Tuesday, 30 June 2009

The way to conduct business!

Yet again I seem to be on the move - although to be fair in some familiar hunting grounds.

Yesterday morning saw me down at Rennie's Isle hooking up with my amazing Business Manager at the Bank of Scotland (or whatever you want to call it now) - she has long supported us, been at our beck and call (and come along to the odd Christmas party) and knows my various ventures inside out. We have another business looming in the background that is breaking away from DF but more on that later.

I was then supposed be hooking up with 2 guys who are setting up a social networking site - they're going through the whole funding process at the moment... they couldn't turn up, their pitch had gone so well (prior to our meet) that first round funding was now over subscribed - my pearls of wisdom have now been postponed until later in the week. It's an interesting proposition that I guess I'll find out more about in the weeks ahead.

This morning saw Paul (the DF Senior Developer)and I at CentOtre - we were carrying out some beta testing on a new product "tweetabits" with our very good friend Jim Woolff (congrats on the new job by the way!) This is where I should mention the fabulous service, devine coffee and pastries - with yes you guessed it free (stong signal, no password) WIFI!!! Hello Edinburgh eateries: wise up, get with the programme and promote that you have it too!

This afternoon saw me at Hawke & Hunter, which for those people visiting Edinburgh either by car (parking at St James multi-storey) or by train (10 minute walk) or (me) coming from Leith, is becoming a really handy meeting place - great food, great service and good WIFI ("picardypl" for the password). My meeting was with John Campbell who I met for the first time at the Entrepreneurial Exchange Summer Ball - which was missing 200 heads, MC'd by a DJ better suited to bingo calling, a live act who we love to support (Leon Jackson) but better suited to a Funeral Home, didn't go down well on our table... needless to say we left early. John staying in Glasgow and me based in Edinburgh, the event didn't give us an opportunity to chat... hence the meet.

Back to yesterday, I spent the afternoon playing a round of golf with other board members from Bizlinx (EH4), and one in particular who is effectively supporting a new product launch (hence the reason to see the bank yesterday). But wow - I'd never done the business golf thing before; I've played golf but not like this. The weather was amazing (I got slightly sunburnt), we hired buggies (it was either that or hire a mountain goat as a caddie) and chat casually about business for 3 hours. The view from the top of the Swanston course over Edinburgh is spectacular.

Now that's the way to conduct business!

Saturday, 27 June 2009

The Balloon Guy

Ok time for a bit of promotion for a friend... The balloon guy who gave my daughters' warehouse party the look and feel:

I only mention this because I have been repeatedly asked about the stunning backdrops and the columns - it's a new business so he only has a holding page at the moment - you can find the chat here: http://www.stylecelebrations.com/

Friday, 26 June 2009

Red Dress

"Were you listening to me Neo? Or were you looking at the woman in the red dress?"

I damn sure I know where I was looking! This is the sort of impact Digital Face is creating with it's online social marketing. So much so that major change is ahead.

Watch this space.


I used to rave about the design of particular websites... am I getting long in the tooth, is it taking more for me to go WOW! Or because I view so many sites on a regular basis is it taking a lot for them to be able to make any sort of impact.

Maybe I'm just turning into an old fart who the new generation of sites are not aimed at?

One site that I never seem to tire of viewing is LessRain and it's now ancient. Another used to be Design Chapel - talk about ancient!

They both hold something special to me and I have recently come to recognise it as elements of student life and the associations I have when I was both a student in Manchester and London...

Have you looked at design recently and thought - yup, that's really good and then attempted to assess why you thought it was good?

Go on I dare you!

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Thriving & Traffic Congestion

This afternoon I made a mad dash up to The George Hotel to a networking event hosted by Annie at "Thrive for Business" - it's called 'Energy and Ethicals'. I can honestly say by the time I made it after fighting my way through the traffic I had neither energy nor was of an ethical disposition.

I met some great and really interesting people not least two sets of folk who are interested in working together RESULT! And also made a great contact at Edinburgh City Council Planning who wants me to get in touch with a report about the work that we carried out at Edinburgh Park.

Edinburgh Park is a business park on the outskirts of Edinburgh (on the way to the airport) it lives right next to the Gyle Shopping Centre. The developers were challenged with no further planning consent until they submitted a 'Green Travel Plan' - this was down to the horrendous traffic congestion coming in and out of the park - really due to it being right on a main thoroughfare into Edinburgh City Centre.

We were appointed to provide the solution when we suggested that the working community on Edinburgh Park would really benefit from having a social networking site... Why?

