Monday, March 09, 2020

How to Work from Home Without Going Crazy.

Nationwide self-isolation is probably coming. I've revamped this article in the hope it may help.

I've worked remotely from the UK, in the past - with distant company offices in Stockholm, Alaska and Colorado - for many years. I even worked from home and in a virtual world for eighteen-months. I ran my own web design business from 2001 to 2003 from a tiny cabin on a narrowboat in the middle of the Nottinghamshire countryside.

Compulsory viewing so that everyone understands
the dangers of disturbing people when they are working from home.
Here's some basic advice, in the wake of coronavirus and the sudden move to self-isolation and working from home, so that you don't lose all your social skills and avoid going stark raving bonkers within a month.

Keep scheduled and regular core hours.

This really is the key to it all: It seems obvious but our bodies are used to what our bodies are used to.

We need a little order and disciple to stay focused. We need to make sure this isn't going to suck for work/life balance. It's a slippery slope once you start working outside of your agreed hours, whatever they are.

It may be that we're working with a company or agency outside of our time zone. This is fine, but we need to set rigid guidelines for our colleagues and clients as to when we're available and when we're not. If we don't we'll end up working all the damn time, or twenty minutes here and there every evening or chairing client meetings at 3AM. After a while, that's just annoying, so setting out clear hours in advance is key.

Set yourself a working routine: "I walk the dog at 8 and start at 9. I have a break at 11 and lunch at 1. I go outside with a coffee at 3.30. I close the laptop for the day at 5.30." Admittedly, in the paraphrased words of Helmuth van Moltke, "No plan survives contact with the enemy", but you have to set a basic framework as you would if you were working in an office environment with others. A light smattering of casual discipline is key to a healthy workday.

Overtime should be an aberration, not a habit. Keep to those hours if you can. Sometimes you will have to meet up with colleges if they work in different parts of the world, but most working days overlap to some degree. If you're self-isolating then you're probably working with people in the same geographic territory (or at least close to your core hours).

I've had this fail, but I've always been happier when it's worked.

As part of this, try to eat and rest at regular times. We need and receive energy in different ways and at different times. Protein and coffee were my go-to's. Cheese omelette (the power of working from home) and a pot of filter will keep you more alert than carbs.

Working late and not getting enough sleep is the mind-killer. Lack of rest is the little-death that brings total obliteration. Get away from the blue light of your monitor or mobile device at least 2-hours before you plan to hit the sack.

Have a set space in which to work. 

It could be a spare room, an open roll-top desk, a standing space against shelves in the corner, the exclusive daytime use of the potting shed, or whatever. Having your own workspace means, soon enough, you switch into work-mode when you're there.

Keep distractions to a minimum.

Home is full of other shit you could be doing. It's a hotbed of outlets for procrastination. There no harm in hanging up some laundry, or whatever, but do it when you have a scheduled break.

I particularly liked using the slow cooker in the winter. By 4PM the house smells ace and dinner's on the way with the illusion of not having cooked it - which also saves the temptation to start it early.

I know some people who work with a TV on and some who work with music. Some people don't find this a distraction - I don't particularly - but some people do, so just see how you go and, if you do, scarp that and enjoy the focus that comes with peace and quiet. Sometimes I've worked with an open Skype channel between myself and other colleagues, 3 or 4 at a time, with mutual music.

Don't start doing the dishes or folding sheets if you're not on one of your scheduled breaks.

Stay connected: Use face-to-face meeting software. 

Getting face-to-face with your clients and/or other staff is important. It keeps communication flowing and gives us a reason to put on pants (except on Wednesdays, when it's custom to go without - long story).

Using the likes of Google Hangout, Skype, Skype for Business, Slack Video, Zoom, Facebook Live, YouTube Live and Microsoft Teams all have their merits, limitations and maximum numbers of participants. You'll probably need a decent mic and headset combo (covering both ears, not just one, then you can still stream your tunes and be ready if you get a call) plus a webcam if you don't have one built-in. The investment is well worth it.

Face-to-face means we communicate better. It allows for body language. It's more to-the-point and it seems to humanise people. Screen sharing is possible, so technical points are clearer and more easily explained. They give just enough one-to-one contact to make a real difference in long-term communications and relations.

Keep active.

Got a walking machine or exercise bike? Remove the drying laundry from it and blow off the dust - just twenty-minutes a day will make a MASSIVE difference to you well being, mentally as well as physically.

