Who Says We Are Too Busy To Think?

I was on Quora today and I came across this thread entitled “How Do I Become A Better Thinker”

One of the first answers on this conversation (which has currently got 1.9k upvotes from the community) prefaced their excellent answer with the statement “We’re just too busy to think. Many of us are running from one place to another, trying to make our lives work.”

Busyness is much ado about nothing if you ask me.

If you are too busy to think, you are not doing the right things effectively.

And there is no “Aha” moment when it comes to being a better thinker. We all have the capacity to think out loud and in solitude about the most important issues and what we can be doing to proactively solve them.

The simplest starting point to being a better thinker is to labels to the level of importance a particular issue has.

My favourite organisational system to help focus my thinking is the “Eisenhower Matrix”.

I first discovered this matrix as I was looking for a way to organise my work at IKEA.

The best thing about this matrix is that it breaks down tasks/action and thoughts into simple “Yes/No” levels of importance.

The first category is “Important/Urgent”; These are the top level tasks which are both important and urgent and will need your immediate attention before anything else. This is your category to use during 70% of your working day in order to establish enough time to really think through the issues.

The second category is: “Important/Not Urgent”: These tasks are important but not urgent so can be looked at later.

I would probably assign 20% of your working day to these tasks because the important and urgent tasks need you to use your full mental capacity but these tasks will still benefit having you spend 20% of your working day thinking about them.

The third category is “Urgent/Not Important”. In order to be a better thinker, you need to be clearing your mind of worry about the Urgent/Not Important tasks.

The most important lesson I have learnt in life is that you can only influence what you can influence, so urgent but not important tasks which aren’t going to help you develop are immediate candidates for delegation to another co-worker.

The fourth category is “Not Important/Not Urgent”. These tasks shouldn’t take up any of your time because they are not helping you think through your action plan for developing a skill, client relationship or completion of a project.

This matrix has been a transformational guide for me in helping focus on spending time thinking about the right things which actually make a difference.

Each person will have their own method, but I certainly believe the Eisenhower matrix is a brilliant starting point.

The Tragic Reality Of Defining Success

Success. One of the most overrated words in life (personally and professionally)

It doesn’t take a genius to be successful and yet all we seem to do is judge success against a hypothetical measurement of what success means.

And it is that measurement which is creating a tragic reality in which we cannot be the best that we can be any more because we are always striving for the elusive goal of “being successful”.

So my challenge to you is what does success mean to you?

It cannot be someone else’s opinion of what it means to become a success because let’s face it you will never feel successful as long as you judge yourself by someone else’s definition of the term.

Personally success to me is knowing that one day I will be able to live each day being part of something bigger than myself.

Notice that I don’t say “I will be successful when I am earning £2 million every year through my own business”.

Success should be something which is defined by your mission and your values.

My mission is to be part of something bigger than myself every single day so by achieving that I know I am succeeding in what I want to achieve.

This way of thinking does mean you have to break the mould and take a giant leap out of your comfort zone, but it is so worth it!

So please, don’t ever try to define success. Live each day through your personal mission and values and believe that success can only  be defined by those metrics.

Why My Favourite Film Isn’t Even In The IMDB Top 250

There’s a film I have now watched a total of thirteen times. A film which I know line by line, scene by scene and yet doesn’t even feature in the IMDB Top 250 Most Watched Movies.

This film is ‘The Terminal‘, a 2004 movie directed by Steven Spielberg which starred Tom Hanks, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Zoe Saldana.

It’s a story of a man called Viktor Navorski who is trapped in JFK airport after his home country Krakosia is taken over by a military coup which renders his citizenship (and therefore access to the US) non-existent.

My love for this film comes purely for the fact that it is based in the US (where I aspire to live one day), includes travel (which I aspire to do as part of my career in the next 10 years) and focuses on the heroic struggle of one man stuck in a foreign country with no-one to help him interpret the strange world around him.

So why did I include the mention of the IMDB Top 250 list in this discussion about one of the less well known Tom Hanks movies?

