It’s best not to ask what I do …

It’s pretty common when meeting someone in a professional setting to be asked what you ‘do’. It’s not a question I relish answering though. Not because I don’t want to share that information. But more because telling people what I do can take a while.

Back when I started working in the mid-1990s it was simple – I was a journalist. These days, I’m only a journalist some of the time. Other times I am a speaker, MC or facilitator. Or I might be a communications trainer, helping people become better storytellers. There are days when I am working as a social researcher, or developing discussion papers. Some times I am working to build out the content and programme for events. On other days I might better describe myself as a consultant, working with CIOs, CMOs, CDOs and now CFOs to better understand their challenges and opportunities. And that probably still only covers about 75 per cent of how I spend my professional time.

So knowing this problem, I thought ‘why dont I just tell people what I’ve done?’. So I started to write down everything I’ve done this year, and that proved to be no help. But in case you’re interested, I’ve listed it all below. It does look like a brag sheet, but it also reminds me that at least some of the time when I’m ‘busy’ is actually spent producing things.

It also reminds me that almost anything I do is only made possible through the collaboration of literally hundreds of amazing people with far deeper knowledge and capabilty than myself, and the organisations they support.

So in the first six months of this year, this is why I did:

  • Delivered keynote presentations on change for organisations including Leading Edge Computers, Jemena, the Assoication of Independent Schools NSW, and Microsoft Finance,
  • Hosted events including FST Media’s Future of Banking Melbourne, the Australian Smart Communities Assocation conference in Adelaide, and The Eventulf Group’s CX Tech Fest and Legal Tech Fest events, amongst others.
  • Delivered the latest round of the national Executive Collective engagement program on behalf of Optus Business.
  • Delivered Storytelling with Intent training sessions for more than 80 executives around Australia.
  • Continued in my role as Ambassador for the Broadband for the Bush Alliance, and MCd its annual Forum in Fremantle in June.
  • Helped the Melbourne-based NFP Infoxchange in the requirements gathering phase for a new open data platform for homelessness dats, throgh hosting half a dozen stakeholder working group sessions around the country.
  • Wrote more than 20 stories for CMO Australia, including longer features on coping with change in marketing, the rise of online marketplaces, and coming to grips with how digital nudging can be used for good.
  • Interviewed half a dozen CIOs and more than a dozen regional resellers for CRN Australia, while also contributing features on the dangers of growth, what Amazon’s arrival means for the channel, and the evolution of cloud computing.
  • Hosted roundtable dicussions for a range of clients, including Jade Software, The Missing Link (thanks to nextmedia), and Interactive.
  • Helped the team at CRN design and deliver the second round of the annual Pipeline conferences in Melbourne and Sydney.
  • Wrote a bunch of short feature articles for The Australian on everything from payroll software to virtual reality.
  • Continued my engagement with Global Access Partners in the field of better understanding the challenges facing Australian mid-tier businesses, while also working with Peter Fritz and Malcolm Crompton on a new book on the topic of innovation policy in Australia.
  • And wrote a bunch of other whitepapers, research reports, award entries and other assignments.

The second half of this year is looking to be just as busy, with commitments lined up around The Eventful Group’s Finance and Innovation Tech Fest in September and the Office of the eSafety Commissioner’s Online Safety on the Edge conference as well as a bunch of speaking commitments and another round of the Executive Collective.

Phew!

 

Avoiding the zombie apocalypse – my speech to Airtasker Community Day

Last week I had the pleasure of addressing local startup Airtasker’s first annual Community Summit in Sydney. I’ve been following Airtasker and its founder Tim Fung’s progress almost since the beginning, and it was great to hear how he and his crew slugged it out to get to where they are now. It was also great to chat to a number of the people for whom Airtasking has become a signficant (and in some cases, sole) source of income.

In my speech I talked about my own journey from fulltime employment to freelancing – a lifestyle I have been embracing now for close to 13 years. What I love about the way I work now is the flesibilty to work across multiple projects simultaneously and assert some direction over my life – much more so than I ever felt I could in fulltime employment. Its something that many Airtaskers – or freelancers generally – struggle with, especially when freelancing is dismissed as a euphemism for being unemployed.