Dogs are ideal, for everything, cos, dogs, but anything that will get you out - even just as far as the garden or patio - will blow some cobwebs away, help you focus on something further away than your monitor and freshen up the fug of not leaving the house.

I have puppers which need walking flu or not, and I live out in the middle of nowhere. Obviously, dogs will have to learn to use the garden or be walked at night for a few days in the advent of self-isolation. Dogs are ideal motivators and also give one that tiny bit of interaction that separates one from those languishing at Her Majesty's pleasure in solitary confinement.

Brush your hair and get out of the bathrobe and slippers.

Keep your self-respect. It's easy to just potter about in leisure pants (or no pants - see Wednesdays) and a hoodie avec breakfast stains, but that's not going to help motivate you, keep you productive or encourage you to keep a working and efficient order in what you do.

Just because others may not see you doesn't mean this isn't important. Clean clothes - clean leisurewear if you must - but make sure you're crumb-free, shaved (if appropriate) and change daily, including after exercise.

As an aside, however, done properly this is the perfect time to grow that novelty facial hair you've always wanted to experiment with.

Getting in to the pattern from day one is a great practice that means your always ready for an impromptu client meeting and stay fresher and more awake just by keeping your standards up. I'm not suggesting a suit and tie, but personal grooming is all about self-respect and positive attitude. Let it go and it's a slippery slope - before you know it your sat in your underwear and a bathrobe at 5PM and "Can't see the point in getting change now cos it's nearly bedtime..." I found a morning shower, before a stroll with the pooch, was a natural and normal excuse to put on clean clothes and have a shave. Just like my normal office-bound work day. Maybe this is something you'd prefer to do later on, to separate the workday and evening?

You might think "That's kinds disgusting and it won't happen to me" but seriously, the next thing you know you've not had a haircut for 8-months and you have toenail fungus - I've honestly seen it happen to perfectly respectable former colleagues and others (especially when we worked remotely in virtual worlds).

Set targets for yourself. Get results.

Regardless of professional targets like deadlines, set some personal goals. I once decided to walk across America, while stood at my desk. This is, admittedly, a bit extreme but I was well on my way from Delaware to California (having completed some 480 miles in 3-months on my walking machine) before my job changed and my standing/walking desk was no longer a practical factor.

I also learnt PPC when it was in its infancy, got pretty damn good at Premiere Pro, learn the basics of 3D Studio Max, rediscovered painting D&D miniatures, built a Meet-Up community for digital marketers, started podcasting for myself (see the now dormant Dirty WHOers and Yank & Limey) and wrote a lot of articles in the online press on digital marketing and networking online.

Personal projects, done in personal time, expand the mind and skillsets. It's essential when we don't have as much external motivation from colleagues/clients etc., that we still keep an active interest in learning and in personal project-driven activities.

It's conceivable this could be something more immediate, like building foundations for a new greenhouse or repairing an old motorbike, but I found that anything motivational that separates work from playtime is important for our mental well being when we're 'locked-in' to one location. Also, your not gonna wanna get too physical with flu symptoms.

Keep out of the way of your partner.

Does your housemate or partner already work from home or do they have a day off mid-week?

Approach with caution. They're used to having this time and space and you're about to come crashing into like The Dukes of Hazard. They probably don't want you disturbing their routine, despite how nice they may say it'll be a first, so just go softly. I get it, and when I'm working I'm concentrating. All the best will in the world and love in the heavens doesn't mean I want my train of thought breaking to be given a kiss or told about something the cat just did.

If you're both suddenly quarantined then make sure you have your own working spaces. Hot desking or sharing the kitchen table will just get annoying - trust me. Also, it's much nicer to get back together and value your time after work's done and dusted.

Online ordering is your friend.

You're gonna need tissues, food, plenty of fluids, take Paracetamol (if they're not panic bought out of existence) to treat aches and pains and lower your temperature.

Amazon usually provides, but give those smaller local companies a call and they might deliver - a lot of the bigger supermarkets will deliver a week's worth of chicken nuggets and beans or quinoa and whatever the hell goes with quinoa for a fiver these days.

Make sure, if you live as remotely as I do, to order more fuel oil and pre-cut wood as you'll be using more fuel by staying at home.

One idea might be to print out a note that says "Self Isolating. Please knock loudly and leave parcels by the door." A biohazard symbol makes for a nice extra flourish.

Also, occasionally, treat yourself - even if it's just to a posh takeaway. For a while you're your own HR dept., make the most of it.

