Why can’t we make Swansea great?

I first published this on LinkedIn.


Before I start, this isnt political, at least not in the party political sense. Neither am I aiming this at anyone in the public sector working hard. I have nothing but respect for people who’s work serves their communities, in whatever form that takes.

It is political I guess, in the sense, that 46 plus years into my life, and having had the great benefit of working in different places, including the capital cities of Cardiff and London, I can tell you that I simply cannot believe that Swansea isn’t more of a Wales wide, a UK wide, a European wide, and even more of a global success.

Look at what we’ve got to offer: 

Incredible landscapes: Offering breathtaking vistas and some of the best beaches in the UK. Walks, riding, swimming, surfing, boating, yachting, wildlife, countryside, farming, village life, city life, seaside life, marina life, Swansea literally has it all.

Why can’t we make more of it? 

Fantastic places of learning: As a Swansea University alumni I would likely mention them first, and no can be anything other than stunned by the ambition and scale of the fantastic development on Fabian Way and the wonderful parkland campus which is actually on the beach front at Swansea Bay! I also hear great things about Swansea Metropolitan University and its ambitions, and there are lots of other places of study worthy of mention.

Why aren’t we making more of them? 

Sport: Swansea City Football Club: A PREMIER LEAGUE football club all of our own. In Swansea, and enjoying a longevity and success many initially would not believe. Then there’s The Ospreys, one of it not the leading Region in our rugby structure, swimming, athletics, etc etc. Swansea has long had a proud tradition of sporting success.

Why aren’t we more famous? 

Business: From big business to small, manufacturing to technology, family run to international, serial entrepreneurs to the business organisations like Swansea Bay Futures and Swansea Business Club (not to mention the support to business offered by our educational establishments) Swansea on the face of it, has everything you think it would need to win.

Why aren’t we more successful? 

Location, location, location: I accept we are the ‘wrong’ end of the line as far as those in London are concerned! But we are lead city in our region, and should be doing more to lead it. We should be fighting Cardiff for every inch of recognition in Wales, and at the Assembly, and indeed the press. We should be standing on our own as a educational, cultural, sporting, business and tourism centre, not relegated to second city status.

Why can’t we bring this all together? 

I’m so passionate about this, but I don’t know the answer. Every week I work away in London and every time I come back I marvel at where I live. Everytime I drive over the bridge over Fabian Way I am stunned by the views of the bay and Mumbles and the mouth of the Tawe.

Every walk through a wood or field, every meeting with a new (or established) Swansea business, every visit to a university I am filled with the power of Swansea’s potential.

Every visit to the Liberty Stadium, every step on the golden sands of Gower, every round of golf in the heart of the countryside around us, makes me practically burst with the wonder of it all.

Sure we have issues. The roads, the city centre, parking, investment, etc. etc. But we have so much more to be proud of.

So much more potential.

So why aren’t we taking advantage of where we are? Why do people go from Swansea rather than come to Swansea.

How do we change it, and start to see what we are all capable of?

Anyone have any answers?

Why Your Change Programme Is Failing

I’m making a bit of a habit of working in transformational roles at present. Working with traditional media businesses in my case, and helping to steer them towards a digital mindset.

It’s almost always about culture and neglecting that aspect of whatever change programme you are going to implement is going to lead to tears! People aren’t inclined to change and the worst thing that can happen to you after designing a load of new processes is for everyone to simply go back to the way they’ve always done it.

You and your business need to make clear why the change is needed

Why the change is needed, what change is required, and even more importantly, you need to create an environment in which that change is encouraged to take place.

Or even, an environment in which the change can’t do anything except take place…

There are physical elements, like systems and resource, even the way teams are seated together where maybe previously they’ve been apart. And there are the non physical things like KPI’s and targets. All these things are required.

But you also need a constant ‘selling’ of the message. A clarity of purpose and shared motivation to change. People in the organisation need to want to change, or it won’t happen. But they also need to know what change is required, and be allowed to fail on the way to making that change.

In many ‘traditional’ businesses some people may have worked a certain way for decades. They are likely to have performed at the absolute top of their game and be regarded extremely highly within the organisation.

You don’t want to that! 

And along you come with a cheerful ‘You don’t want to do it like that!’ sort of message. Is there any wonder why there is little traction for the new processes you’re trying to put in place?

As Simon Sinek says in the great video at the top of the page – People buy WHY you do something far more than they buy WHAT you do.

