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The Clientside Podcast

Digital Skills with Veronica Swindale

The Clientside Podcast

50 min Veronica Swindale , Andrew

Andrew Armitage is joined by Veronica Swindale, the MD of the North East Sales and Marketing Academy (NESMA) to talk about the digital skills gap in digital and marketing based roles.

In this episode we hear about how businesses need to create an environment of continual development and the reason for the skills gap we face is not because of a shortage of people, but a lack of high level qualifications. The pace of change in marketing is such that as soon as people become qualified, the marketplace has already moved on and education invariably can't keep up with what's current.

We also talk about culture and the importance of strategic planning, so rather than just telling stories, people understand why they're being told it, and for what, and who's benefit.

Finally, you can test your own digital skills with the A Digital Scorecard. Visit https://scorecard.adigital.agency to find out more.

Enjoy the episode!

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Digital Skills with Veronic Swindale from NESMA transcript powered by Sonix—the best audio to text transcription service

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Andrew:
So hi, everyone. Welcome back to the next instalment of the Clientside podcast. This is the show that talks about digital marketing and web development for those working in house on the client side who aren't necessarily immersed in the digital world every day. Hopefully we'll have plenty of tips and takeaways for you to apply to your own role. It's great to have you back. We appreciate listening in and hope you're having a great day so far. I'm really excited for today's show and I'm sure we've got a great conversation in front of us. It's all about digital skills. My guest today is Veronica Swindale. She's the founder and MD of the North East Marketing Association. She's a chartered marketer, a fellow of the Institute of Marketing and vice chair of the CIM on the North East Regional Board. She's also a lecturer and consultant, having held previous senior management experience in the pharmaceutical sector. Veronica, it's lovely to have you with us today. Welcome to the show.

Veronica:
Thank you.

Andrew:
Would you like to just introduce yourself to listeners and tell us a little bit more about NESMA?

Veronica:
Sure. Thank you. Yes. So I founded NESMA probably about 10 years ago now. I had been a course leader in a local college in the north east of England and I had observed how difficult it was for people to maybe do a full day's work and then fall into college at the end of the day, absolutely exhausted and then be expected to study for three hours, possibly two nights a week, so it's really hard going then. And I always had the ambition to set up a study centre that was hugely flexible and took into account the kinds of careers and lives that we were all leading, which are pretty full on and continue to be; I don't know any marketer, comms or digital bod who doesn't put in a full day's work every day. So we set up NESMA about 10 years ago and we now have centres in Newcastle, Cumbria and Edinburgh, and we do just that. We try to be as flexible as we can to help people come in and do their professional studies and a few open courses to develop their skills, whether they need to be in either marketing, comms and or digital.

Andrew:
Great. OK. So we were actually introduced through someone who we'd previously worked with because we're actually recruiting at the moment and someone put two and two together. And you've been very kind in terms of getting this particular vacancy that we're looking to recruit for on your website. So that's really where this particular idea came from, because we're told there's a digital skills gap. It's something that we certainly see. It's obviously not just affecting the digital sector, but clearly wider businesses. But at the same time, there seems to be a bit of a contradiction because we see lots of, dare I say, social media experts and digital marketing experts on LinkedIn and things like that. So what exactly is going on? There's clearly a skills gap, but lots of people seem to think that they've got the skills.

Veronica:
That's a big question. And I'll start with a big picture answer.

Andrew:
OK.

Veronica:
I think because of the way that technology is, you know, it's not emerging. It's racing ahead at a rate of knots and none of us can keep up with, whilst we have people coming into the market with those skills we can look over our shoulders and find that many degrees have only just started having digital topics within them. And so people are not qualified to a high level to what they should be for what companies need at the moment. The imperative of having a digital presence for every single business, I can see on your website, you've got, for example, Windermere Cruises, which is also a client of ours. You know, whether you're Windermere Cruises, Virgin Atlantic or anybody else in the transport sector or any sector at all, you need to have a presence because that's where your customers are. So it's not that the people aren't there. The people are there. They don't have the skills that the market is demanding.

Andrew:
Right. We can't necessarily blame education, can we? I mean, I know from experience universities, you know, they can struggle to keep up with the technology just like the rest of us. You don't just change a syllabus overnight.

Veronica:
Yeah.

Andrew:
But we can't purely blame this on sort of universities and those sort of degree level qualifications, can we?

Veronica:
It's not I'm not blaming the universities. I'm saying that, you know, why is it that we haven't got a rich marketplace full of fully qualified people; its because as soon as we are fully qualified, then the market moves on and we've got to move on again. I was at a really interesting seminar the other day, which was the Pathway to Marketing Director.

Andrew:
OK.

Veronica:
Every one of the four directors that shared their knowledge and experience said you've got to keep on learning. And that's what the imperative is now, is to keep on learning. and obviously, I'm going to be talking about you've got to keep your skills up to date, but I think the danger is that employers, you get your team in, you get, you know, however large that team is going to be, and then there's a tendency to think and that's it, and it's not. You've got to have that continuous learning because the market is changing around this all the time, so the better employer will be one who is good at identifying what skills his market needs and then how well his workforce matches those needs, and then what will that market look like in the next three years? Next five years? And every time we put the microscope on that, we're going to find ourselves standing still too long. And that's the problem really is however good you are. You've got to carry on being good.

