The posts below are musings on a range of things related to a huge range of subjects some touching on the digital, some relating to professional life and some about what is happening in our world.
IMAGE CREDIT: Greg Rakozy on Unsplash
Empowering people through imagery and messaging
| June 9, 2020
Last month I wrote about how those in the creative industry need to be actively challenging the ways in which they are representing people in imagery and in campaigns. Here’s a great article that talks about how media and creatives portray Black people by Isis Dallis.
“These images and messages have tremendous power. They have the power to influence the thoughts, feelings, and behaviours of our collective society today and for generations to come. They have the power to make people see and recognize the humanity in others, or the power to objectify and dehumanize others. They have the power to make people feel fearful of others, or the power to make them feel safe.
They have the power to make people feel beautiful or ugly, seen or unseen, accepted or ostracized, revered or reviled. They have the power to celebrate our vulnerabilities, flaws, and imperfections, or to lull us into the false comfort and unattainable pursuit of perfectly curated, beautifully crafted lives and feeds. Most importantly, the words and images we create and choose to circulate create powerful mental associations that define how we perceive each other and the world around us.”
Black Lives Have Always Mattered
| June 7, 2020
Many of us have been deeply upset and angered by the events that have been taking place in North American for decades (actually more like centuries) in relation to the racist crimes visited upon the black and brown people of North America. And of course the UK is not free from criticism in this area.
This moment, with the casual racist murder of George Floyd by a police officer seems to be significant because for the first time in a long time that message of outrage at the injustice is being listened to and stood behind by by non-black and brown people of the world.
A key part of what I am working towards at DigitalEnablr is to address this imbalance of messaging. Too frequently and in a way that has become the norm in the West, images, stories and the people enabled to tell stories are far from being representative of the world’s population and seldom offer a chance to offer up a different point of view aside from that of the white west despite plenty of people fighting to be heard.
Recently I read a brilliant article penned by Isis Dallis, President of Bukwild which pulls together key and brilliant points as to why this shift in representation is key to the necessary changes.
“Much has been written about media portrayals and the impact they have on public attitudes toward people of color, about the history of racial stereotypes and how these stereotypes were deliberately crafted and strategically used to reinforce white supremacy either by excluding or minimizing the contributions of people of color or by depicting them as violent, dangerous, simpleminded, greedy, untrustworthy, or lazy.
This collection of dehumanizing and objectifying stereotypes, and those that have followed, have dominated the mainstream cultural record of the lives and character of Black people for centuries. There is a long, painful account of the evil deeds and destruction that can be done to Black bodies with impunity when not seen as fully human.”
Dallis also goes on to give a list of really practical tips on how the creative community, content producers, and leaders of agencies can take real steps to be the change that needs to be seen.
Another article that caught my eye was one by Alissa V. Richardson on the website Talk Death which unpacks what the sharing of these images of the deaths of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery means in the context of the history of images of the mistreatment and murder of black men and women. The article puts into sharp focus how smartphone in their ability to capture life have brought new power to these images, and also how through the use of social media platforms the ways in which these images are now shared needs some thought and reflection.
I fully recommend both of these articles and hope that going forward we all take full responsibility for the ways that we tell stories, the way we empathise with our fellow human beings and the way we help improve the social injustices that we are all responsible for either ignoring or calling out.
Do Brands Solidarity go further than their messaging?
| June 1, 2020
A great article on how brands are responding to the injustices witnessed in North America with the murder of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and the footage shot by Chris Cooper.
These are by no means new events, which in itself is horrific but for those consumers who look to brands to discover which values they share then seeing whether a brand chooses to use this as a moment to speak up or as a moment to be silent is a reality.
And speaking up alone is not enough.
Now is an opportunity for brands to act rather than simply using the hashtags and messaging of the moment because many of us find it hard to accept this repeating cycle of injustice and brands and employers have the power to end it.
Brands can act not only by actively funding the fights for racial justice but also by embodying an anti-racist approach actively through the diversity or their teams and by training around unconscious biases. If diversity and inclusion is something your brand claims as important, then this is a discussion you should be having both with your customers and with your teams.
