more with your excuse, and carve out your own little corner of Internet infamy.
Customer Services may once have been the preserve of call centres but now, thanks to social media, it has become a high-stakes game. Not only do firms have to deal with a new channel, they also have to deal with a new culture. Now, customer grievances and the responses they bring are aired in public. If your firm gets it wrong it could end up like BA – with a black mark that (despite all recent improvements to social customer service) remains shareable and searchable.
Trying to set the year gone in some kind of context is always tough – and 2014 has proved no different. Often, the problem is trying to distinguish how the previous 12 months differed from those that preceded them. That’s not an issue this year; so much has happened, it’s hard to know where to start.
My partner in crime Albert Ng has already rounded-up his key themes of the recruitment sector in 2014, so I’ll limit my review to the topics that have dominated this blog in the last 12-months (Ye shall know them by their fruits, and all that). So, what exactly have we spent 2014 writing about?
With Christmas round the corner you’d think weary journalists and bloggers would begin to relax, to picture mince pies and a warming fire. This isn’t the case. Around now, fear rises. The mouth gets dry, the head light. They know it’s inevitable: any minute now the editor will lumber over and ask the question they’ve spent most of December hoping to avoid:
“Old chap,” the editor says. “Fancy writing a few hundred on what’s going to be big next year?”
Dusting off the crystal ball is amongst the most loathed of journalistic tasks: when asked to make predictions on what will set a certain industry alight in the next 12 months, it’s usually a toss-up between making grand proclamations that immediately turn you into a hostage to fortune, or saying so little as to barely cast your imagination forward at all. In short, it’s an unenviable task. But that said, let’s give it a go anyway…
If you’re a upstart brand looking to carve a sizeable place in your market and grow quickly, then a little controversy never really hurts. The theory goes that nothing stretches the money you have available for publicity like running edgy campaigns that risk censure.
Step forward online bookmaker Paddy Power and its roster of ads featuring the tranquillizing of chavs, tasering tea ladies, and refund offers if Oscar Pistorious was found not guilty – an ad eventually banned by the authorities.
Paddy Power has deliberately set out to drive business forward with an edgy and irreverent content marketing strategy that appeals to its target audience of young men, but the online bookmaker’s approach isn’t simply a matter of producing shocking ads time and time again, it’s more nuanced.
Unless they’ve been on extended leave or in serious dereliction of their duties, senior executives across the country are likely to have heard little else about the future of marketing than how putting customer relationships at the heart of their businesses will be vital in the coming years.
The digital world has forced a series of new challenges on business, and high on that list of challenges is the shift in customer behaviour bought about by the adoption of new technologies and communication through social media.
Firms keen to embrace this behaviour shift – and understand how consumers want to connect digital channels – need to think about how to gather data and then what to do with it.
Running a small business in the digital age isn’t always easy. The inherent problems associated with battling a large rival offline have the unpleasant habit of transferring neatly to the online world.
Websites of firms with big marketing budgets are chocked with content; they command great authority from search engines; their inbound links are often of a high quality; and when search engines make big algorithmic changes, they respond quickly.
For small businesses that can’t compete on organic search, digital platforms offering flexible self-service ads and promotions can be a godsend.
Through its Adwords platform, Google allows creation of specific, targeted ‘pay per click’ (PPC) campaigns that can be tweaked easily through a self-service interface and provide smaller firms the exposure they need.
In fact, one small business owner told Tripp Associates his self-service Adwords had proved so easily manageable – and such a reliable source of revenue – he’d jettisoned his digital consultant and added £2 income to every £1 spent by closely managing campaigns himself.
And where Google has successfully enabled the small business owner, other digital platforms have followed.
Change is in the air. Perhaps that’s over-stating it a touch; but a little bit of change is definitely in the air. Here at Tripp Associates, it hasn’t escaped our notice that a pleasing invigoration has worked its way into a certain section of the media and information jobs market.
As the economic picture improves beyond the capital, the number of briefs we’ve received for media jobs from firms located across the UK has steadily risen.
London is a major international centre for media and information businesses and will obviously remain the source for the majority of our briefs, but in recent months we have placed digital, art, and sales directors, web editors and heads of news across the Black Country, the East Midlands and at various spots down to the South Coast.
