What happened in 2018

With less than 12 hours to go until the New Year, it seems like this should be the time for a bit of reflection and round-up on the last 12 months.

For the first time in a while, I’ve actually not just word-splurged this post. Or rather, I did, and after the last fifteen minutes of writing I paused to take stock, and deleted the whole thing – it was a good reminder that quantity does not equal quality, and I’ve already done a post detailing some of my achievements this year. I alluded in that post to career changes and I think now I can talk a little bit more about that. In two weeks time, I will be leaving my role marketing concerts for the Hallé Orchestra, and I will be taking up a new marketing role for the National Trust. This is a hugely exciting challenge, and also only a 12 month contract at present. Although the stability of permanent positions has always seemed preferable (and I’m grateful to have had one), it’s also nice to have the element of being a free agent.

I’m broadly happy with the work I did on this blog this year, though I’ll admit that it wasn’t a priority for much of the time. I got through one big Future Learn course – The Museum as a Site and Source for Learning, and I’ve never been more glad that I blogged my notes as I suspect they are going to be very useful very shortly. I’m also particularly proud of the two conferences that I liveblogged, (Arts Marketing Association Conference and Tessitura Europe).

I didn’t make a huge effort with my personal social media as I’ve tried to do in the past, posting curated links and news, or good instagram photos etc., and honestly I don’t think my online presence suffered for it – quality (relatively!) not quantity again perhaps? I would like to do more YouTube videos next year and to that end I’ve finally moved over to a new phone which a hopefully decent battery life. I’m debating buying a new, small camera for videos, but equally I’m aware that I haven’t used my DSLR much lately and it deserves an airing.

Other than that, what is there to cover? Well, I’m definitely finishing 2018 in a better place than I started it, and that’s something to be really proud of. I don’t have any grand resolutions for next year right now, nothing I absolutely must do by December next year, but it would be great if I could say the same thing again on 31 December 2019. We’ll see.

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Personalised Ads aren’t actually Complicated

So, after spending a Boxing Day doing things that are very traditional for Boxing Day and mostly involve getting cold and wet along with a large group of other people (followed by lots of food) I’ve decided to put together a quick post on a feature of digital marketing that doesn’t often get talked about.

Recently whilst browsing Twitter, I spotted some comments that stuck in my mind (though frustratingly not well enough for me to remember who said them and exactly when/where I saw them) and the basic gist was this – people are very worried about the amount of data that advertisers have on them, and how they are able to turn this into ads that exactly appeal to their needs. The concept of ads that push some kind of specific psychological buttons is pretty deep-seated in the public consciousness now – as the script for the already infamous Brexit trailer shows.

To tell you the truth, as someone working in marketing this worried me a little too at times, because it made me feel like I was floundering in the dark when it came to audience segmentation. I would read articles like this one and think, ‘yes, but I already segment the audience based on location, age, gender, interests, job type etc. etc. etc. – what else am I missing?’ Which is where the next part of that original Twitter comment came in – which was about how many people see an ad, and actually care about it.

Digital advertising, just like newspaper ads and leaflets and massive roadside billboards and stickers on lampposts and just about every other form of advertising that exists, only ever gets the attention (and subsequent sales/sign ups, whatever is being pushed) of a tiny fraction of the people who see it.

A 1% return on leaflets would be considered pretty good (and this is pretty hard to track, even with promo codes or surveys. Clickthrough rates on digital ads isn’t much higher – 3-4% would be good – imagine your ad is seen by 50,000 people. That means 1500 actually clicked through and looked at your website, and hopefully from there actually decided to buy something, or at least signed up on your mailing list so you can send them tempting offers in the future. Maybe a 10th of those 1500 looked through your collection of, let’s say, personalised ethically sourced jewellery and because a few of them bought quite a bit you’ve got an average spend of £20, you have £3000 worth of sales. If your ad cost you around £400, you’ve got a pretty good return on investment there for not a lot of work.

However, that also means 48,500 saw your ad on their screen, scrolled past it, and then probably forgot all about it, just as they probably couldn’t tell you what ads they saw on the front page of the Metro on the train last week. So, exactly how personalised are these ads?

So, you get political ads on Facebook and (unless you have clearly expressed support for a particular political party) if you’re a young person they’re probably left-wing ads and if you’re older they’re probably right-wing, because that’s simply the general trend. But if you got a timeline advert from the Labour party and you’re not at all interested in voting Labour, you’ll probably ignore it. It becomes part of the background noise of social media and/or the internet in general, just vague words and pictures in between more interesting content.