Hope that's a help to someone. Keep a structured day and you should be grand. Don't annoy your housemates and keep active. It should only be for a few weeks, not years, so you should be fine.

I do wonder how many self-styled ‘digital gurus’ will suddenly have ‘remote working expert’ appear, as if by magic, on their LinkedIn profile in the coming weeks.

Good luck and get well soon 😉

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

How to Find Your Unique Selling Point and Brand Story

I'm head of colouring-in at a large workshop design and automotive equipment supply firm.

When I started 12-months ago I didn't know the first damn thing about tyre changers, wheel balancers, ADAS calibration, wheel alignment or how Porsche liked to have their workshop tiles laid out - but now I do. In fact, it's my round-one Mastermind specialist subject.

Coming to a technical topic like this I was tasked with making our portfolio stand out from the heard. I needed to know the story points in order to be able to tell the story. Here's how I've done that and how I found the unique selling point of us, as a brand, and the equipment and services we provide.

Make a competitors list.

Start off by checking out your competitors and make a big damn list of what you do differently. Hit their website. Look at what terminology and imagery they use. What are they trying to say and how are they trying to say it? What makes you, and what you do, different? Is it quality? Is it variety? Who is their market? What strengths are they highlighting? What sets you apart?

Emotional needs.

An emotional need can be clarified as a craving that, when satisfied, leaves you with a feeling of happiness and contentment. When unsatisfied, it leaves you with a feeling of unhappiness and frustration. This need (B2C) can be anything from the aspirational ownership of a pair of Manolo Blahniks to having more free time, from the love of your partner/dog/child/parent/hobby to the satisfaction of a job well done.

Make another column on your list and (from your customer's perspective) think about which emotional need is being directly met by your product or service. Some customer persona work might be needed here, to identify the core motivation of the folks who hold the purse strings or make the purchase decisions. Some good, solid, trolling through industry website and having an eye to what the overall business environment wants or how it is changing can help.

With B2B emotional needs, it may be something as simple as "We need to make more money," "We need to sell more Widgets," "We need more footfall," "We need to save time," or "We need to be ready for a legal change in our industry."

Get hands-on.

This is, in my opinion, the most important thing that will help you towards the realisation of your unique selling points.

You're gonna have to put some effort in.

Whatever it is you sell or provide, go and get up to your elbows in it. Go to trade shows. Go to demonstrations. Get the sales team to go over whatever it is, in-depth. Stand in front of the product. Walk around it. Learn how to use it. Imagine you're doing an explainer video and sketch out the storyboard. Get inspired.

I can't emphasise how important this is, especially in an industry like mine where we're talking installations and pieces of technical equipment worth tens of thousands.

Find the time and treat yourself to a training montage.

If I hadn't stood in front of one of our pieces of kit at a trade show, next to lots of similar equipment, I would never have realised it's size - it's footprint being much smaller than that of the competitors - meaning it was perfect for crowded tyre bays and workshops where space is at a premium. That's that particular machine's USP. Finding it, I had to stand in front of it and see it for myself.

You may have a product, like ours, which is large and unwieldy and where the USP may not be apparent until completion or installation. The story (USP) isn't always obvious. You'll need to follow it through the product journey.

Ask questions. Watch the demonstration teams. Hang around in the workshop and training centre. Video it. Learn how to do it yourself. Sit down with the directors and designers and ask questions. Walk the shop floor. Script it. Is it quick? Is it accurate? Does it come with upsell potential for the customer? Can it do two things at once? Is it cheap? Is it gold-standard? Again, how does it fulfil a possible need?

Grab Your Highlighter.

Ok, grab something fluorescent and let's underline the things on your list that your competitors can't replicate or imitate. Where are the current gaps that are going to make you stand out? Get a different colour and highlight anything that that they can't easily copy or reproduced.

Now we're getting somewhere. If not, go back and repeat everything above and spend more time with the product - an epiphany WILL come. Eventually.

What's in it for them?

It's critical to state, clearly, the benefit to the customer.

Key phrases.

Have a go at fashioning some phrases about your unique service or product that are clear, punchy, concise and hit those core 'truths' that make you different. Go over your list and pull out any keywords and phrases. Make them into factual sentences, with emotion. Back them up with facts and stats as necessary. Make sure these can be easily read and totally understood by your potential customers. Write it in their language.

Us as an example.