The Future of Work
| May 30, 2020
A great infographic for future working, no doubt many of these have long been in many of our work lives for a while now. Create your own ladder, shares information, can become a leader, focus on adaptive learning and on output and collaborative tech all have been very present in approach but it’s really important for employers to look at how they enable all of these for their teams going forward. Great to see it being shared again.
How’s Your High Street?
| May 29, 2020
I loved Mary Portas’s comments in her recent email The Reset where she talked about how the current crisis will have lasting impacts on high streets that were already limping along.
“…the challenge is, your store has limited opening hours, only x number of people can enter at a time, there’s a regular cleaning regime, smaller teams, changing rooms are closed, staff are in face masks. What are your opportunities to provide an atmosphere, a personality, a connection? What if we look beyond ‘retail’ to Disney, for inspiration on how to entertain people while they wait in line? I’m not suggesting your store manager dons a Pluto costume (though it may provide effective social distancing) but Disney is a master at providing distractions. Critically, it considers its queues ‘previews’ of the main attraction, so the transition becomes an enjoyable bridge between reality and fantasy.”
Cue creatives gifted in transforming worlds and transporting audiences to different realities such as the masterful Theatre Set and Costume Design Professional Philip Witcomb who regularly creates new realities and brings dynamic visions to life. Retail in trouble? Why aren’t they turning to the theatre sector to solve a huge challenge and unlock the power of exciting creatives? #theatre #retail #creative
Naming your brand
| May 28, 2020
Recently I’ve been making time to read a great range of books and articles. From surveillance capitalism to the secret life of trees to historic branding moments. IKEA among them. Many of my colleagues who know me well and who’ve visited my home over the years know that I’m a fan of IKEA (especially their lights!)
Founded in 1947 in Sweden by 17 year old Ingvar Kamprad, Ingvar decided his furniture business name should have a real meaning. He used his initials I and K then in a tribute to the farm of Elmtaryd and village of Agunnaryd, where he grew up, he added the letters E and A. So IKEA was born. If at 17 I’d started a company based on a similar formula it would have been: LAMPZ ! (Laura Austin Mount Pleasant Zimbabwe!)
What I appreciate from this branding fact is that apart from shedding light on a unique approach to branding, Kamprad in naming it this way grounded it solidly to his physical homeland – embodying not only his values but the values associated with Swedes from that part of Sweden (Småland) who were well-known for their thrifty, innovative and no-nonsense approach to problem-solving.
How tone deaf is your business messaging at this time of crisis?
| May 24, 2020
I don’t know about you, but recently it’s become very apparent that there are still so many companies who are still putting out the same old posts and messages which means that not only are they missing a huge opportunity to find out from their audiences how they could really help them through this crisis but that they are in danger of seeming at best irrelevant and at worst lacking in empathy.
I’ve recently had some fantastic brainstorming sessions with clients about how to engage through this time and the insights have been exciting, invigorating and really positive. When business is under pressure it’s often hard to step back and identify whether you’re hitting the right notes. Reach out if you need support, I’m happy to help!
Want to deliver incredible team results? Sit down and watch some basketball.
| May 21, 2020
The title of the recent Netflix documentary series “The Last Dance” on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls might give the impression that it’s purely a documentary series highlighting the incredible talents of His Airness, well that features of course with his vision, drive and in the moment presence on the court.
But what really stayed with me was how the documentary series highlighted the way the coaches and team appreciated each of the team member’s unique strengths and how to allow them to play to them.
From Rodman’s flamboyant defence and rebounding skills to Pippen’s defence and Kerr’s supportive play it was these individuals’ strengths within the team that enabled Jordan to get his job done as a natural leader and for the team to succeed.
With that knowledge of each person’s natural strengths, it meant that at the key moments in a game every single player knew exactly who to pass to or turn to for a particular play to be successful. And although MJ clearly was an incredible asset, not only did Phil Jackson their coach but the entire team’s understanding of what each player naturally excelled at made them formidable as a team.