Andrew:
Sure. And actually, that raises another interesting point, I think, because I suppose we've got a lot of people who are entering the industry who let's just say they might be sort of in their 20s, perhaps early 30s at the lower end, but they don't necessarily know what they need to know. They're looking for some guidance, perhaps. Then you've got the senior managers who might be a little bit older, obviously, we're potentially looking at a different generation. They don't necessarily know the skills that they need within the business.

Veronica:
Correct? Absolutely.

Andrew:
So that becomes a bit of a problem as well, doesn't it?

Veronica:
It does, because you talk about the older side of it and I don't know where to draw a line on this, but 40 plus, it's not say you're not digitally savvy. Can't say that! Digitally savvy, but it's understanding of the raft of stuff available, what you're actually going to use for your own business. I've had a case study recently where somebody is working in the apprenticeships fields. The owner of the business is, you know, 60 plus his team saying you've got to be on social media because your target market is 16. He doesn't understand the social media. The team in the middle are getting frustrated because they do understand that social media, that's the way to go to target that audience. Suffice to say, 2 of the team to the team have left and he's still not reaching his target market. That's when it can go wrong, is when you've got intransigence due to ignorance, where people don't understand the impact or they're choosing not to jump into that. Within NESMA ourselves, we are running a small business. And whilst I personally don't run our Facebook page, I don't run our Instagram because I don't feel inclined to do that, thanks. I truly understand how I've got to have that, because that's how our delegates reach us and how we communicate and how we converse and engage. And that's how you and I talk now because we've reached each other through those platforms. So just because a business owner perhaps doesn't feel inclined to learn it themselves, they do need to make it their business to understand what their customers expect and if their customers expect to pick up their phone 24/7 and look something up. You know, I expect now spend to pick up my phone and find out what time the next cruise is across Windermere. You know, if that isn't enabled, then I'm not gonna make that booking. So it is because I know you've been working with them. But that's the difference really, is to put yourself in your customer shoes and understand how they behave and what they're looking for. And are you optimised sufficiently to reach that?

Andrew:
Yeah. And I think that's that leads on to sort of a common trap that we see people think about their own behaviour, don't they? They don't necessarily think about their audience behaviour, which is something in marketing we talk about all the time. You should be doing things for your audience. What is it that your audience wants and not necessarily how you behave...

Veronica:
Exactly.

Andrew:
What your sort of default behaviour might be. Just because you might not be so digitally inclined to go straight to the website, you might be more traditional, perhaps look to pick up the phone. We know that certainly if we can group millennials, perhaps that sort of 20 to 40, that group don't tend to pick up the phone; they look for that immediate digital response, don't they?

Veronica:
Absolutely. Absolutely. Yes. So that's the space they're in. I've got little stat here. We've got 4.78 billion mobile users by next year. 67% of the world's population uses a mobile. So why wouldn't you want to be there at the time for them at the end of the mobile phone?

Andrew:
Absolutely. And of course, communication has proliferated. Instant chat now are so much more popular. I think I saw a photo of, I think what traditionally might have been called a call centre for I think it was ASOS, but actually, people aren't making calls, it's all instant chat. Everyone's got the headphones on, but it's silent.

Veronica:
Yes. Yeah, that's right. But the point of that is that whatever platform or whatever channel the customers choosing to use, they're there to fulfil it and that's why they've grown so incredibly over recent years. Indeed, you know they're better than Topshop and Topshop was always the leader of its day and a now ASOS have dived into that space. And it's becoming, you know, if you get it right, it enables the company to become the first choice. If I need clothes, where do I go, bang - ASOS every time. If I'm a millennial.

Andrew:
Yeah.

Veronica:
So why would I go anywhere else? Because they're actually give me everything I want whenever I want it.

Andrew:
Yeah.

Veronica:
That's the space we all try to be in. The danger as well, if I might say, about people saying, well, I don't think we need to do that, you've also got to be aware of what your competitors are doing. If your competitors are doing that, you are going to be left behind very quickly and disappear quite quickly as well.

Andrew:
Yeah, I think just to come back on that point where you talk about people expect that service to be there. It's not just at the buying stage either, is it? Of course it's throughout that buyer journey, which....

Veronica:
Absolutely.

Andrew:
...it could be the initial browsing stage before people are ready to buy. The point that people actually buy and then that follow up, the after service, what happens if things go wrong? How can that best be handled, all of which has to be completely streamlined for the digital experience?

Veronica:
Exactly. The question is how many people do need to be reminded? And they probably aren't on this podcast because they're not the tech savvy people that we're talking to today, but is thinking about one of my favourite apps is the Trainline. You know, once upon a time you'd think about, oh, I need a train journey and I need to get a timetable from somewhere. I need to go and buy my tickets. And it was all very laborious. Whereas now we know we can just not only make selections, through our browsing make selections, but look at what the choices and then make that choice, make that booking, hop on the train and show our mobile phone, which is fantastic. You know, the time it doesn't take to achieve a transaction is amazing.

