Emma Sinden

Emma works with Zoe to set strategy and direction for Bright Innovation while heading up all things creative. She was drawn to Bright Innovation by a shared love of food, tech and working with the best. With almost 15 years experience working in communications for tech brands big and small she sometimes feels like the oldest person in Shoreditch. Besides food, she loves wine, horse riding, gardening and running – in that order.

Taking time for inspiration…

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One of the hardest things about running a business is finding the time to explore. When you think about taking some time out to just listen or read you have to battle the little voice in your head that tells you that you should be doing something ‘more productive’. There is new business to be secured, finances to angst over and a million other operational things that you can’t help but feel you ought to be doing. The thing is if you are not occasionally taking the time out to discover new things then you are depriving the business of the very things that will ensure your customers keep coming back for more.

Last Friday I took a day out to attend the inaugural ‘Confluence.’ This was an event that was all about stories and the many and varied ways in which they can be told. At the heart of it, the marketing and communications business is all about stories. Whether it’s building compelling narratives that will attract and retain customers or engaging employees to make sure they come with you on your transformation journey, everything is built around stories and our ability to tell them.

There were some exceptional speakers but my three favourites (in no particular order) were Candide Kirk, Founder and Head of Product Design at Novellic, Director, and writer Nosa Eke and Adipat Virdi, Digital Strategist and interactive storyteller. From Candide, I learnt a huge amount about increasing discoverability; Nosa was all about the power of a multi-platform approach while Adipat was inspirational around the power of storytelling to do good.

So in the name of paying things forward, here are the five most useful things I learnt from my Friday at the almost too funky Google HQ in Victoria:

1.

Sometimes what you don’t like is more important than what you like: Apparently, Tinder takes more from your swipes to the left than it does from your swipes to the right and uses what you dismiss to build a picture of what you might like. This approach is being adopted more and more because…

2.

Your statements about what you like are often different from reality. This is why smart platforms online are far more interested in your actions rather than your words. Candide used the example of Novellic where she compared the types of books that people chose when asked to select their ‘type’ and compared it to what they actually searched for. Apparently, a lot of people who claim to be into 20th Century literary classics and really into whodunnits and trashy romance…

3.

People will generally pay what something is worth. There was an interesting talk by Katie Vanneck Smith and Dominic Young about different approaches to selling content on the web. Traditional subscription models essentially mean you are paying for a whole pie when you might only want a slice. Micropayments allow you to pay for the slice while a more traditional membership approach brings the added benefit of bringing you into a like-minded community

4.

What you see depends on who you are – even if you are looking at the same thing. I was surprised to learn that Netflix will show you a different image to promote a programme or film depending on your profile. If you took the movie Titanic for example; if your profile suggests you like action adventure you might see an image of the ship sinking but if romance is more your thing then its Jack and Rose all the way. This might not surprise some people but to me, it was a reminder of just how clever and sophisticated these platforms have become

5.

Completeness is often the key to discoverability. It is very tempting when you are completing the profile forms to set up on a platform just to focus on the compulsory stuff and ignore the optional. This is a mistake apparently. The more a platform knows about you the greater the value you hold. Also, platforms value different pieces of information differently so you need to maximise your chances of giving it the bit of information that it cares about.

Emma SindenTaking time for inspiration…
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Communicating in Times of Uncertainty

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Success comes not from certainty but being able to live with uncertainty.

Jeffrey Fry, Author

Life is rarely certain but at the same time for many of us, life has never been quite as uncertain as it is right now. We live in an era in which many of the accepted political norms have been turned on their heads and the pace with which technology is progressing means most of us are still catching up with what we can do today, let alone thinking about the possibilities that tomorrow might bring.

For those of us working in the internal communications sector deciding what, when and how to communicate in this age of uncertainty is difficult. On the one hand we feel some responsibility to reassure and to try to help bring some stability. On the other hand, we are uncertain ourselves, as are the leadership within the organisations we work for, so the reality is, right now we may find we have little we can communicate about with any great certainty.

The question arises because as any good internal comms practitioner knows – the role of internal communications is not just relaying information from one part of the business to the other. Good internal comms is about creating buy-in and confidence in the organisation, its goals and its leadership. It plays a crucial role in driving and embedding change, creating a satisfied, loyal and productive workforce and resolving conflict. It also provides a very useful tool in countering the types of threat that uncertainty brings.

For many organisations right now the thing that is causing the most uncertainty and anxiety is of course Brexit. With less than 6 months to go and still no clear idea of what the post Brexit world will look like, there is a real sense of unease especially for those working for UK based organisations. There is a sense of a communal holding of breath as we all await the outcome of the negotiations. For workers from the EU there is of course the uncertainty around their ability to remain here and anecdotal evidence indicates many are considering their options. The uncertainty is not just restricted to those from the EU however. We are all constantly bombarded with warnings about the consequences of the wrong deal or no deal. Car manufacturers shutting up shop, banks moving to the continent, house prices plummeting, food shortages, huge lines at customs etc. etc.