The site brings together the 7000 employees that work on the park, working for companies such as BT, Diageo, HSBC and Aegon by providing a page that hosts a car-sharing scheme, traffic web-cams, bus trackers, the city-car-club, cycle groups, running groups whilst also providing a place for local businesses to offer discount vouchers for sandwiches or dry-cleaning... it has had a dramatic effect on the traffic congestion.

There are over 4000 regular users on the site... now this begs the question why don't city centre's all over the country think about applying this sort of technology and obvious solution...?

PS. I'm afraid I am one of those rare people that is a huge fan of the Edinburgh Tram project - I am only a little disappointed there is only one route and not a thorough network...

Where is he now?

It was pointed out to me today by Craig at SalesGap that I seem to be forever on the move and meeting some really interesting folk - with that spirit in mind I will attempt to keep this blog updated not just on my thoughts but on the people I meet and the places I go to.

My day started at 8:00am Pani Solinska a little cafe / restaurant on Broughton Street, in Edinburgh. I was hooking up with my chums the two Davids (David Reid and David Peters of TruthBrands). We have a joint project that is slowly coming to fruition. It's getting to that stage where real commitment is now required and it's getting quite exciting.

A nip back to DF (Studio 128) to catch up with some mail, say hello to the office dog and dash out again to Eteaket alovely little tea shop / cafe / restaurant on Frederick Street, to hook up with another potential project (both supplier and client, which we'll see where it goes).

Whilst Emma and I were there (Emma is the wonderful Sudio Manager at DF) I bumped into Bill Todd of SME Finance and Stuart McLean of St James Place who happens to also be on the Board at EH4 Bizlinx a great support network business owners and networking group - a truly rubbish and uninspiring website... yup they need the help of DF! (DF = http://www.digitalface.co.uk).

Ok so that takes me up to lunch time, where I sit in peace for 30 minutes and write this...

I don't want to bore you but the rest of the afternoon is going to be taken up by getting back to DF and prioritise some proposal writing!

For those of you that didn't realise our office dog is a dalmation belonging to our Creative Director Dave Black - Poppy is the most inactive Dalmation I have ever had the pleasure of coming across - it's either old age or just lazy... she's quite a honey though.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Creative Scotland 1st public meeting at the Lyceum

So the unveiling of Creative Scotland started in earnest in the public forum today. The gathering at the Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh was part of an effort by the Scottish Government to boost confidence in Creative Scotland. Mike Russell MSP (SNP) led the charge and stood guilty of getting the ball rolling to create an agency (or limited company - yet to be confirmed) that supports the artist or creator, providing access, clarity, promotion and a supporting role.

Mike talked eloquently about the vision and stating the reason for quaterly meetings to gain assistance from the creative community a wise move for many reasons, not least to gain favour, publicity but also transparency. He mentioned that parliamentary debates were expected on the performance of Scotland's national arts companies, which are directly funded by the Scottish Government.

This autumn he will prepare a report for Holyrood on Scottish Opera, the National Theatre of Scotland, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Scottish Ballet.

"Parliament will get a chance to see what the national companies are doing," he said. One issue will be the level of leadership the national companies show in their fields.

Asked whether he would resign if the Public Services Reform Bill failed next year, Mr Russell joked: "I think I'd have to go." He added: "The expectation is that the Creative Scotland part of this bill and the whole bill will be passed."

Ewan Brown* then took to the podium, Ewan is heading up Creative Scotland in this transitional phase; he was very keen to point out that it is not a merger of the Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen but an entirely new body with a new culture that both existing institutions will fit into.

A number of funds were announced to help, assist and develop creative start-ups, existing organisations and individuals, £5 million was the additional pot which although not mentioned is also receiving a further £3 million from Channel 4ip for the digital fund.

So the big question how do you get access to the cash... right now go to Business Gateway, the organisation that used to be Scottish Enterprise for start-ups has now almost entirely been taken over by COSLA, who it's fair to say deeply impressed Ewan on a recent visit.

Richard Holloway (the ex-Bishop turned Creative Lethario) is currently heading up both Scottish Arts Council and Screen Scotland in an attempt to make the transition from one organisation into another - he made a deeply passionate and intelligent response to questions raised about the transfer.

There were many references to online "Fora" or in real people speak Forums that will allow everyone in the Scottish Creative industries to post and discuss their new agency. Apparently something will be available in the Autumn... although to be fair Ewan and Richard looked at each other in a sort of shoulder shrug so my guess is possibly when the process is close to finishing. I guess we watch this space.