We have a mantra for our brand: Workshops of the Future.

It says that we're the future (obviously). It says that we're more forward-thinking then our competitors. It intimates that we're ready to embrace the likes of automated vehicle workshops, electric vehicle servicing, calibration of advanced driver-assistance systems. It says that we do things differently. It says 'cutting edge'. It helps to set us apart from the 'others'.

We design, supply and install premium garage equipment for many of the world’s most exclusive automotive brands - and we have to show our customers that we're ready to give them what they need as the market changes. We combine product expertise with a dynamic approach to ensure their workshop facilities reflect the impeccable standards of the vehicles they maintain, so our content, imagery, attitude, facilities, messaging, everything, has to be able to mirror that (and the quality they expect).

It also tells our client base - the likes of Maserati, Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Porsche, etc. - that we're ready to give them what they need for the next decade and beyond. We know regulations, manufacturers specifications/standards and how to embrace the petrol and diesel ban being introduced in 2035 (or possibly earlier). This 'attitude' and offer makes us stand out in an industry that, on the surface, doesn't seem as dynamic or glamourous as it is in actuality - there's a lot of Porsche and Jaguar Landrover showroom openings to go to as marketing manager. We've laid out our stall and committed to our unique selling point. This is our brand story.

After establishing the overall brand I went more granular and took a deep-dive. The overall brand is relatively simple compared to the USPs of individual pieces of equipment and departmental services. The story they tell may be one that fulfils the needs of reliability, the quest for and importance of accuracy, OE standards/quality, seamless ease, repeatability, longevity, time/space/energy saving, or a whole different need and want our clients may have.

Everything has a story, it's just a matter of finding it.

In conclusion.

No matter what your product or service just stop and look and think about the problems and industry needs that you (as a brand) and your individual service or product solves for your future clients.

Again, I can't emphasise how important it is to get hands-on and out in the field. Involvement is the key to understanding. Stories don't write themselves.


Monday, December 16, 2019

How to Make Your Agency Hireable.

Well, it's been a fair few months since I moved role and went clients side. It's been busy, but interesting.

What have I been doing? I moved house and job, rebranded a multi-million-pound company - including assets ranging from new livery on fifty vehicles and every bit of stationery and stickering, to a full website rebuild and creation of our new identity in line with our brand traits and goals. I've launched several exclusive (and major) product ranges into the UK market (from Italy and Germany) plus relaunched all their social channels (adding 1,000s of new organic followers onto their LinkedIn). I launched tens of grands worth of automotive-specific PR campaign, shot numerous corporate and explainer videos and toured half of Europe at tradeshows and supplier factories (while raising my knowledge of our suppliers' products and our market). It's been busy, but probably not quite as busy as agency life.

Not being agency side I've had less reason to put digits to the keyboard by way of this blog. I've not been short, however, of valuable and interesting interactions with agencies where I feel any of my regular readers might benefit from some of my experiences. I am, after all, now the CLIENT and not the agency departmental head. This has made me realise how our industry looks at us (or is it them?) from a new perspective.

I'll take this slowly. Let's start with...

Hiring an agency.

Guess what? Your job (as an agency) is to make my job (as Senior Marketing Manager of the largest independent workshop design, installation, supply and equipment providers in the UK) easier. It's to make ANY clients job easier. This was evidently a shock to some of the agencies I interviewed. I don't want to sound preachy here, just cautionary and this is purely based on observation. I spend my first month in the job recruiting. The reaction - and I'm spending hundreds of thousands of pounds here - was mixed to say the least, ESPECIALLY (and I hate to say this) from digital and creative agencies.

I work for a family-run engineering company in East Yorkshire. We don't stand on ceremony. Our clients are high-end brands like Maserati, Audi, BMW, Porsche, Lamborghini, Jaguar Land Rover, etc. Our clients have high standards and so do we. We don't have time or inclination to listen to you fluff yourself or to wade through forty pages of cut and paste before we get to the costs and our KPIs. We don't want to listen to you talk in your language, we want you to talk in ours. We're made of engineers, CAD designers, petrol heads, technicians, racing drivers and every single one of us (myself included) could fix a 2.25 Series 2 petrol engine with a bent chocolate screwdriver and half a house brick. Our company is purpose-driven, entrepreneurial at heart, and built on a few core beliefs. To say that we're 'no-nonsense' is probably a staggering understatement.