If I started by answering that question by saying that I still haven’t seen “The Godfather” and “The Godfather Part 2″ (rated by millions of people around the world of one of the great movies ever made) then I hope that starts to give you some idea about why I am using the IMDB Top 250 list as a reference point.

I can remember a time when I thought it would be smart to commit myself to watch all the films in that list. I purposefully subscribed to all the on demand video services and rented the DVDs from friends and do you know what I think I have probably in my lifetime still only watched about 5% of that entire list.

Furthermore if you were to ask me what recent films I had seen at the cinema or at home, I would be able to say with confidence that I have seen about 5% of all the new releases in the past 5 years.

That says a lot about my desire to choose the unknown film over the popular one. I don’t choose to subscribe to having to watch every popular film out there, I choose to watch what I want to watch.

On demand services have certainly expanded my horizons in that regard.

The simplicity of an always available selection of thousands of movies from a wide variety of genres and subgenres means you can pick and choose films which appeal to you rather than to what the masses are watching at the cinema.

And for me, it is all about finding the needle in the haystack. The Terminal is not a universally loved Tom Hanks film which ranks in the top 250 of IMDB’s ranking, but for me it will always rank in the top 10 of my favourite movies of all time.

Independence In My Own Place

On the 21st April 2015, I took back my independence by moving into a studio flat in Peterborough.

Granted this isn’t the first time I have been living independently, but now I am an independent adult who has been empowered with incredible experiences at university and a sharper focus on my goals.

The flat is a symbol of the starting point of my journey post university. It is a sanctuary where I have my own space to set my own routine and work until the wee hours if I chose on writing blog posts and interacting with incredible digital marketeers (as I often used to do pre university!)

Here’s two photos I took today of the flat. The room itself is part bedroom, part living room with a kitchen set off to the right hand side and a bathroom to the front of the flat.

The one thing I know to be a certainty is that independence shouldn’t mean isolation. We all know that feeling of being in flow and suddenly realising we have barely left the house and had human contact for days.

I went through that period in my teenage years when I launched my first business. It sucks.

So onwards and upwards. Stay tuned to Twitter for more of my updates and photos from the flat as I continue to work on making it mine.

What Uber’s PR Issues Tell Us About The Current State Of Digital Marketing

Uber, the mobile app that connects users to taxi drivers and ride shares was lauded in 2010 (under its former name UberCab) as a service that would finally remove the hassle of booking a private car service. It has since gone to become a $40 billion company, extend its reach to fifty three countries and generate $10+ million dollars in revenue in its mature markets (according to data leaked to Business Insider)

But for all this fervor the ride hailing service has gained, the regulatory issues and PR controversies Uber has faced show that the state of digital marketing is evolving beyond recognition.

There is now essentially no way to hide a PR issue from public view, as evidenced by the French taxi drivers in Paris who staged a protest against UberPop.

The truth is that everyone now understands how to ensure previously under the radar news stories can now be shared in an instant with a global network of customers and stakeholders.

If you hadn’t already realised that means that anything you do as a business owner that negatively impacts a customer or stakeholder in any way is likely already being discussed online by a passionate community of consumer advocates. (Hotel owners are the worst culprit for this when they try to hide Tripadvisor reviews!)

But what I think is significant about Uber’s recent PR issues is the big questions is presents about the direction of digital marketing, which I want to outline in this blog post.

Online Conversations Are Messy And Uncontrollable

No client side marketing team or external marketing agency ever expects a normal day when they arrive at the office.

The primary reason they don’t expect any normality in their day is because the online communities built around a product or company are often messy and uncontrollable.

The one thing that makes the online conversations so messy is that every incident (good or bad) is carefully scrutinised by the wider world and this is often done without the appropriate context for why an event took place.

Therefore if I was to play devil’s advocate for Uber it would be fair to say that they haven’t been receiving equitable coverage from popular online news outlets such as Buzzfeed whose chairman has been found out to have an investment in a rival company.