* 67 Years Old
Ewan Brown CBE FRSE, Joined the board in 1999 and was chairman of Lloyds TSB Scotland until May 2008. Joined Noble Grossart in 1969 and was an executive director of that company until December 2003. A non-executive director of Noble Grossart and Stagecoach Group, chairman of Creative Scotland 2009, senior governor of the Court of the University of St Andrews and vice chairman of the Edinburgh International Festival. A former chairman of tie and non-executive director of John Wood Group. Ewan Brown, CBE FRSE, retiring at the annual general meeting in 2009.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Delay gratification = Success throughout life

I live in a house dominated by strong women (wife / daughter) - they are both instant gratification seekers; when they want something they want it now, in 2 seconds is too late, they want it yesterday. Maybe you know people like this, it's not unique to girls but in my opinion appears to be more prevalent in todays society.

I recently watched a short film (6 minutes) from TED by Joachim de Posada who watched and conducted a study both in the US (Stanford) and South America. Rather than describe the study I enclose it:

I find this fascinating - as someone that has experienced fantastic success and also been part of less successful enterprises I wonder about my own ability as a youngster to delay gratification. Assessing this element of your psyche now reveals what? Could you wait as a child?

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Be a genius or filter out the Noise!

You may ask the question - if I'm not getting the result, am I doing it right?

I guess that could be said of many things not least the building of an Ikea bed - ok maybe not a good example, how about Pepsi integrating Facebook and Twitter into their Pepsi Raw campaign.

Can it be assumed that they achieved a great result?
1380 fans on Facebook
500 followers on Twitter (it was 150 a week ago)

Unfortunately I don't have access to the stats, the release dates or the targets the agency (GraphicoDMG) set themselves.

It used to be said that typically a blog would take up to 18 months to gain momentum, build trust and start to create a niche for itself - I would suggest that we have come full circle and this has not changed.

For a while (8 to 3 months ago) due to Twitter and Facebook (largely) the increase in traffic generated was a much shorter time-span.

If you are an online PR Agency or call yourself a PR company that creates seeding and brand building by using social sites and blogs and say to clients - give me a month we'll have major traffic, you'll be laughed off the planet by any professional in this business.

It has got noisier out there. I believe we are in that interesting phase of the early adopters (in social media) are getting a little tired of Twitter and general populous is now getting on board big style.

Ok so your campaign is never going to happen in a month - but you know what 6 months could just about make it work.

That is unless you know someone with a genius idea good at making viral campaigns or work with an Agency that has found a brilliant way to filter out the noise (ahem: tweetabits)!

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

The merits of Twitter - an arguement ensues!

Two respected heavyweights from Scottish Advertising backgrounds discuss the merits of Twitter. Mike Coulter and Mark Gorman.

Some of you are sick to the back teeth of hearing about 'Twitter' others are grasping it with both hands and are creating products and business opportunities from it.

I beg you to read the following discussion on Mark Gorman's blog "Think Hard". Have fun and join in!

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Sir Ken Robinson - Creativity & Schools


Creativity in Education

My daughter recently turned 16; she has expressed an interest in Media Studies but is as yet undecided.

We at Digital Face have long been frustrated by the general UK education system and its lack of importance assigned to creative studies throughout primary and secondary education whether art, music or drama. It is of course easier to assign test results to a correct and formulaic process but what as a nation are we producing? Needless to say there is importance in the written word, maths and the sciences but do we nurture creative thought and deed by brushing over or side-lining the creative subjects?

I don't have the answer and it's a topic that has been discussed by wiser people than I; all I will say is that if we are going to better prepare and nurture our sons and daughters, the opportunity to spend time in constructive, creative thought is likely to have a better idea what vocation to decide on when the time comes.

I know that if I ask all of the girls above not one of them knows what job they want to study for - although to be fair a job in a 70's nightclub is looking likely at the moment!

The other element to this discussion is the lack of commercial awareness portrayed by high school leavers... why don't more schools encourage businesses to go into schools to share the way they work and what type of people have succeeded in their industry?

This is an open invitation - I am a firm believer in supporting local businesses and Scotland and have lectured in colleges by request... why not schools?

My daughter... she's the one in the cream dress.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Social media needs more guy #3's

I was reading Seth Godin's blog earlier this evening and happened across one of his blogs relating to Tribes.

Seth recently had a book published called Tribes, it's a great read - it looks at human behaviour, the role of the entrpreneur, early adopter, the need for leaders and so on. What is more apparent and is beautifully represented in the following video is the need for "GUY NUMBER 3".

Guy number 3 appears about 1 minute in to this video (apologies for the appaling sound track) his roll is to turn an odd couple of people into a movement. A movement is when real change starts to happen and a tribe is formed.