The rest of the company is certainly not used to dealing with the likes of creative, digital, branding, PR or marketing agencies - which is why they employ me. Many of the stakeholders are openly sceptical. A part of my job, by necessity, had to become filtering the agencies I spoke to in order to find which were capable of working with us, above and beyond their creds or skillset. Who can talk like we talk? Who can understand the needs of our business and our industry? Who can adapt? Who can speak in plain English and offer identifiable results? Who at least has BDMs and account managers with a foot in both worlds? To be honest, it was a fairly shallow pool.

Having decided early on that a rebrand was one of my first steps, I started by putting feelers out and looking at local agencies in the Yorkshire area, including Leeds. Branding and creative agencies have their own language and attitude. It's a part of what makes them who they are and promotes the creative process. Individuals in such agencies, however, are invariably inappropriate to put in a board meeting with sceptical accountants and engineers from Hull. I found it amazing that, despite clearly working across multiple markets and discipline, most of them didn't use account managers or BDMS, but rather sideways-promoted existing staff or directors (steeped in the creative language and process). I'm sorry to say that I repeatedly got the impression - justified or otherwise - that, despite making £14m last year, we were somehow beneath them.

The branding and creative agency we finally chose is based in Leeds and, immediately, gave the impression they understood our industry. Their website was specifically tailored to manufacturing, engineering and B2B - which was an immediate draw. They'd drunk from their own vat of grape-flavoured drink and embraced a specific market. They'd made the conscious decision to not be all things to all men. When a branding agency pitches themselves this way you know it's a deliberate decision and you know they can clearly do their job.

Side tip: Don't be (yet another) a full-service agency - show your strengths and specialisms - you can upsell later once they trust you. Few folks have funds to spend on everything at once anyway.

I was met in their offices by one of their Directors who had given me a stalk on Twitter, found I'm a self-identifying coffee snob, and took me out for the best brew in the area. I'm not quite that easy, but it got my attention. I laid out our requirements and he engaged and asked questions. He'd visited our site and social channels. He'd looked at our Directors LinkedIn profiles. In many ways, he'd prepared for our meeting as though he'd prepared for an interview - which, in many ways, was exactly what was happening. He asked the early questions. He asked about time scales. He asked if I had buy-in from our directors. He asked about possible roadblocks. He was interested and curious. He was prepared to give us what I wanted - a single page Chinese menu/flowchart of tasks highlighting the process, with descriptions and costs. Simple and easy to print out and share when the time came for me to secure internal funding. He was making my life easier.

Within two days we had that page, their creds, and a further explainer (if we wanted to read it) of each part of the process. No free pens, branded moleskin notebooks, or other bollocks. This was all presented in a video (with screen sharing) from their director (my contact) and via their offices, to ease the process and introduce the document. A great balance of functionality, information, presentation and face-to-face efficiency. Yes, it was a formula, but it was a good formula.

We also had an offer of a presentation on the process, live, with our directors and stakeholders. This would be the first step for many into the branding and creative process, discussing the value (hidden and deliberate) of the process. We took them up on this and our directors got a lot from it and truly realised the value of branding above and beyond what I could explain to them from my passing knowledge.

Out of the twelve companies I met face-to-face, they were the only ones which gave me any form of confidence that they would go the extra mile to understand our business. No other agency I met even came close to this level of service and interest. To be honest, on the whole, I got a general impression that people weren't interested, and we just weren't stimulating or glamorous enough to be beneficial to their portfolio. They felt lazy and (one in particular) bored. They liked the sound of our turnover but, basically, didn't try to have a foot in our world. Again, I come back to looking for an agency who is going to make my job easier. An agency is not doing me a favour by letting me into their creative club - I need them to provide a service.

1) How does one achieve this? Firstly, employ a competent front person to lead sales and customer liaison. Have an individual who can have a foot in both worlds - in that of the client and that of their colleagues. Unless the client specifically wants to meet the team, they don't care - show us your developments and results. We're unlikely to actually care about your hipster culture (says the former agency proto-hipster). We will, however, probably want to meet your office dog if you have one.

2) Make things easy. Have a summary page with titles, descriptions and costs. Expand on this elsewhere, but keep it easy to digest - we're not stupid but we are short on time and have another six or eight of these pitches to go through.

3) Give the client clear steps. Think of the creative process like a flow chart with investigation, content, decisions and dependencies. Assume the client isn't an expert but has a broad knowledge. Use clear language and avoid using your own industry terms unless you explain these to the client in person (you can't rely on them reading a glossary). Surely there's an easier way to say "We build omnichannel marketing personalisation to foster brand trust" that doesn't make we want to set your offices on fire?