On the other hand Uber does seem to be adding fuel to the fire with its questionable actions (including the supposed automatic algorithmic change to Sydney cab prices during the recent hostage crisis in the city)

And it is that fuel which is perhaps not working in Uber’s favor. They are having to fight fires on multiple fronts and the power of the online conversation appears to be quickly overriding the company’s ability to protect their public image.

One question that Uber must ask and one consideration digital marketers must make is what is deemed an appropriate action to prevent fuel being added to a fire.

It may have just taken one or two people at Uber a matter of minutes to realise the link between the surge in demand for their ride sharing services and the events that were unfolding in the hostage crisis.

And I think that point I made earlier about context probably gets overlooked by people who post on social media because so many fail to consider the other side. (i.e Uber must be the bad guy because they chose to increase prices during the crisis).

But when Uber didn’t immediately react to the unfolding situation and realise its error you can easily see why people were quick to assume Uber was just trying to take advantage of the situation.

The power of context is a lost art in social media. That’s probably the one uncontrollable part of the online conversation because some people just want to be heard, regardless of whether they have got the entire story straight before they publish a tweet or Facebook post.

People Power Dictates The Trending Conversations

The one thing that is closely linked to the previous section about the messiness of the online conversation is the power of the people dictating the trending conversations.

If we are to step back for a moment in the discussion about whether Uber made a mistake in charging more for surge demand during the hostage crisis, it is important for us to think carefully about just how influential people power can be.

It can be something as simple as getting an alternative song to Christmas number one or something as powerful as shaping the future of an entire country. The people who care about making either of these outcomes happen are going to become the most passionate people you will ever meet.

Social media is the platform that consumers, government officials and the wider community have been yearning for. It can feel like a nightmare to navigate, but it really shouldn’t.

In Uber’s case people power influenced the company to offer rides for free in Sydney (after the initial hike in prices for several hours). For other companies such as Victoria’s Secret and Gap it has involved a drastic overhaul of their marketing campaigns after the social media backlash occurred.

Although we can all acknowledge that people power has provided us with plenty of beneficial outcomes, I am sure you would agree that there is also a dark side to the influence of people power.

I would personally say that in 2015 we will probably be seeing a lot more social media backlashes taking place. But it is a preventable event.

Marketers need to wise up to the power of the people and embrace it for a positive cause. The Ice Bucket Challenge wasn’t just fun, it was something you felt like you were a part of.

The same principle applies to potential PR disasters. It isn’t about trying to shutdown a conversation but instead taking charge of turning something contentious into something positive.

Some of the great examples I have seen over the last few years of companies who have turned an awful PR event into something positive include Greggs, The Red Cross and Chevy Trucks.

I hope this post has given you all an overview of how I believe digital marketers need to adapt in the next few years.

Be active. Be positive. Live your core values and never forget that the world is watching and critiquing your every move.

How To Connect Your Brand To Success Stories In A Meaningful Way

success photo

Hope. Desire. Ambition. Three words which are often associated with an individual or group of people aspiring to succeed.

But when it comes to associating your brand with these inspiring individuals or teams as a way to promote your value proposition it can often be tricky to connect in an authentic way that shows your brand adding value to that individual or group. 

Being able to add value in an authentic manner is still an alien concept to many  marketers who are shamelessly intent on selling rather than connecting. (You only need to read this article by Rachel Sprung from Hubspot to see what I mean!)

But when you connect your value proposition to an inspiring story in an authentic and meaningful way, you become more human.

Humanity is still a hugely undervalued asset in a marketer’s arsenal, at best it  allows consumers to feel they connect to your company through your values and mission, at worst it appears fake and disingenuous and at times simply a company trying to look good, greenwashing being a perfect example.

So let me just firstly highlight one excellent example of a brand who  associated themselves with individuals who have triumphed.

Excellent Example Of Authentic Brand Association With Success Stories

Holiday Inn: Scott Rigsby

Source: Holiday Inn/Youtube;
H/T Steve Hall from Marketing Land 

What I LOVE about this advert: It only takes hearing “My life radically changed in nine seconds” in the first four seconds of video to effectively tune your mind to the tone of this advert.