This is why when a brand ‘speaks’ to you because of its commitment to a design ethic, or an almost religious pursuit of customer value, you find yourself drawn in and share the motivation to do what it is you think they are trying to do. Buying products or services from them is the least of your concerns! You LOVE this company…

On the other side of the scale, there is the company you buy from simply because you need the stuff they sell. Your feelings about this company range from the mildly curious to the outright disinterested.

And it’s the same with change.

Your change programme will have far more power if the people in the business you are trying to change buy into the ‘why’ of what you are doing. Think about it, even the questions you hear around implementation of new processes give clues to this.

“Why should I do it this way?”

No matter what the actual objection, or resistance to change might look like, the question being posed is generally, why?

So all change programmes need to start with this. The reason you are telling people they need to do whatever it is you are telling them they need to do!

The positive impact on them, their team, their product or service, and ultimately, the company itself. It’s likely that at first any ‘new ways’ of doing things are going to feel very clunky and unnatural. So constant support of the ‘new ways’ has to be provided.

Constant reassurance that this is the thing to do, constant demands for the best effort, constant training in the new ways of working. Constant reiteration of the mission.

The ‘WHY’ you are doing what you are doing.

The fear of failure. 

And lastly, you have to make sure people are on task, and on message and on with the programme yes, but you must also make sure people are able to fail. There’s nothing more likely to prevent someone jumping into a new way or working like the fear they are going to look foolish, or make a mistake.

You might even want to go so far as to encourage mistakes as of and in themselves. Because that way you know you are making progress! They are doing something new, something they haven’t done before, and they are making a pig’s ear of it!

Exactly the way humans go about learning new stuff.




Its Been A While…

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 07.37.12
TeamRock.com – The Worlds No 1 Rock and Metal Website!

It’s been a while: A fantastic if obscure song by a band called Staind from 2001 yes, but also true of my blog! While I’ve been hanging around in the background and answering comments and generally tidying up around the place, I’ve not written much for a good long while.

This is because my latest job is in London, working in what we describe as a traditional media / digital start up hybrid. It’s a company called TeamRock and we are transforming world renowned, fantastic heritage rock brands like Classic Rock Magazine and Metal Hammer Magazine into a digital business with genuine global aspirations.

In other words, I’m running what will become the worlds number 1 Rock and Metal website called TeamRock.com

Which means two things. One, I’m consumed by learning all about the new world I’ve found myself in, and two, I spend all my time working, travelling or trying to hang out with the family. All of which leaves very little time to blog.

The good news is, I’ve loads to tell you about! It’s a really weird feeling, learning what I’m learning, and framing blog posts as the days and weeks go by, but never committing them to the pages of the blog.

It’s a bit like knowing you’ve something really important to do, but never quite remembering to do it. I’ll have a chat with someone, or read something, or think of a new way to tackle the problems I face in the new gig, and immediately think “that will make a great post!” And then immediately move onto something else, and a day later I’ll realise I forgot to write it down.

I think I’m going to have to do that thing where you write the titles of blog posts into the backend of the site to act as reminders. Mind you, I tried that before, and then left it so long to come back to write posts, I couldn’t even remember what the titles were meant to recall.

Anyway… My pre new year’s New Year’s Resolution is to get back into writing. Both here, and over at my other top secret short story blog. Any kind of momentum that had been created here is likely lost, at least according to the ‘rules of blogging’. It will be interesting to see how long it takes, or if it’s even possible to reignite my community.

If you are a long time reader, thanks for stopping by again! I hope you will learn loads with me as I try to capture the lessons that the music industry and the online world colliding together are teaching me.

Whether its strategic stuff about change management, or just about creating a community online, there should be loads to talk about.

And if you are a first time reader, I hope you’ll enjoy what you find here and have a poke around, there’s loads of good books and videos on the site too. And I hope you’ll subscribe or at least come back and visit. I won’t spam your inbox, but hopefully when I do pop around, it’s going to be with something worthwhile and interesting!

And if I don’t see you all before, have a great Christmas🙂

More Inappropriate Ads!

One of my most popular posts is the one that features old school ads that today, well, they would never even be published!

We are all familiar with the idea that things from long ago are no longer acceptable, but some of these ads aren’t that old!

Sexist, bigoted, inappropriate, they offer an interesting insight into the world of the past. So interesting in fact, that no less a lumiary as Charles Saatchi has just released a book ‘celebrating’ this burgeoning art form!

So without further ado, here are some examples from the new book Beyond Belief by Charles Saatchi.