4)  Pricing is always important. I was quoted £750 a day for link building - for what is, essentially, unguaranteed and 'nebulous' results? No, no matter how good you might think you are. We have to justify and/or get clearance on our budgets. Keep it real. Equally, underpricing makes people sceptical that you have relevant contacts or experience. Be realistic.

5) Old colleagues. If you know you can trust people - maybe you've worked together previously in an agency or on a different contract - you ask them to pitch. It's not 'jobs-for-the-boys' (or girls) it's a case of familiarity, known compatible process and giving competent folks the opportunity to pitch. This is how we ended up working with our current SEO and PPC agency. They also explained their process and the theory of digital marketing to our directors and stakeholders, in person, at no charge to promote clarity and value. Stay in touch. Send Christmas cards. Offer to be of help. Be excellent to each other. If you're good I'll use you again and put a word in. LinkedIn recommendations all 'round. It makes my life easier.

It's pretty basic really... Be a benchmark for things to come. Make your future customers' lives easier. Be competitive. Don't treat them like an idiot but don't over complicate things.

If this is of use to anyone let me know. I'll add bits to the blog as I see them from client-side and try to keep this a bit more up-to-date. Considering what we've achieved in the last six months I can't really say it's been a relaxing experience, but it's not as 'all-hands-to-the-pumps' as my former ten years in agency.

Anyway, I'd rather be busy than bored.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Pastures New.

The time has come, the walrus said, for this jaded old adventurer to pack up his staff and head back north to find himself a single brand that needs his particular school of manipulation magic.

With the help of a LinkedIn job seekers account and the understanding of the good folks at Tank, I'm moving house and role some two hours up the A1 to the East Riding of Yorkshire. I'll be taking up a new position as Senior Marketing Manager for JD Garage Equipment, the UK's leading independent designer and supplier of workshop and engineering equipment. No more delicious coffee from Outpost Coffee Roasters (unless I buy it online), hipster vintage shops or sly breakfasts at Flavours in Hockley.

The last five years with Tank have been a pleasure and I'll miss the team dearly, but the future calls and I need to be closer to family. Tank has evolved to be a veritable PR and digital powerhouse and it's been a pleasure to watch the team grow around Trevor's vision. The Midlands has been very kind to me, but I miss my roots. My favourite brands have always been the B2B, tech, engineering, mechanical, AI, mining and automotive... so JDGE is a win from the beginning. A challenge keeps this old brain fresh and thinking, plus James and Nick Everard - the two brothers who own this multi-million-pound company - have offered me virtual autonomy with solid plans for video and outreach. Our clients range from BMW and Lambogini to Audi, Maserati, Porche, Jaguar Land Rover, Mercedes Benz and even high-end commercial repair and spray shops. More of an all-'round role, it'll be a joy to do more work behind-the-camera and get my hands dirty again.

I've found a converted barn in North Newbald, only 10 minutes from work, with its own water supply and a walled garden for the pooch - very handy in a zombie apocalypse. The electrics and plumbing are shocking, but I don't mind a project. To put North Newbald into context, it's home to the whipping post used in the last public flogging carried out in Britain and the phrase "He's a bit Newbold" is used locally to describe someone who, shall we say, 'thinks outside of the box.' The beast can come into the office (on a trial basis) and there's great walking along national trails and around the wind farms of Sober Hill.

I'll be carrying on this blog, potentially more frequently as there are fewer distractions out in the middle of the Yorkshire Wolds. Heck, I may even have a go at vlogging (if I can think of a suitable topic that wouldn't just work better as a podcast) now I've got a decent 4k phone.

I wish all the team at Tank, and my old friend Star Commander Palmer, the very best for the future. H, Lou, Claire, Dex, Molly, Eileen, Addie, Stoney, Michelle, J-Dogg, Ed, Dan, Fi and the rest, I can't recommend their diligence and professionalism and sheer team talent more highly. They are spacemen (and spaceladies) amongst monkeys. I achieved what I achieved at Tank by standing on the shoulders of giants.

Watch this space, and thanks to everyone who put the word out for me while I was looking.

I suppose I'll now be commenting from client side, rather than agency side? This could be fun...

Thursday, February 07, 2019

How do you go Incognito When Viewing LinkedIn Profiles?