Sidenote: The one thing charities often get wrong with TV advertising and online video is that they don’t capture the viewer’s imagination in the first few seconds – gone are the days when you can just use dramatic imagery with no narration and some emotional background music. You have to engage from the very first second of the video.

An empathic and resilient Scott appears on screen. The opening title appears after we have heard Scott speak in the first four seconds (Suddenly the words ‘extraordinary’ and ‘journey’ now have a deeper meaning for the viewer – We want to know more about Scott’s journey because his story has already engaged us!)

Again as the video progresses in the first ten to fifteen seconds we start to hear Scott tell his story.

Naturally most advertisers would assume that the audience needs a traditional one on one interview shot with Scott in his home or at a studio during the entire advert.

Personally I think the choice on whether your brand uses action shots or in person studio interviews really depends on the product. (Smoothie makers tend to sell better when someone is standing in the studio demonstrating the product – unless your smoothie maker is an action friendly device!)

Notice how Scott is almost telling us his story in the same way that advertising copy is written. Short, to the point and without the fluff that would get in the way of his story.

But of course the audience does need some context to the opening remarks “My life radically changed in nine seconds”.

For brands executing the development of a success story  it is important to consider using storyboarding to help get the mix right. (I won’t outline the nature of storyboarding in this blog post but please do take a moment to learn more about it and also understand the value of trigger words in each frame of the video!)

So far sixteen seconds into the advert we have already seen the use of:

  • Curiosity in the first four seconds of the advert: “My life radically changed in nine seconds”
  • Emphatic imagery of Scott running and riding a bicycle
  • Meaningful and descriptive words: The frame with the words ‘The Journey to the extraordinary’ wouldn’t have the same value if we didn’t understand that something had happened in Scott’s life. (again, showcasing the effective use of trigger words to make us want to learn more!)

Sixteen seconds is all it took to build the background for the story in a way we actually care about.


Most brands spend ninety seconds to two minutes building up the emotion through bland, uninspiring cut scenes patched together to make us feel “connected” to the cause.

The immediate takeaway you should have for your next video marketing campaign is simple.

Make every second of your video count.

It takes a total of fifty six seconds before we even hear Holiday Inn’s name being mentioned.

The video has already helped build the story to a point where we are now empathising with Scott’s pain and frustration about losing his leg and it is now time for the classic problem/solution phase of a traditional advertisement to kick in.

Notice how Holiday Inn didn’t start the video by showcasing Scott checking into a Holiday Inn and a proud Holiday Inn rep telling the viewer how Holiday Inn helped Scott through his ordeal.

If you as the brand don’t allow the person you are profiling to tell their story first before your brand is mentioned, people won’t connect to the individual’s story and will just view them (fairly or not) as the paid representative of your brand.

People connect to people. People will not willingly choose to hear you as the brand tell them how amazing you are for helping someone in need.

Furthermore notice how Scott describes the Holiday Inn staff as his family. Again this wasn’t a Holiday Inn rep proudly saying “We welcomed Scott in like he was family!”

And the brilliant subtlety of Holiday Inn’s affiliation to Scott’s success story continues as we meet Julie, a Holiday Inn staff member at the hotel Scott stayed out who really speaks from the heart about her empathy and compassion for Scott’s story.

Scott then tells us that despite being thousands of dollars of debt to the Holiday Inn Julie never put pressure on him and “without Julie… [he would have] been homeless”.

Julie is the human side of Holiday Inn, Scott doesn’t say that the Holiday Inn didn’t put pressure on him (lest the company be accused of being a corporate bemoth who is just interested in profits – Julie was the one who helped ease the pressure!)

I think this infographic by Playnetwork outlines the quantitative impact of brand storytelling perfectly.  Adverts are ignored, stories are embraced.



Key Takeaways For Your Next Video Marketing Campaign

  • Let the individual tell the story in the way they want to tell it.
  • Engage your audience from the very first second of the video.
  • Don’t start the video with how your brand helped the individual succeed. Build the connection to their success in a natural and genuine way.
  • Don’t focus any unnecessary attention on your brand – the video should be all about the individual and their story.