Hence my speech touched on the need for Airtaskers (and all people really) to plan out their lives and where they want to get to – and start thinking about the steps they will take to get from where they are now to where they want to be. I also spoke of the need to think of themselves as entrepreneurs – even if they are only ever going to manage a company of one employee – and learn some of the lessons of the startup community in terms of running a successful business.

One of my key lessons was the need to envision the future, and stay ahead of the disruptive changes the are eating away at the fringes of many professions – retailing, accounting, law – and of course, journalism. Often it takes a major event – such as a zombie apocalypse or the collpase of revenue from display advertising sales – to motivate us to change our skillsets and head in new directions.

But as anyone who has ever seen a zombie film knows, waiting for the apocalypse offers you little chance to avoid it.

How artificial intelligence is transforming marketing – CMO Australia

xl_31692394-artificial-intelligence-binary-resizedIs AI just the latest victim of the mar-tech hype cycle, or will it really have a lasting impact on how marketers operate?

The answer is probably both, but the long-term impact may be more profound than is immediately obvious. Right now the focus on AI is as a tool for marketers to achieve conversion by refining how and when they reach customers, and which which messages. In this respect AI is being used to extend and simplify work already taking place in customer personlisation. The hope is that AI will simplify these tasks and free marketers to get back to marketing and out of data science. But how much of a role will remain for all but the best marketers?

And what happens when consumers begin to get hold of true AI agents of their own, that are capable of scouring the market and seeing through the clever manipulations of marketers to gain the very best deals possible?

Will the future be one where AI-based marketers are marketing to AI-based consumer agents? And if so, exactly what role is left for people?

Read more about the future of AI in marketing in this feature article for CMO Australia, then make up your own mind – before an AI makes it up for you.

The secret IT buyers you should know – CRN Australia

0_0_600_1_70_-news-crn_690_secret_buyersHidden away within Australian organisations are a host of people with influence over IT purchasing. Some are obvious, such as the ubiquitous procurement officers of large organisations. Others are newer kids on the block, such as the marketers who have taken on responsibility for digital systems. Others are more obscure again, such as the PAs and other gatekeepers that rarely get the glory, but certainly wield some power.

IT sales has always been more complex than just selling to the CIO or IT manager, and becoming more so by the minute. In my latest feature for CRN Australia I seek to shine some light on the the secret IT buyers – and ignoring them could prove costly.

A pragmatic approach to futurism (notes from a recent speech)

BradHowarth-025As a researcher, speaker and writer I spend a lot of time considering the future and the changes that might impact our lives. It is a fascinating pastime, and something I encourage all people to think about in my presentations on managing for change.

But there is one problem that emerges when you talk tabout the future. It’s a little like talking about a foreign country – a fascinating place perhaps, but one where people have no relatives or business ties. It might be interesting to them, and possibly somewhere they might like to visit someday, but it is not a topic that is relevant to the problems they face on a day-to-day basis.

With luck they will have learned something new and interesting, but how can they use that information? How will it help them when it comes to dealing with the problems they face today?

Thankfully, there are ways to harness the future to help in the present, although it took a science fiction author’s words to make me realise it.

The American writer William Gibson was the first to coin the term cyberspace, but he also once uttered one of the most powerful quotes I’ve heard when it comes to understanding the state of the world today: “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed”.

Put plainly, there is so much already happening in the world that we are not aware of, because it is not visible within our immediate experience. While it is vital that we think about the possibilities that the future might hold, it is equally vital that we ensure we are taking advantage of all the tools and processes that are actually already here.

In my presentations to community and industry groups I strive to ensure that each audience member takes away at least one concept or idea they can put into practice that very day. Whether it is using the plethora of web-based tools that can help us run businesses more efficiently, or tapping into the online global labour market for skills and services, or any of the thousands of ways new technologies and processes can pull cost out of our businesses and extend our reach … there are simply so many options available to us that can impact our lives today, long before we need to embrace any of the amazing ideas that the future holds.

