Wednesday, 9 October 2013

“Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.”

That quote from Niels Bohr is so true.
And even though I don’t have big crystal balls.....steady!
I can’t read tarots.
And I’m not prone to visionary trances.
I'm going to have a go because I’ve seen the future.
Or at least glimpsed it, as I hide behind the sofa of my daily life. 
Guess what – it’s not all hover-boards and self-tying shoelaces, as much as my kids might wish it was.
The future is what we’ve got right now.
Just, well, better.

Take social media for example.
We get it, we use it, and, in most cases, we like it.
That doesn’t mean we always know exactly what to do with it.
Add social media to events, and you get a marriage made in heaven.
Think about it – amplifying and extending the reach of your content.
Letting your attendees forge their own connections.
Listening. Responding. Participating.

So for me part of defining the future, lies in observing how we’re evolving.
All that second screen business is now second nature to us.
The technologists might call it the ‘convergence of screen-based media’.
I call it ‘getting involved’.
Look at the biggest TV shows – X-Factor, Strictly, Big Brother. They invite participation.
And we’re no longer viewers; we’re directly involved in the outcome.
We can dig deeper, or wade in with our opinion.

More than anything, these shows are no longer just TV broadcasts.
They’re live events with an unrivalled reach.
Soon, corporate events will be using TV programmes, films and documentaries as viable sources of content.
And vice versa.
They’ll generate "long copy" content for consumers and trade content for live events.
Rather than buying in big names, the brands themselves with take on ‘small C’ celebrity status.
That’s how they’ll cut through the clutter and build deep engagement with both external and internal audiences.

It’s a long time since marketing was about awareness.
That’s why advertising continues its gradual decline, and social goes from strength to strength,
Our audiences are no longer consumers.
They’re colleagues, cohorts and co-conspirators.
The more they feel empowered, the more they’ll get involved.
They’re looking for entertainment and information.
More importantly, they want real, human connections.

The machines may be rising, but we’re still the ones in control.
And don’t ask me who’s going to win the next FA Cup.
I’m sworn to secrecy.

Friday, 19 April 2013

It’s all about the content, no it’s about the production.

I’m a big fan of what we do for a living - events, brand experiences, experience marketing. Whatever flavour of the business you are in, I’m sure you’ll agree it is fascinating.
But the part that’s really got me thinking at the moment is the constant lets call it ‘tension’, between the delivery arm of the industry and the content creation part.
Which is the most important?
Well one of the strengths of what we do is our ability to produce the media through which we work, it’s like being your own Rupert Murdoch, but without that troublesome Leveson business.
That ability to be on top of the production is vital. It keeps us connected to the audience, it allows us to bring in the latest technologies, it gives our clients editorial control on the day, plus there’s brand consistency, image and all those other great things.
Then there is the content creation, the heart of the experience.
We all know that content is king.
Not only is it the heart of the event, but it has a life before and after the event. It lives forever on-line, amplifying the message and extending the reach of the campaign.
That’s exciting; we are in an exciting industry that really produces results.
At the moment so far so good, you can be in one camp or the other and do a great job for your clients wherever you happen to pitch your tent.
But here’s the thing.
Recently three clients have asked me roughly the same question; “...if we were to allocate another sum of money to this activity we’re planning, where would you spend it?”
You may choose to advise your client to spend it on the production, improve the sound or the image or the lighting, but would the audience even notice the (marginal) difference?
You may tell them to spend it on improving the content of the event; video, speakers or even to capture the whole event again for dissemination, expansion and amplification.
But wouldn’t you (and they) like to know what was achieved through this event? Shouldn’t you measure some results? And I’m not talking about what the venue was like or the temperature of the coffee.
I’m talking about hard metrics, sales, contacts.
I was recently asked during my last er..."lecture tour" if the shrinking of the event industry over the last couple of years, especially with regards to events for the financial community, was down to perception, i.e. they had to cancel as it would look bad to run events in the current climate.
My answer was no, it was down to us as an industry not having a standard way of measuring results and effectiveness.
The advertising industry realised a long time ago that if you could measure effectiveness, there’d be no long term future for them.
If we can’t point to an event and with hard data prove that this event, drove sales, increased awareness, encouraged consideration and promoted trial, then we deserve to have our events cancelled.


Thursday, 18 April 2013

There is no I in Collaboration........d-uh

We are in the middle of a mahoosive names, yet!
And we have pulled a team together from all around the GPJ world to put it together; designers from UK, USA and Germany, ops guys from China, USA, Germany, and UK. Digital from China, Australia, UK, USA ... and a Frenchman.

All in all, there are 32 of us, working as one team.
And do you know what, it’s been amazing.
I have said in another post on this blog, the great thing about team work is complementary skills, so that whilst everyone is working to the same goal, we’re all doing something different. That’s how we arrive at a unique answer to the problem.
But through this experience, that effect is multiplied by 10 (for you pedants out there, that’s not an exact calculation).
Different cultures, different backgrounds, different experiences- they all go in the melting pot of coming up with an amazing solution to the client brief.
It’s really the only way to produce remarkable results.
And the kicker?
It all goes to the feed the thing we do on behalf of our clients; create live experiences.
Of course, we could have done this as a virtual team, but we would not have had the emotional connection that the live experience brings.
We are closer as a global agency for all have met (not just virtually).
We are closer for having shared a drink (please drink responsibly).
And we are all closer for having discussed (heatedly at times) issues and worked out solutions together. 
Because, ultimately, that’s how we get closer to winning.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Your Attitude Sucks !!!