And let’s keep in mind that one’s strengths are NOT the same as the list of things in your job description, they are those innate and natural abilities that we all have that allow us to lift a team effortlessly and run head-on into particular areas of our work that feel like home when other teammates might shy away from those areas knowing they aren’t happy there but maybe not understanding why.
It is rare to join a team that really knows each other’s secret power (AKA natural strengths) Can you name just 5 natural strengths of your closest peers or teammates? Most teams get to know these after quite a long time of working closely together and by then there is a high likelihood that someone will move on, so losing out on the opportunity to really take advantage of that knowledge. So how is it that more managers don’t take steps early on in each team member’s tenure to explore and understand their natural strengths and to then make sure that all of the team understands this enabling them to lean on those strengths when it counts?
Recently I worked with the very skilled Reena Dyal to explore my own strengths using the brilliant Gallup CliftonStrengths and then working further on honing an understanding of these and how to develop an awareness of them. Top 5 strengths for me turn out to be:
ACTIVATION – LEARNING – STRATEGY – POSITIVITY – EMPATHY
ACHIEVER – ARRANGER – FUTURISTIC – CONNECTEDNESS – RELATOR
It’s clear that once understood this knowledge really allows any leader or team member’s to significantly contribute. Greater still in sharing this knowledge all team players gain a shortcut letting them think quickly and respond effortlessly and efficiently to challenges.
Although every team might not have a Michael Jordan, with knowledge of everyone’s strengths there is a startling difference in the performance and great results.
Why not try it out? What have you got to lose but a championship? 😉
#teamwork #teamstrengths #leadership #michaeljordan #teamgoals
HEADLINE Judi Dench 85 on Vogue Cover
| May 6, 2020
What a headline! A woman aged 85 on a cover of VOGUE. Historic. Vogue’s oldest cover star no less. Don’t get me wrong – I am a HUGE Judi Dench fan, her integrity and skills as an actor are awesome, her incredible sense of humour, her unique screen presence have all inspired and entertained me countless times. I would have put her on plenty of covers for decades before this. Throughout my years of watching her, she has always been a familiar figure, she’s represented women I feel I know, women with passion and drive, women with great professional achievements, some with families, some with partners, some solo women and all with stories to tell that would make you laugh, gasp, cry and everything in between. They are women like my mother, my aunt, my older sister, my cousins, friends of my parents, professional women older than me who do incredible things as professionals and as people every single day. And yet this is an historic and head-lining image. That’s a shame. That it’s historic.
As a professional woman working in digital marketing and having previously worked in photography I’ve done a fair few image searches in my time. Search most photo libraries and the images of professional women over the age of… let’s go with 40 up to 66 (the official age of retirement of women in the UK) and what returns is a set of women that, personally I’m not that familiar with. They are women who seem to be confused by computers, frequently pictured with a man when looking at a computer screen, or being shown how to use technology by a child and they are predominantly caucasian. (More of that later). Or, they are pursuing well-being and retirement activities or getting a check-up by a nurse. Of course, I know women of all ages do these things, but the lack of women over 40 depicted as being curious and aspiring professionals, leaders in a range of sectors, still growing and developing as professionals is a conversation that I just didn’t expect to still have in 2020.
And I’m well aware this is not a new conversation. The lack of representation applies to what in the West are called “minorities”. Travel the world and you soon realise what a minority really looks like and how irrelevant and narrow a biased narrative is, conscious or unconscious. Even a London Agency with the sexiest website can suddenly seem narrow-minded and tired by its choices once viewed through the global lens and not the London bubble one. It is an intersectional issue and applies to the differently-abled, to LGBTQ+, to neurologically-diverse professionals, etc etc. And for years, especially after the #MeToo movement, we saw companies wearing their Inclusion & Diversity credentials on their sleeves. Jumping up to be seen to be acting, posting extensively about gender equality and touting their D&I mission front and centre across their hiring pages and yet still the lack of representation of all of humanity proves how much further we still really have to travel.