And the beauty of many of these tools and processes is that the dividend they yield is the one commodity that most business owners find so precious – time. Many of these tools are free to try, and designed to be used with the minimum of training. And if they can shave an hour or two from the working week – particularly in administrative tasks that add no value to the business – they easily pay for themselves.

The future might be dazzling and bright, but you don’t need to wait for the trends of the future to create a positive impact for you and your business today.

For more information check out my profile page at Saxton Speakers Bureau.

Why CMOs should be paying more attention to cybersecurity – CMO

Cyber SecurityThat cyber attacks can have a strong impact on brand value is indisputable, with the damage to the brand potentially outstripping the value of lost intellectual property or other damages. The extent of brand damage from a cyber attack can also be directly proportional to the quality of the brand’s response.

Data security is not just an issue for the IT or cyber security team. The damage from a cyber attack can affect the entire operation, and especially its brand reputation, and as such it is a topic that a broader set of executives are taking an interest in.

CMOs in particular are coming to realise that the era of data-driven marketing brings with it new responsibilities in terms of how their organisations manage and protect the customer data they are using. and that this data can be highly valuable to malicious actors.

So it is not surprising to hear that a growing cadre, led not surprisingly by marketers in the tech sector itself, are equipping themselves to better understand how their data is protected, and how best to limit the damage when an attack does take place.

You can read more about what they are doing and the links between cyber security and marketing in this article for CMO.com.au.

 

Building customer insights in the data and digital age – L’Oreal’s Joanne Norton for CMO

cmo-insights-joanne-norton-lorealThis article for CMO Australia sprung from my desire to get a better understanding of how brands are getting into the heads of the clients in the digital age.

Having taken part in a number of focus-group activities in my university days, I was always struck by artificial the environment seemed to be. A group of strangers brought together to discuss a product they had never used, and were unlikely to ever use? Of dubious value at best.

Of course there is a lot more to focus groups than my initial impressions, and as a tool for discerning customer insights, they can still deliver a lot of value. But in the digital era, where consumer behaviour (rather than intent) can be monitored at scale, and in real time, how do the older techniques stack up?

According to the Consumer Insights Director at L’Oreal Australia, Joanne Norton (pictured) using online and offline customer insights is not a choice between one or the other, but a blend of the two. You can read more about what she has to say, as well as voices from the emerging world of data-driven customer insights, in this article for CMO Australia.

CMO – Why this marketing and creative chief switched from global brands to local startup

Photo by DAMIAN SHAW.com

Photo by DAMIAN SHAW.com

Startups are renowned for being able to build brands off a shoestring budget – a talent that at times has left established competitors scratching their heads about how they can rise to prominence with such small budgets.

Craig Davis is now learning those lessons first hand. The former chief creative officer of Publicis Mojo is now heading up marketing for a small but exciting Australian startup, the parcel delivery service Sendle.

He describes the experience so far as being like an MBA in the new ways of brand building. Given how successful many startups have been in stealing attention (and revenue) from big-spending established competitors, it may be an experience that more up-and-coming marketers might want to see featured on their resume.

You can read more about Craig and the lessons he is learning in this article for CMO.com.au.

CMO – Why Tourism Victoria decided to go agile

agile_2

Its easy to forget that all the tools and methodologies that make startups successful are equally available to existing organisations – if they choose to use and master them. So it was great to see an example of a government agency adopting the agile development methodology in conjunction with its digital agency when it came to revamping its core website.

You can read more about the agile partnership between Tourism Victoria and its agency IE Digital in this story for CMO.com.au. For Tourism Victoria, embracing a new way of working together delivered greater transparency into the development process, and ensured that it knew exactly what it would be getting for its money.

 

CMO – Getting the lowdown on people-based marketing

people_1All marketing is about people – surely? As with all things related to digital marketing, the term ‘people-based marketing’ means much more than what it seems. While much of the marketing world works on probabilities – buying ads in a certain program at a certain time will ‘probably’ reach a certain audience, people-based marketing aims to be very specific – reaching actual (although usually ‘anonymised’) individuals whose attributes have been pre-determined through some form of opt-in system. To learn more, take a look at this article I wrote recently for CMO.com.au.