In business today, we need to be aware of our reputation.
The mistaken posting of drunk photos to Facebook, that night in a club when you attempted the worm and collapsed in a heap on the floor that somebody chose to post to You Tube (George!), the indiscreet tweet, that badly written blog (steady), or even feedback from a meeting where you weren’t on top form.
We are all involved in the new reality of business. 
We’ve moved from a place where we used to follow the opinions of our  “betters;” those that society had deemed were our leaders.
Politicians, bankers, the police, certain high profile celebrities. The tide has turned.
Even as I write this, it’s becoming increasingly apparent how far we’ve come, moving from blind faith to constant questioning. 
Expenses rows, financial meltdowns, media inquires and you-know-who have all changed forever the way we view the world.
And this change is facilitated and accelerated by the increasing ability to build our own groups, both in business and socially.  
We’ve created our own communities and we believe and seek the opinions of the people we know.
It doesn’t matter if that’s a huge community like your Twitter followers, Facebook friends, the guys at work, or the members of your book club. 
You know them, they know you, and their opinion counts.
That’s why it’s horrible and damaging when that opinion turns against us. 
And once it’s out there, as the old saying goes, you can’t unring the bell.
Here’s a quick real life example. Some years ago, my sons who were both very young actors attended a workshop for Nanny McPhee (I said it was a while ago). They were in the final shake up for parts but for the first and last time they became involved in a pushing contest about which group they were to be in.
One son has left the business, but the other one is constantly reminded of that incident by the casting director, who he sees regularly eight years later.    
So unless you’re Oliver Reed (ask your granddad) or Paul Gascoigne (ask your dad) or Justin Bieber  (ask your daughter), you need to be managing your brand and ensure it lives up to the promise of you.

Monday, 17 December 2012

2012 A Year In Focus

A lip-smacking, thirst-quenching, ace-tasting, crowd-motivating, cool-buzzing, high-talking, fast-living, ever-giving, cool-fizzing… 2012
Wow, did you guys see that?
What a year, what a year.
It used to be said that if you could make it in New York, you’d make it anywhere. But with the greatest respect to Ol’ Blue Eyes, that’s simply not the case anymore.
If you’re in the events business and you had a part to play in anything during 2012 – and I’m talking the whole thing, not just the Olympics – then you have the expertise, knowledge and first-hand experience that most people can only dream of. Believe me when I say that people have built whole careers on much less. And I should know.
The triple whammy of the Queen’s Jubilee, the Olympics and the Paralympics, was the centrepiece of an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime year for us.
And yes, we have proved as a country and a city that we can handle a wide range of things. Huge crowds, multiple languages, complex logistics and huge (mah-hoo-sive, in fact) production delivery couldn’t faze us. More importantly, we showed the world we could do it with a smile on our faces. They don’t call it the ‘feel-good factor’ for nothing.
Of course, it should come as no surprise to learn that GPJ was front and centre, in amongst all the summer excitement, as we delivered one of the biggest one–off programmes in our near-hundred year history.
But for me, as full-time cheerleader for George P. Johnson and part-time cheerleader for the whole industry, 2012 was about so much more than that.
Sure, as a group we stepped up and achieved things together that have helped to move our industry forward. More importantly, I believe we’ve finally begun to harness the true power of live events.
Brand experiences or experiential communications. To be honest, I don’t really mind what you call the part of the industry you work in. Because, wherever you are, you got to see the greatest show on Earth roll into town, and some of the world’s biggest brands activate around it.
And what was their activation of choice? What did the shrewdest brands and businesses invest their hard earned money in?
They went live. They came out from behind their desks. They left their business suit hanging in the executive changing room, and emerged from their corporate cocoons in order to connect with consumers. They hung out together, and delivered genuine engagement through a variety of live experiences.
In entertainment.
In conferences.
But importantly, in person.
There is nothing like the power of a live event, big or small. That’s where the magic happens. And it’s magic that can inspire audiences to action, as well as driving business. Now, thanks to 2012, the whole world knows it.
So let me put a cap on 2012 by wishing you all the best for the festive season. 
Time to start dreaming about what we can accomplish live in 2013.
Also at and follow on Twitter  @gpj_emea

Thursday, 1 November 2012

To CV Or Not To CV

I’m not one of those guys that bemoans the youth of today. The fact that I’m responsible for three of them would make me something of a hypocrite.
Even so, I recognise that the bravado of youth, combined with a glaring lack of experiences can make for a daunting combination.
Today’s blog is aimed at those youngsters (or young-at-heartsters) who are thinking of making their first steps out into a wider world by sending out a CV and seeing what comes back.
I’ll save you the effort: it won’t bring back anything but rejection.
If you don’t mind, and it doesn't seem too presumptuous, could I offer a little advice on how to improve your job opportunities?
For now, I’m going to talk about the CV thing. We can cover off LinkedIn and all things social very soon.
Let’s start by understanding one simple thing:

One Simple Thing!
 Every company is looking for people that are going to make a difference, and who really want to work for the company

Sending off the same CV and cut-and-pasted e-mail to everyone does not tell them that you’re that special someone.
How many CVs are you sending at a time?
10? 20?
 As the numbers go up, the chances of getting anything back goes down.
To be blunt, you’re just going through the motions of getting a job. What you’re doing is just plain lazy. If you really cared, you’d make an effort. You do a little wooing (ask your parents about that one).
You need to grab the attention of people like me, who are receiving 20 CVs a week. You see, I can get lazy too, so if someone doesn’t grab me by the lapels, I’m likely to file your CV in the ‘ignored folder’. It’s round, and sits just under my desk.

So let’s stop, collaborate and listen. Sorry to all the Vanilla Ice fans.....both of you.

First lesson in standing out

Before you fire off your standard CV, with a standard e-mail, please go the company's website and understand what each company's positioning is, what they stand for, and what makes them different. Then revise your CV and accompanying e-mail to highlight how you can add value to their clients and their offer. Simple, and obvious. So why don’t more people do it?

Second lesson in standing out
It’s all about the money, money, money. Again, sorry all you Jessie J fans.  
You’re talking to a business and, for them, results are key. Understanding how your contribution will impact those results, is a great way to get noticed. So key highlights are vital, for example you could show the average budget for the events you ran, savings you made, efficiencies you created, sales you generated.

Third lesson in standing out
Don’t do what everyone else does.
"Hard working, enthusiastic, energetic, motivated, self-starter” are words that everyone who sends in a CV uses.
They may be worth a high score in Scrabble, but they won’t help you to stand out. 
What about including quotes from previous employers and clients? We’re much more likely to believe it if you’re not talking about yourself.

Fourth lesson in standing out
Have an opinion.
What have you seen that “my” company has done, what have you seen that “I’ve” done, what did you think?

You are firing off these CV to busy people, recognise that, and try and take all of the work out of the next step.
“I see you are speak at the xyz conference, I’m going to be there - perhaps we could grab a coffee.”
“I met xyz and zyx from your company the other day, and they suggested I drop in when I’m in the area.”

In summary…
If you’re firing off a general CV to people you don’t know or have no interest in, they’ll soon pick that up.
Put some effort in, and enjoy the rewards.

Friday, 26 October 2012

It’s the Awards Season

As I dust off my dinner suit for another outing it got me thinking about Awards in general. They say it’s an honour just to be nominated, although, that’s usually said through clenched teeth.

So what’s the point of submitting your work for awards? All that hard work completing the entries, not to mention the expense. Well, for me, there are a number of important elements. Awards allow us to publicly recognise our clients and colleagues for their great work. They give us a chance to celebrate the things we do well, and acknowledge those magic moments when it all comes together. But more importantly, the submissions process itself is a great opportunity for us to brush up on our storytelling skills.

In the end, it all comes down to what we say and how we say it. Awards enable us to bring out the anecdotes and the inside scoop. They force us to be compelling because we want to win.

And remember, there’s no such thing as a loser, when it comes to awards. You might not go home with the trophy, but if you play it right, you could still walk away with a contacts book full of new names and number. People who’ve seen your work and want to know more.

Now, there’s another side to awards that not everyone gets to experience. And it’s just as valuable. I’m talking about being asked to judge them.

I’ve done it many times, and it’s always an honour. I’ve spent many happy weeks sitting on all manner of judging panels for a wide variety of industry awards. The only downside, is that every time I’m asked, I seem to forget how much hard work is involved. Trust me, those guys on the X-factor don’t know the half of it.

Judging other people’s work is a tough job. I guess all those years on the other side of the process have given me an appreciation for where the entries are coming from.
I’ve slaved over those entry forms. I’ve gathered the data. And I’ve written the summaries. So I feel an obligation to every entrant to afford them the time they clearly deserve. And when the standard is so very high (and it really is) judging becomes even more difficult.

So, in the interest of full disclosure, here are some top tips for standing out when submitting work for consideration. This is advise from both sides of the table:
Read the criteria carefully, to be excluded on a technicality (and you will be) is annoying
You need to stand out, be memorable.
Tell a story, but make it short, because wading through an ocean of text is hard.
Make the key take-outs immediately obvious.
Don’t underestimate the value of a great client endorsement.
Think about what is background information, and what was key to your success.
Videos and images all help tell your story.
Results, results, results – the bigger the better.
And don’t be put off by the fact that there’s a form to fill in. There are ways around that. Some of the best submissions I’ve ever seen have simply attached an appendix, full of the stories they didn’t get to tell in the formal document.

And finally…
Sorry to be that guy, but check your spelling, punctuation and grammar.
Individually, it’s not vital, but when reading entry after entry it can become wearying.
So good luck.
Be brilliant.
And remember my shout-out in your acceptance speech – somewhere between God and your drama teacher, ideally.