What does Tesco do?
It’s just a supermarket, right?
According to Angela Maurer, it’s Head of Innovation, Tesco is also a technology company set on developing the future of retail – and that includes experimenting with grocery shopping via a Google Glass concept app.
Unless you’ve been living on another planet for the last few weeks, it would be hard to avoid knowing the 2014 World Cup kicks off tonight in Brazil.
As with many other large sporting events, the build-up to the tournament has been littered with stories about institutional corruption, levels of preparedness, and disquiet in the host country about about staging the event. Yet, if the Brazilian World Cup follows the traditional pattern, all this noise should fade away once the football begins and fans will get down to the serious business of shouting at their televisions as they watch men run about in the searing heat.
Have you dipped your toe in the world of social media? Have you set up a Twitter account for your firm, but then perhaps forgotten about it? Is social media something you think your business should do, but haven’t really yet figured out how it all works or what the benefits can be?
If the answer to the those questions is mainly ‘yes’, then you’ve come to the right place. The good news is that it can be a relatively straightforward process to get something workable in place, the bad news is that you may have to do a quick audit first – don’t worry, we’ll keep it short and sweet.
Imagine running a business where behind the scenes there wasn’t just lots of dull clerical work, but a ton of switched-on, enthusiastic people experimenting at the cutting edge of technology to push your organisation forward.
Wouldn’t that be great? Isn’t that probably something you’d like to tell your customers about?
Previously, we have asked what makes good brand publishing and looked at best practice in financial services – a sector notorious for its heavy regulation and conservative approach to storytelling – but when looking for brands that are really good at developing innovative ways to talk about what they do well, technology companies are a great place to start.
Social media may have brought a wholly new way for brands to engage with consumers – but in an digital environment where attention spans are short and content is abundant, how do you stand out and make an instant connection?
Shira Feuer, head of social media EMEA for The Walt Disney Company, told The Economist’s Big Rethink conference the proposition was simple – to get attention, brands need to create something that is of value to the consumer.
But how does a brand define what is valuable? How does it know what consumers want to connect with across social media?
A publishing revolution is taking place and industries of all shapes and sizes need to be ready for the change – mobile will soon become the dominant technology over desktop computing and businesses need to align themselves for this new way of doing things.
Speaking last week at the launch of IMC’s Innovations in Magazine Media report, Juan Señor, a partner with Innovation Media Consulting, outlined how he thought the news publishing industries would be affected by the shift to a mobile, adding that this wasn’t a change that would happen in two or four years time, mobile first was happening right now.
“This is the mobile moment,” he said. “The tipping point where mobile traffic overtakes desktop.”
The traditional ‘funnel’ model used by marketers to map how consumers move from being interested in a product through to purchase is broken and a new set of factors has been brought into play by the rise of social media, according to a leading media consultant.
Bjorn Timelin, a partner with McKinsey & Company, told The Big Rethink conference last week that despite the ‘consumer decision journey’ being nothing like it was ten years ago, many companies still use the funnel model to plan their marketing campaigns.
For brands that want to prolong their relationship with customers, he said, it was essential to understand how technology had changed purchasing journeys and adapt accordingly. It is no longer a linear process, he said, but a circular one. The old model of customers moving neatly through the funnel from the ‘marketing’ phase to ‘store purchase’ was gone – as was the old idea that ‘advocacy’ came after a purchase.
Remember the days when making a purchase meant having to drive to the shop and buying whichever version it stocked of the item you wanted? It almost seems like another age.
Now, with Amazon and others, we research, review, compare deals and shop for alternatives at the touch of a button. Control has swung to the consumer like never before, and in the next 12 months that trend is set to increase as brands invest in technology to enable even greater levels of personalisation.
Late last year, Marketing Week predicted the rise of ‘Me-tail’ would be the biggest marketing trend in 2014.
Put simply, the ‘Me-tail’ concept will see brands move from one-size-fits-all messaging to a position where they can feed specific campaigns and offers to consumers in the hope that they can build relationships that are increasingly relevant to the needs of individual customers.