It goes beyond the imagery too, I am aware of plenty of incredibly experienced and talented professional women and professionals from all of the groups mentioned previously who struggle to get work despite the fact that all of them are constantly learning new skills, developing ideas inline with trends and contributing. Despite their significant experience and talents they are too frequently deemed too expensive or “over-qualified”. In the interview with Dench when asked about how she feels about retirement interviewer Giles Hattersley notes: “Immediately, it is as if the sun has gone behind a cloud. “No, no, no, no. Don’t use that word, Giles. Not in this house. Not here. Wash your mouth out!”” This is a sentiment familiar to many women who frequently feel that they have so much to contribute to a world which seems too quick to dismiss their professional input.
I know too that I’m not the only person who, when looking at potential collaborators, clients or employers, takes a look at the “Who We Are” or “Team Page” to see how diverse their workforce is and who is often disappointed. Not just by the monochrome tone of the faces that greet me but by the huge companies who place budgets and projects for global campaigns in the hands of teams who are so clearly unrepresentative of the global population. Those same global companies claim to be diversity champions, yet by hiring teams that aren’t diverse, they are certainly not practising what they preach. If an anti-slavery statement requires a supplier to comply with a client’s anti-slavery policy, why too shouldn’t they comply with client’s diversity policies too?
If you need an example of just how easy and empowering it is to challenge the unequal status quo, then look no further than Frances McDormand’s ‘Inclusion Rider’ Speech at the 2018 Oscars, a seminal moment where a respected and exciting leader within the film industry showed us all how easy it is to talk about change and highlighted what small but crucial steps can be taken by powerful stakeholders on projects to change direction towards a more just and equal world.
And where too is the commercial logic in this? Just on the example of women over 40: Generation Xers and Baby Boomer Generations of women, now between their 40s and 70s make up a large portion of the workforce. In 2019 in the UK, one in five baby boomers were millionaires as their wealth had nearly doubled over ten years. So apart from the equality issues raised by the continued blind spot leading to under-representation of these women, it also makes very little commercial sense to under-represent a significant portion of the population that is present more than their older and younger colleagues.
There are of course however many professionals taking the conversation into their own hands to redress the balance such as The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, The Phluid Project, Shade and many more and that’s awesome, it’s due to the apathy that talented people are taking control of this issue of representation but surely it’s about time for agencies big and small and businesses in all sectors to start taking this conversation to the next level just by taking that first easy and small step.
According to a VICE survey of Gen Z, the Gen Zers predict that in 2030 discrimination will be significantly challenged, with better diversity and inclusion in schools, stricter workplace policies on discrimination and stricter government policies on discrimination etc. I just hope that they, like me, will not have to repeat the phrase “I didn’t expect to still be having this conversation.”
#lgtbq #BAME #genz #genx #age50plus #disability #religion #gender #seeitbeit #iwanttoseeme #genderequality #diversity #inclusion #enddiscrimination
Leadership style – There is another way
| April 1, 2020
I read this great article recently, which really struck a chord with me. There were particular points that it makes that really stood out for me, especially the point on there being “a great deal of public interest in ensuring more women become leaders, thereby reversing their under-representation in the ranks of power, too many suggested solutions are founded on the misconception that women ought to emulate men. The thinking is: “If men have most of the top roles, they must be doing something right, so why not get women to act like them?”
My entire career, whether explicitly said or unconsciously implied through a range of languages and behaviours, I’ve been given a clear message that ‘leadership’ meant one needed to emulate certain masculine traits often seen in leaders in the industries in which I have worked in. This just never appealed to me. Reading the HBR article it was great to see those traits and values I treasure are mentioned as great leadership qualities, they include:
- Don’t command. Empathize.
- Focus on elevating others.
- Don’t say you’re “humbled.” Be humble.
- Put your people ahead of yourself. The response to these kinds of actions in the past has lead to being told that I was “too nice”.