Beyond Belief

I first came across these images on a Buzzfeed post by Matt Tucker.

10 Ways To Get Started on Twitter When You Haven’t Tried It Before

Twitter log in screen
Getting started on Twitter

A very good friend of mine is keen to get started on Twitter. He isn’t very technically minded, having grown up in a different world, and so he’s a little nervous about my previous advice to ‘jump right in’! Neither did he want to start his journey with what he regards as ‘advanced books’ like the brilliant Tao of Twitter – which really does cover everything you need to know!

Given his reluctance, I though it was a good idea to really get down to basics and start from the beginning.

His last email on the subject started with a question about security, and I realised, I don’t even think about some of this stuff any more, but people new to social media, and there still are some, really do need some of these take for granted things answered.

Obviously Twitter has no more a security issue than any other top quality site. A decent password regime, where you change a mixed alpha numeric password on a regular basis is still a highly regarded strategy.

Twitter has been described as a ‘firehose’ and therein lies both its strength and weakness

Strength as in its possible to sample in the live news feeds exactly what the world is talking about right at that point in time. 

But the consequent weakness is something that can become an overwhelming flow of non stop and incomplete thoughts. 

Twitter is ‘the headline media’. 140 characters or less means people are limited to posts that are simply a ‘catchy’ description and a link. It’s perfect for those looking to promote stuff, especially content.

But the question is who is it exactly that you’re talking to? 

There are a couple of ways to organise your news feed and the overwhelming stream of information. The most basic is to ‘follow’ people. This fills your feed with the tweets of those you choose to follow, rather than the entire population of Twitter.

However, you’ll soon find you are following a lot of people, possibly many thousands after some time on the service, and once again there is a sense of being overwhelmed. Though now that you are time served its a little more easy to manage. 

(There are other ways to manage the news feeds, but we can move on to that once we are past the basics) 

When it comes to writing your own ‘Tweets’ you are basically ‘shouting’ your tweet into the endless cacophony of Twitter’s firehose, and as you can imagine, its pretty difficult to achieve effective reach and frequency. 

But remember those people you’ve followed? Well, the idea is, you get your ‘target market’ to follow you. 

While that’s very much the trick, and the subject of many pages of blogs and books, it’s pretty easy to do. Let’s assume you are able to ‘create’ a following.

Note: While I have about 3,000 people following me after employing various strategies.We need to be careful as not all are genuine people with a connection. That can effect your reach too. Of Obama’s 20 million or so followers, some people have put the number of fake accounts (for reasons of spamming) at as much as 90%!

But in effect you ‘grow’ an audience for your tweets. Following people you think might be interested in listening to you, and having them follow you back is a basic courtesy on twitter. But the issue remains, you will have to build a relationship of sorts to that audience in order to cut through the noise and end up in those feeds and getting any traction.

If I were to Tweet a link to a blog post, or a comment on the recent UK election or even just a remark about how nice the day is (rain again!) then the chances are that the one-off post will get little attention. On the other hand If you are building an audience and looking to engage them you will no doubt be tweeting them several times a day. This is a strategy proven to build audience for blogs and websites – it works.

Tweeting out to your audience results in conversations with people and the sort of low-level social media bonds that are created allow for transmission of your content from one user to another. Simply put, if someone you know engages with you on Twitter, and you post a blog, there is a good chance they will share that post with their followers.

So to start – jump right in!

1) Visit www.twitter.com 

2) Create an account with the name you’d like to be seen with – nothing wrong with your own name or a variation of. All names on Twitter are preceded by the @ symbol. Its Twitters way of identifying you. Your Twitter name, or handle is then exclusively yours. Mine is @MrTonyDowling 

3) Remember to use a decent password – one with a mix of numbers and letters and a mix of cases is regarded as the strongest type. 

4) Follow the on-screen instructions – Twitter will prompt you to follow people. It finds out what you are interested in to start with and makes intelligent suggestions for people and brands for you to follow. 

5) Browse through the content and be amazed at the sheer scale of information available!

6) Interact – send replies to interesting Tweets and make conversation. This is how you’ll learn to create that all important engaged audience. 

7) Experiment with tweets. Link to content you’ve really enjoyed – copy the link and add it to a tweet. Add your personal perspective and hit send! Or just pontificate! A few days of immersion in the Twitter feeds and you will soon start to pick up the language.

8) Consciously build your targeted audience. Basically, following people on Twitter usually results in the person you’ve followed, following you back. So follow the sort of people you want to talk to – Cleverly building an audience of like-minded people for you to engage with. 