The tendency is to feel that if you don’t have anything definite to communicate then you shouldn’t communicate at all. In fact, this is probably the worst thing you can do. Silence creates even greater uncertainly and enables gossip and rumour to fill the vacuum.

So, what should your communications strategy be? There is no single answer to this as the situation for each organisation will be unique however here are a few tips to help your thinking:

Want to hear how LCY and ECS Digital are managing their internal communications? Bright is hosting an event on 30th October entitled “Bringing employees on your digital transformation journey” and featuring first-hand insight from Information Age Business Leader of the Year, Alison Fitzgerald. If you are interested in attending please contact sophie.grufferty@brightinnovation.co.uk.

Emma SindenCommunicating in Times of Uncertainty
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Website redesign using Minimum Viable Marketing™

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Bright Innovation is built around something we call Minimum Viable Marketing™ (MVM) – a new way of marketing developed by our founder Zoe Merchant and inspired by the Lead and Agile project management methodologies so popular in the tech world.

The concept of Minimum Viable Marketing™

MVM isn’t just a principle we apply to our clients, its something we use internally too and I’m going to talk about how we applied this methodology in the redesign of our own website and some of the key lessons that we took out of the experience.

At the heart of MVM is the belief that campaigns and marketing activities should be rolled out to a live audience as part of their development.

The feedback and results collected are then vital inputs which are applied to optimise it and the cycle then begins again. The idea is that now only do you get faster but you also have campaigns that are actually built on the way your target audience responds rather than theory or guesswork. 

A fast and effective website redesign

Well, you’re seeing the results of MVM in action on this page! The Bright Innovation website, as you might have noticed, has recently undergone a complete redesign. The key point, however, is that what you’re seeing now is not the final version; come back in a week’s time and you might experience a slightly different website.

That’s because like all MVM activities and collateral, the website is constantly evolving. The evolution is driven by tests, feedback and performance analysis. The backlog of issues, opinions and comments, which we created during the testing stage before go-live is as important now as it was three weeks ago. Testing is vital in MVM. It’s testing that allows you to make each consequent iteration better.

Additionally, because we only invested one month of our time in getting the (minimum viable) site ready (from concept to going live) we now have spare time and budget to keep improving the website. And, importantly, we can base our improvement decisions on data coming in from real leads.

So how do you go about redesigning your website in the Minimum Viable Marketing™ fashion?

A few practical tips

  • You could spend months or even years re-designing your website and never being happy enough to make it live. That’s not an option in MVM. Give yourself a very ambitious, almost unobtainable, time frame and stick to it. This will force you to actually face making decisions rather than hiding from them by ‘exploring other options’ constantly.
  • In relation to the point above, don’t boil the ocean – your website doesn’t need every conceivable thing you can think of. Think rather – ‘what are the must haves’? These will be both your goal and your starting point.
  • As with any project, a website redesign is likely to have multiple stakeholders and mobilising them can be tricky. To help yourself out schedule in regular meetings with the ‘high power, high interest’ key players and make sure that during each meeting you have something new to report on or discuss.
  • First impressions count. Sure, the point of MVM is to get something up-and-running quick, but you still need to pay attention to detail. Spelling mistakes, missing content, placeholder text – all of these are easy to miss when you’re pushed for time but it’s these small details that make your site look like work in progress rather than a finished product undergoing evolution (two very different concepts). Balancing the speed of testing and learning with high quality output is the key to a successful MVM project.
  • To help with the above point it’s worth considering a fairly extended period of internal testing during which those little mistakes and niggles can be spotted and taken care of. However, for the testing to really be useful you need to have a backlog – a spreadsheet, word document or post it notes in your office – whichever way will make it easier to get and document feedback from your testers. Documenting the comments, issues and changes made, together with date and priority allows you to keep track of the testing phase progress. Once the website is live and you start making new iterations checking the backlog will also help you to avoid previous mistakes.
  • If you’re working with web developers make sure you know how to use the back-end to make edits once your test results start coming in.

Using data to improve your website

  • You could spend months or even years re-designing your website and never being happy enough to make it live. That’s not an option in MVM. Give yourself a very ambitious, almost unobtainable, time frame and stick to it. This will force you to actually face making decisions rather than hiding from them by ‘exploring other options’ constantly.
  • In relation to the point above, don’t boil the ocean – your website doesn’t need every conceivable thing you can think of. Think rather – ‘what are the must haves’? These will be both your goal and your starting point.
  • As with any project, a website redesign is likely to have multiple stakeholders and mobilising them can be tricky. To help yourself out schedule in regular meetings with the ‘high power, high interest’ key players and make sure that during each meeting you have something new to report on or discuss.
  • First impressions count. Sure, the point of MVM is to get something up-and-running quick, but you still need to pay attention to detail. Spelling mistakes, missing content, placeholder text – all of these are easy to miss when you’re pushed for time but it’s these small details that make your site look like work in progress rather than a finished product undergoing evolution (two very different concepts). Balancing the speed of testing and learning with high quality output is the key to a successful MVM project.
  • To help with the above point it’s worth considering a fairly extended period of internal testing during which those little mistakes and niggles can be spotted and taken care of. However, for the testing to really be useful you need to have a backlog – a spreadsheet, word document or post it notes in your office – whichever way will make it easier to get and document feedback from your testers. Documenting the comments, issues and changes made, together with date and priority allows you to keep track of the testing phase progress. Once the website is live and you start making new iterations checking the backlog will also help you to avoid previous mistakes.
  • If you’re working with web developers make sure you know how to use the back-end to make edits once your test results start coming in.
Emma SindenWebsite redesign using Minimum Viable Marketing™
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The Three Pillars of Marketing