This means that really, marketeers, strategists and consultants don’t know anywhere near as much about you as you might think, but they’ve got enough data to make educated and profitable guesses (and I’m sure they’d like to think that they’ve got more then that, so that companies will employ them on large salaries to tell them how to make more money). In the end, marketing has got slightly more directed and personalised in recent years, but only slightly, and based on the exact same methods and data that marketing has always used. It’s only the medium that is truly different.

Reading for Sunday 16 December 2019 – Management and Self-help

So, to follow straight on from my last post where I mentioned that I’d be studying various  books on marketing, management and strategy to prepare myself for something more formal in 2019, here are my first few written up notes from these books.

Firstly, a confession. I started ‘Strategic Management for Non-Profit Organisations’ before I even got around to putting up that post (I wrote it on Saturday 15 December, and posted it this afternoon, Sunday 16 December) and ended up abandoning it within the first chapter. It is actually quite an old work, and marketing has definitely moved on a lot – the first chapter is basically desperately trying to persuade you that marketing for charities is real marketing too – as that is my current job, I really don’t need to be persuaded. My sister has kindly offered to lend me some of her business studies textbooks over Christmas, so one of those might be a good replacement.

So, leaving the Project Risk Analysis book to one side for the moment, as it is quite specialised and something I would like to talk through with my father, since it’s actually his area of expertise, I’m reading through “The Wizard Book of Management‘ instead.

A lot of the early part of this book is about dealing with work colleagues and particularly about asserting yourself at work in a balanced way, as well as the importance of managing others positively. Really, this is less of a strategy book and more of a self-help book, so rather than taking notes and popping them up here publicly, I’m just going through and quietly thinking about my work, and how to incorporate some of these ideas!

Things to work on in 2019

So, in the last week I took a really, really big step in life that I’ll talk about publicly here in January, and what that step means is that I no longer feel like I’m living in limbo, which has slightly been the case for the past few months. So, with some free evenings over the Christmas period, I’m doing some reading up for 2019 plans.

Firstly, I’ve gone back to a website I used to rely on for tips – Social Media Today. The first post I read on there, about visual ideas for 2019, gave me some really interesting ideas. Companies and organisations that I’ve worked with in the past always want to be bigger – bigger social media numbers all round, often setting KPIs based solely on that, but this suggests it’s really about keeping a niche group of people, which is a much more realistic way of looking at marketing and comms, especially with a limited team, budget and resources.

Elsewhere, I wrote in my last blog post that I’m looking into doing a Project Management course, but first, some studying in order. Expect notes from these and more soon.

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Plus, I‘m setting myself a task to read from the Association for Project Management website – it seems like they have a set of really useful videos, which I always find to be a great way to learn.

It’s December – somehow…

So, we’re into the darkest part of the year, which means that I’m spending more time sat inside and less time out and about, so until it gets a little warmer I’m determined to spend a bit more time writing for this blog, even if it’s not anything deep or exciting. So we’ll start with as much of a life update and reflection on the year as I can put on here.

Most excitingly, I bought an apartment of my own this year. I realised back in January that this was something I could afford to do, but unlike renting actually buying property is a complicated business. Several offers fell through, several estate agents messed up and some places turned out to be extremely not as advertised… and once I had an offer accepted it was a further five long confusing months before I had the keys to the place. It has been a huge step in life, and one that I know I’m very privileged to have been able to make in the current economy while still in my twenties.

To be honest, other things I’ve done pale a bit in comparison to that, though I’ve made some exciting career steps and been to some important networking events. I haven’t made as much time this year for personal study, though I’m keeping up with French lessons on Duolingo, and got to do a great Futurelearn course on museums that I’m hoping will stand me in good stead to things to come. I’m planning to change that next year, and look at some more formal courses including possibly a PRINCE2 course in Project Management.

Elsewhere, I’m going to put aside some time in 2019 to do more videos for Manchester Canoe Club and for myself, which will also mean more travelling, and more effort to document those travels either through video, photography or the written word. In recent years I’ve shied away a little from putting too much of my life out online, but I can’t deny that it gives me a lot of opportunities to do creative work. Even little edits like this skiing video (which came out in July…) are a source of enjoyment, and since I’m not in any way interested in viewer numbers, I know I’m putting them up for myself plus family and friends, rather than some kind of Internet Points.

Sorry, that went rather off-topic! I’ll think we’ll leave it here for today, and see where we’re at next week.