9) Read! Twitter has so much written about it. Google questions you have (Or ask me if you have the time) and read as many opinions as possible. Like everything else in life no one has the definitive answer or view on this stuff.

10) Enjoy! Twitter is literally awesome. You can easily get lost in it. Endlessly scrolling through tweets and being diverted to interesting websites and links. It’s easy to be dismissive of it, but it truly is an aggregator of the human condition. 

That’s probably enough to get started with.. 

There’s a lot more to it, but using it and becoming familiar with it is what you need to do now. Once you are comfortable tweeting, and talking to people on-line, we’ll be ready to move onto more advanced plans to build your audience and market your content.

What do YOU think? What are your basic Twitter tips for my friend? Leave them below in the comments! 

What Politicians Should Learn From Business

693A5439 from Flickr via Wylio
© 2013 Simon Jones, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Please don’t worry, unlike a million others today I’m not going to use this blog to talk politics! This is a marketing and business blog, and I’m only interested in talking about what I’ve seen during the recent election in the UK that might be described as the ‘communications’ or ‘marketing’ of the various parties.

Its seems to me that the main parties involved and in particular the main opposition party suffered from a lack of differentiation. They simply did not stand out enough on their own to warrant significant support. Rather, and this is similar to a number of categories in business, they decided to fight the ‘battle’ on the same platform as the incumbents. Lets say that platform was basically the economy, for the sake of simplicity here.

The message seemed to me to be “We will do largely what they are doing and also look after the economy, and make cuts like everyone thinks should be made, but our cuts will some how be better!”

This is the equivalent to supermarkets all trading on being the cheapest / best value / best choice! The trouble is, everyone says that and its impossible to then differentiate between companies, or in this case, political parties!

So the message ‘buy from us, we are offer the best value’, is completely diluted by the fact everyone says the same thing.

This is why businesses like Apple and Ferrari do well to hold on the higher prices. Its makes the claims that their produce is somehow better than the other companies produce more easily believable. The reality is, there may be little difference between their products and a competitors product, other than the perception of difference brought about by price.

The easiest way to position something is through price. Why is the Apple Watch so expensive? So that it immediately carries the mantle of high quality. Thats why you can’t buy a cheap Italian super car, or a bargain luxury holiday. The fact they cost more money than the competitors products is the indicator to the quality differentiator.

So when businesses try to compete with each other on price, say by flooding a market with similar products with similar prices, they get into a very difficult place.

“We are the same price as them, but also better!”

Or in the case of politics…

“We have the same policies, the same position on things, but ours are better!”

We intuitively know that this cannot be the case. We simply do not believe things that cost the same are substantively better than an equivalent. Whether thats in terms of prices, or taxes or cuts.

And thats where brands come in.

The reason you might prefer Brand A rather than Brand B is simply down to how you feel about Brand A. The emotional relationship you have with it. People try to tell me why they prefer one super market over another for instance, but what they are really saying is, for whatever reason, they prefer the experience at Brand A, they like Brand A more. Thats what Branding is all about.

So you are either cheaper, so you can win the price war. Better, and generally more expensive to underscore the level of quality you can produce, or people like you more.

If all things are equal, its takes something seismic to shift people out of the status quo. ‘Better the devil you know’ than someone who has failed to convince you that they can offer a believable and realistic alternative position.

This is why ‘extremist’ political parties like the socialist party in Greece, or even the more right wing parties of northern Europe are claiming ground. The identifiably stand for something. And in some cases that ‘something’ is just ‘something different’.

The point is though, that it is significantly different. Different enough to stand out and allow people to rally round it.

The brilliant Seth Godin tells us that we all want to be part of a Tribe. But he brilliantly observes that we also want to be led in that Tribe by someone. Someone that can make us feel good, or safe, or valued or whatever. See a brilliant talk in the video below.

Fighting for business, or votes on the same ground, the same platform as you’re adversary is a recipe for disaster.

Unless people have an emotional connection to you via your brand, or your reputation if you like, then the battle becomes almost unwinable. You are doomed to a trading environment where you’ll at best fluctuate from up to down and back again, subject to the fickle whims of the market.

Having brilliant brands comes from being these things and communicating them well, consistently and generally over long periods of time. If you havent built a brand, or you need time to change peoples perception of you, the choice is simple:

Either be cheaper or be different.

Otherwise you’ll just merge in the background and die from being too similar to everything else.