Please enjoy and comment!

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Creative Scotland Meeting: 9:30 – 12:30 on Tuesday 23 June

Michael Russell, Minister for Culture, External Affairs and the Constitution,

Ewan Brown, Chair of Creative Scotland, 2009 Ltd and

Richard Holloway, Chair of the Joint Board of the Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen

would like to welcome members of the artistic and creative community to the first in a series of quarterly events to discuss Creative Scotland. These events are intended to update the community on ongoing progress and offer an opportunity for you to contribute towards Creative Scotland’s development and share your thoughts on the issues which are important to you.

Strong progress has been made over the last few months and last week marked a very considerable step forward with the introduction of The Public Services Reform (Scotland) Bill. We hope you will be able to join the dialogue at this important time in the development of Creative Scotland.

The first event will be held at the Lyceum Theatre, Grindlay Street, Edinburgh, EH3 9AX from 9:30 – 12:30 on Tuesday 23 June (refreshments will be available from 9 am). I should be grateful if you would RSVP to Kathryn Stewart on 0131 244 7186 or email Kathryn at creativescotlandinvitations@scotland.gsi.gov.uk by Monday 15th June.

This event is open to anyone who wishes to register, however as there is a limit on numbers we would be grateful if you would confirm your attendance. It would be helpful to know in advance if you require wheelchair or assisted access or if you have any other requirements. Please feel free to pass on this invitation to anyone else you think might be interested.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Outted - Fashion boy

I've been outted.

It's all true - I studied Fashion Design at Harrow College of Higher Education (or as it's now known University of Westminster) the same place that the Emanuel's - David & Elisabeth of Diana's wedding dress fame.

I should say that I preceeded this with a foundation art course at Manchester's Polytechnic, the same year of Madonna's first ever UK gig... it just happened to be in the Hacienda during my Freshers week. I would like to say I was there but that would be a lie - the year was 1984. Manchester had, at the time, the biggest population of students in Europe - I loved it (there were bad moments too) - I moved around a lot, staying in Didsbury, closer to town in Fallowfield then back out to Stretford. My memories consist of the lecturing common room opening with wafts of pot smoke being picked up by the shafts of sunlight coming through vast windows. Every now and then a buzz of activity - which could be excused for creativity; it would consist of taking a running jump at a vast canvas with a bucket of paint in one hand - never considering for a moment the floor or the surrounding works that were benefitting from large splodges of blue oil paint.

The fashion focus came in the last term - it was just that the fine art mob were so up there own backsides... which was my leaning, plus I also was considering: "how the hell do I make any money painting stuff I like?" The fashion crowd were the party animals having a ball and hey I'd already started mucking about making and sewing up wierd and wonderful outfits - job done; clearly that was my future!

I don't remember applying to many places to study fashion, just that I wanted to be in London - game on.

I met some great people there - Jacquie Smith, we made stuff for our rail in Camden, Adam Lawrence, who incidently I was at Manchester poly with - now a very sought after photographer and then there was Dave Mackenzie, we hung out with the same crowd back in Edinburgh; Dave was studying film and photography, I remember him asking me and my girlfriend to be in one of his shorts. He can now be found directing Hollywood movies - he'll be at EIFF (Edinburgh International Film Festival) with his film Spread, staring Ashton Kutcher later this month.

Why this ramble... it's true to say I've been out of touch with my fashion side for a while, so when I mentioned that I'd helped a couple of girl friends pick their wedding dresses and that I studied 19th Century French Lingerie as research for a show... the comments followed "but you've been married twice!" "Nah, I mean you look so conservative".

I had to let the cat out of the bag - you can't hide for long in social media - your background soon catches up with you.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Radio Interview Recording - Leith FM

By popular demand - lose 12 minutes of your life listening to me witter on - on the Radio.

Talking about Social Media and it's place in business.


Monday, 1 June 2009

Plato said...

If I recall it was Plato who said: "necessity is the mother of invention".

DF, my creative and marketing company, has come up with the most amazing little tool that has turned all that online noise into a relevant stream of pertinent information that our clients can react to.

We as businesses are faced with many challenges, not least of all an amazing abundance of communication methods: letters, direct mail, email, texting, micro blogging (Twitter), Facebook profile updates, Friendfeed updates, LinkedIn... deciphering all that noise into pertinent information that you can respond to is an extremely useful tool.

Those of us that look after our custmers, not shy about providing the very best possible service are keen to learn new ways to reach our customers has to be a good thing. Our little "Intelligent Twitter Aggregator" is fulfilling that promise right now and is on its way to you...