- Know your own limitations. etc. This very much goes against the “Fake it will you Make it” mantra, that has now been shown to be detrimental in so many ways.
I am optimistic that the singularity of leadership styles seen previously will alter as we move into a working world with a diversity of not only our leaders but of leadership styles is given support so as to ensure that generations of leaders to come will see that their own style of leadership is valid and positive.
I pay a tribute to some leaders I have had the luck to work with and be inspired by, all of whom showed wonderful leadership and whom all taught me a lot about my own leadership style. So to: Reena Dayal, Lilian von Keller, Janice Morton, Josie Austin, Nisha Modha, Jo Revill, Iris Cornelis Thank you, Dank u, शुक्रिया
Are you secure? Of course you are! But what about your website?
| May 18, 2018
I have been lucky enough to work with the business owner, developer and website security specialist, Krzysztof Dryja over the years on a range of websites, and consider myself very lucky! Meeting Krzysztof came about in one of those serendipitous moments that alter your professional life. I was project managing a high profile, time-sensitive and challenging website and needed a developer with a very specific set of skills. Through an online network, I reached out to Krzysztof and we began working together on the project.
His technical knowledge and supreme communication skills made working with him one of the best professional experiences of my 20+ year career and each time I work with Krzysztof I am deeply grateful for his exceptional skills, input, and his professionalism, which never fail to positively impact on all projects we collaborate on.
He began his programming journey in secondary school, at first website development and programming were hobbies and then he became involved in professional projects. Very soon it became a full-time thing and he hasn’t looked back since! Krzysztof continuously works with a range of clients and positive feedback about his work and communication skills and professional approach are nothing new to him.
He formed his company Aspexi in 2010. Prior to that, he had spent more than five years working on web application development. Since 2010, he has also founded another company AMarket Ltd and is involved in various other projects such as asecure.me and CloudIntegrationServices.
The Aspexi team works with WordPress Content Management Systems (CMS), and work with solutions such as Magento 1/2 or CS-Cart and have created their own WordPress plugins. The team is experienced with Node.js / React and similar frameworks and the core team is made up of three experienced developers including Krzysztof, and they too work with freelancers or designers.
A couple of fun facts that I found out recently is that both Krzysztof and Matt (another developer team member) are members of Mensa Society and that their plugins have been installed on more than 50,000 websites overall. The company’s short to mid-term plan is to extend their services such as plugins, and having started asecure.me offering professional WordPress website security and backup services this year they are looking forward to a wider range of projects and clients.
Recently, Krzysztof and I were chatting about a project and the topic of website security came about. In an age where data breaches are common headlines, where even the smallest of businesses need to take into consideration data protection, (especially with the event of GDPR coming into effect on 25th May this year) many companies are talking about. It’s a subject that although feels like it might need a technical background to join in with, is essential for business owners to be aware of. I asked Krzysztof a few questions on the subject of website security.
DigitalEnablr: What do you find surprising about website security when working with clients?
Krzysztof: A very low awareness, unfortunately, we meet clients who have had their websites hacked and who are not even aware that it has happened. That’s always an issue and may cause real issues and higher costs in relation to exceeding server resources. By talking about case studies on the asecure.me website we are hoping to change that and make website owners more aware of the risks and how to protect their websites.
DigitalEnablr: How much can the ignoring of website security impact a business? Why are websites are attacked and hacked
Krzysztof: There are a couple of reasons, including:
- Hacked sites can use web server resources to send SPAM emails or bitcoin mining
- Phishing: via a hacked website a hacker can send malicious or fake emails with an invoice to your accountant or to a customer who may believe this is a real invoice from the company and could then make payment to the wrong person.
- Ads and SEO. Your website could become a tool for promoting illegal products such as drugs. A common hackers’ practice is to make these changes invisible to a site owner. In one example we had a Drupal website customer recently whose website looked okay but when a user visited the site for the first time from a mobile device, it was immediately redirected to the well-crafted fake mobile site with warnings and links telling the user that a mobile app had to be installed immediately. These messages were appearing just to the first-time users, making the hack almost invisible to the website admin. Luckily we detected the malicious code and took the appropriate actions.