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My nine year-old daughter asks me on a fairly regular basis what it is that ‘mummy does’. I don’t think I have ever come up with a satisfactory answer (evidenced by the fact that she keeps asking!). She is too old and too smart for me to get away with trying to simplify it too much but at the same time ‘marketing’ means nothing whatsoever to her. It got me thinking about whether it was possible to boil what we do at Bright Innovation into a few words that she would understand and eventually I came up with this:

We help organisations find people who want to buy from them, work for them or get to know them.

What is it that we do

Trying to work how you might explain what your organisation does to an eight year old is actually a very worthwhile exercise. At Bright Innovation we are all about speed and simplicity so finding a fast, simple way of explaining what we do is an important part of our own marketing.

It also served another, equally useful, purpose however in that it got me thinking about what it is that organisations want from marketing today and what it is that we do that makes our services valuable.

The three pillars of marketing

For the modern high growth organisation there are three key pillars of marketing that rely on each other, work together and combine to create an effective marketing strategy – demand generation, talent acquisition/retention and brand building.

Demand

The first element of the modern B2B marketing mix is demand. Generating demand for a company’s products and services is what most people think of if you ask them to define what marketing is.

It sounds simple and in some regards it is – find people that want to buy what we sell and convince them to buy it from us. Of course it isn’t that simple, especially not for intangible, complex and expensive products or services.

As well as finding people who might want to buy now you also have to find people who might want to buy later. And even people who don’t know that they want to buy anything at all but who may decide that they do after they have seen what you sell and how it fixes a problem they are experiencing.

A short-term approach to creating demand creates significant problems. A pipeline that is either too full or too empty; a focus on the tactical rather than the strategic and the problems associated with having to start from scratch every time the pipeline empties.

Generating demand requires consistency and a longer-term view that ensures that you are finding, developing and nurturing a community of interesting people who will drop into your pipeline over time.

It requires the ability to know not only who these people are but what they like and how best to reach them – and a constant stream of activity focused on identifying new people to add to this community.

Talent

The second element of a successful marketing strategy is talent. In the technology industry where we operate, finding good talent is a big problem for many companies.

Talent and demand have a symbiotic relationship. Success in one area will usually mean that focus switches to the other. Companies are constantly trying to balance work and resourcing the right people to ensure they have just the right amount of both.

The problems are being exacerbated by the fact that the old methods of finding and keeping good people no longer work as effectively. Again this is a particular issue in the tech sector where much of the talent is part of a generation who operate almost entirely digitally.

They don’t engage with the media in the same way that they used to; the traditional recruitment consultancies don’t understand their skillsets so they can’t find or place them effectively (and most businesses want to avoid agency fees anyway if they can help it).

Organisations therefore have to look at new ways to find and connect with prospective employees and to build a community that they can draw from when they need to.

Brand and position

The word brand means different things to different people. Broadly speaking brand marketing is the activity that you do to build profile and positioning in the market.

Brand work is often the hardest to quantify and notoriously difficult to set effective metrics around but it is an essential part of the marketing programme. Brand sets expectation. Expectation around service, products and ethos. Companies like AppleVirgin and John Lewis are examples of companies that know brand and market position is king.

The hard thing about brand marketing is working out what is valuable and what isn’t. Marketing consultancies have made millions out of confusion on this and the belief (erroneous belief) that there is no point trying to measure success.

So what is good brand marketing? It is different things to different people but fundamentally it is the communication of who you are not what you sell. More often than not the reason for failure is that companies don’t know who they are or are trying to be something they are not.

At Bright Innovation we believe that these three pillars should be the foundation of every marketing plan. You can dial each one up or down but the reality is that you have to ensure that they are harmoniously working together.

If you ignore talent to focus on demand, you may win business but how will you retain it? If you focus on demand and ignore brand then you will find it far harder to drive sales because there will be no existing relationship between your company and your target audience. For any one element to be successful it cannot happen in isolation.

We have a motto at Bright Innovation: Demand, Talent, Brand and Growth. If you get the first three right then the fourth follows.

Emma SindenThe Three Pillars of Marketing
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