Finally updated:

A colleague of mine at Tank was conducting some private research the other day, and asked me a question I had to think about: "How do you go incognito when looking at other peoples LinkedIn profiles?"

This is actually pretty simple, and I see it all the time in my 'Who's Viewed Your Profile' area. It's strange, but I think we all view the words "This member chose to be shown as anonymous" with a degree of suspicion and annoyance, but people do it for a variety of reasons. While it does niggle me that I pay to see who'd been looking at my profile and this is easily circumnavigated, I do see why some folks (especially recruiters and researchers working via their private profiles) might want the benefits of a little smoke and mirrors.

nothing to see here - just passing through

Anonymity isn't natural for social channels. Visibility and transparency drive ad revenue and promote engagement. As a consequence, the ability to do things like this are often hidden away and not as easy to find as we might like. As such, you'll not find this information easily unless you go looking for it:

Click the 'Me' icon (the little round picture) at the top right of your homepage then select 'Settings & Privacy' from the drop-down, to get to your settings page.

Under 'Privacy' tab there are a few interesting options worth exploring, but the one we're looking for in this instance (scroll down a bit) is under 'How others see your LinkedIn activity'. Click on the 'Change' prompt under the Profile viewing options.

Select what others see when you're viewing their profile'. You'll then get 3 options like below.

Pick an option - normal, enigmatic, or full-on spy - and it'll autosave.

Bear in mind, this is your settings from now on. If you want this to go back to how it was you'll need to reset this using the same process as last time. Remember, LinkedIn is about connections. Keeping your profile like this, long-term kinda defeats the object.


Here's a little extra something that came about after sharing this on Twitter, by Trever Faden.

Try InCognito. It's a nice bit of kit if you've a need for stuff like this.

PS: If you'd like to connect with me on LinkedIn, let's do it.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Is it Legal to use Movie GIFs in Social Media Posts?

I get asked this A LOT.

I love a good GIF - you only have to look at my Twitter - and I'd even say that using them to illustrate my posts and for commentary (with mostly pop-culture and film orientated clips) is a big part of my personal visual brand. Copyright and regional legislation is a confusing nightmare on GIF usage, so here's my 'official' (what I tell clients and panicky account managers) and 'all in one place' take on the matter.

Fair Usage

It all depends on how you define 'fair usage'. Put simply, this means that if the original content is used for a "transformative" and limited reason, like a parody, for commentary or criticism (again, see my Twitter) it's ok under US and UK law.

Transformative means that they are using the source work in a totally new or 'unexpected' way - like remixes by Pogo or CassetteBoy. This is because they don't undermine the market for the original work. Basically, people aren't going to watch a Mad Men or Parks and Rec. GIF instead of watching the original programme.

Fair use law creates an opening for copyrighted material to be remixed and repurposed, as long as the new use doesn't create any economic competition for the people or organisation that holds the actual copyright - yes, you can make money out of sound bites etc., within reason.

What are your intentions?

Where it gets tricky is the notion of 'intellectual property' and intent. If you own footage it's (obviously) cool to make GIFs out of it, but if you don't (like, say, making GIFs out of footage of sporting events and tweeting them out saying "Goal!") that's naughty. Why? Because the original content is made to show just that - goals - and pulling out the highlights devalues the original. During the Olympics, the International Olympic Committee had a zero tolerance, no-GIF policy, for this very reason. The owner of the footage would be perfectly within their rights to slap you with a cease and desist order and sue your plagiarist ass.

Another area is individual representation. By this, I mean that performers and celebs have the right to use local "right of publicity" laws that let public figures control how their image is used. This is usually applied to defamatory actions and mash-ups, however, rather than just clips - though how the clip is associated (for example, politically) could be a trigger for this. Don't take people out of context or repurpose them (too much).

On the whole, if you want to be sure, get written permission from the copyright holder and any actors, embed GIF content that's not our own (and let the site you link to take the heat - thanks Giphy) or make your own GIFs from our original content. Avoid sports, especially recent stuff. I'm an individual, not a brand, my personal accounts are totally a different matter and I'm comfy with that - do as I say (to be sure) not as I do. Use those that are inherent to platforms - use those provided IN Twitter, Facebook etc. then (while not ideal) it's down to the platform.

Clear as mud? In short, yes, you're probably ok. Legally it's a grey area, just don't use them in a defamatory way or for financial gain and don't take the piss. If you're a business/brand jump through some hoops.