- Hacked sites can be encrypted and become unavailable until you pay the hacker. This is where backup systems help a lot if implemented.
DigitalEnablr: What do you find business owners are least aware of when it comes to the topic of website security?
Krzysztof: As mentioned previously, the attacks are well crafted and in most cases are meant to be invisible to the website administrators. Also, website owners often don’t understand how important updates or backups are until they get hacked or lost their website and database.
DigitalEnablr: How are you finding this is being highlighted with the advent of GDPR?
Krzysztof: The implementation of GDPR laws show how important to protect your website and the data you have. There are no 100% solutions. Even big corporations such as Google or LinkedIn were hacked in the past, however; the more you do the better. Keeping your website up-to-date and monitoring your website’s security should be a minimum action to avoid issues with GDPR compatibility.
DigitalEnablr: I imagine that for a lot of business owners, the prospect of making a website secure may seem costly, how do you help business owners take on a website security project so that it is a project that works best for them?
Krzysztof: For computer-savvy admins, we’re always happy to help them install security plugins and set up a backup system on their own. This way they can minimize the costs. Unfortunately, work related to site monitoring or updates has to be done to keep a website secure and takes some time hence costs involved are unavoidable. However, this is definitely worth doing to avoid potential greater costs related, for example to website cleaning after a hack.
DigitalEnablr: What challenges are biggest when approaching a website security project – for you and for business owners?
Krzysztof: Website security is quite a complex and demanding topic. There are known cases of popular and highly rated WordPress plugins causing issues by changing websites to bitcoin miners. There are tools that website administrators use for protecting their websites but there is always a risk that there are zero-day attacks (attack or software used before the fix is implemented to known security holes) that can make these tools useless.
Another issue is basic passwords that can be easily guessed and used. It’s very important to use long and non-standard passwords.
DigitalEnablr: Have you got examples of helping out when it was too late? How do you help companies that have had a data breach?
Krzysztof: Unfortunately yes. In these cases, we check if backups are available and that they aren’t infected. If so, the restoring or cleaning of the website is fairly quick. Otherwise, we analyze if cleaning a badly infected website makes sense. There are cases where we have recommended rebuilding the website from scratch with security monitoring included.
In many cases, we also check how the hacker gained access to the website. There are many different known reasons such as out-of-date WordPress core or plugins, badly written templates or weak passwords. With that information, we can even better protect new sites.
DigitalEnablr: What feedback and comments have you had from clients following the completion of a website security project? What surprising outcomes have website security projects created that the business owners/ you weren’t expecting if any?
Krzysztof: In each case a business owner’s awareness of website security increases. That’s really positive. Sometimes this has created some super vigilant website owners who began tracking user logins themselves, and even when we were logging in to do our service work they were double checking if that was us or someone else. It’s great to see how a negative situation can become a learning point!
Where you’re at in your Digital Journey
| May 1, 2018
Business owners have A LOT to think about! What with projects ongoing and new, bottom lines, sales targets, salaries, keeping clients happy, spreading the word about their business and much more… So where on earth do they find the time to promote their talent or take on digital marketing? The short answer, more often than not, is THEY DON’T.
Digital Marketing is a broad term which business owners may find daunting, so it is useful to be able to understand where one is in one’s own digital marketing journey in order to choose the digital marketing activities that resonate with your current business goals.
There’s always room for improvement, and digital marketing doesn’t have to be a large project that you have to worry about. It can be a small project that you take on to improve your business and to make adjustments to how you approach digital marketing for your business.
It may not be a website development you need, it may be any number of smaller projects such as:
- a look at your current approach and a tweak here or there for SEO or to help how website visits are converting into sales.
- It might be a social media campaign to boost a specific sales activity.
- Or it could be a meeting with me to talk about how things are going for you and then a look at what options there are available to you and which ones work for your business.
No matter where you are on your digital marketing journey I can help you and your business to make improvements if and where they are needed!