Andrew:
Yeah.

Veronica:
You know, should things go wrong in the service, they will equally enabling you to you know put your claims in and that's automated as well.

Andrew:
That's right.

Veronica:
That's where coming full circle on the skills base is like how do we use, how do we buy in the skills we need to effect that seamless journey for the customer to enhance their experience, to understand the behaviours and to gain insights from what they're doing and give them more of what they need?

Andrew:
Yeah. So what are the most commonly lacking skills in, I suppose, across business? Let's not just limit it to the digital sector that say we operate in because it affects businesses across the board. What are the most commonly lacking skills that you come across through the programs that you run?

Veronica:
Well, it's the understanding the relevance of, well, I'll start with strategic planning, if I may. Because however good you are, you know, we've talked about millennials, we've talked about 20, 30 somethings, they've just grown up living and breathing this technology, so what is the big deal about it? The big deal about it for me is understanding what the strategy is behind it. So actually, what are we trying to achieve? What are we trying to sell? Who are we trying to reach? How are we going to do that? All those questions before we actually go, right, let's get you on Facebook. Why? What are we trying to say? How we're trying to manage that? How we tried to position ourselves. What are we wanting to do and be understood about our brand? So it's still a lack of a lot of that from small businesses right through to very large organisations who will have a comms team, you know, I never fail to be amazed how we can have comms teams not know what the company's strategy is.

Andrew:
Right.

Veronica:
They just keep telling stories, but how does that actually fit in with what we're trying to do strategically? You know, from the top level there's still like a strategic understanding. People think it's okay to say put a graphic designer in because they want them to do a marketing plan. So there's an expectation that the person who does that kind of thing in the company can actually to everything in the company related to marketing communications, which isn't the case only to be taught, they need to be taught structure. They need to be taught what strategy is about, what positioning is about branding, about house plan it, how to deliver it, how to measure it, because people see marketing as an expense rather than an investment. So we are very big on encouraging people to be able to demonstrate, if you spend this money on this, this is what the outcome will be based on your objectives. This is all fairly straightforward stuff if you think you work that way anyway. But it's staggering how many organisations don't still. So that's what keeps us in business, if you like, is being able to go through those basics.

Andrew:
Sure. And I think you know marketing has proliferated so much recently just within digital alone. I think there's always a danger that it can be one of those roles that people are sort of expected to be able to do all sorts of different things. And on the one hand, you know, they might be brought in to do graphic design, but actually all of a sudden they're expected to do a marketing strategy. By rights, they're probably then expected to deliver on that strategy. And yet they've actually they were brought in perhaps originally to do graphic design. And absolutely, while there's a like a training and development process, I think there's a great danger that they end up with actually so much on their plate because it's someone either perhaps someone else in the company doesn't necessarily know how to do it or it might have a slightly technical aspect to it, and someone might say, oh, Joe Bloggs in the corner, he can pick that up, that's something that he can do and all of a sudden they've got so much on their plate that actually they end up with nothing getting really delivered to any great extent.

Veronica:
That's right and I mean, another facet of that I've come across recently is I met a junior who's senior marketer had moved on to another post and the junior was left, if you like, managing strategy for the department with no proper supervision, and she thought she had to design her own website, build her own website, do her standard graphics, do the PR herself and she had no marketing qualifications anyway. And, you know, that's quite a respectable organisation there who are not giving that their full attention, although, you know, if it all went pear shaped and they went oh, hang on minute, why haven't we had any business for the last six months? Well, because so-and-so in the corner there is still trying to get a head round how to build a website, do you see? So that's how things can go wrong. So that brings up a couple of questions really is how much of your work can you outsource through agencies and digital agencies, web designers etc.? How much are you going to do in-house and how should that effectively be managed? Now, that brings me on to another topic which I don't know if you want to talk about agencies at the moment? But again, how responsive are agencies to the needs of a client company and how much are they in a position to drive the strategy for the company with them? Because quite often in my experience, it's we need this campaign, can you help us do it? The agency say yes without actually saying, well, okay, what's the overall strategy? How does integrate with everything else that we're doing? And so, you know, there are instances where clearly we're not naming clients names, but, you know, where clients work in silos, where one department doesn't know what the other is doing and the agency may be working with both and its trying to help them. I know you like the phrase joining up the dots, it's making sure actually that the dots are joined up across the whole organisation. And you haven't got people just doing their own thing with their own, you know, their own agencies that you have some cohesion working across that.

Andrew:
Yeah, I think there's a fear sometimes when clients approach agencies that they are going to give too much away or they you know, if they go down a particular route, then the price is going to shoot up. But actually, what really annoys me and I could say this as an agency owner is that clients will very often approach you with a solution rather than the problem.

Veronica:
Yes, we want you to do this...

Andrew:
Exactly - as if we've already decided we need an app or we've already decided that we've got to run this particular campaign. Okay, well, that's fine and that may well be the right outcome or the right objective that you need to work towards, but let's just take a step back and think about the why? Why are you doing this? Who are you doing it for? How are you going to measure it? All the things that you were talking about earlier on, because it might be that actually isn't the best solution. You know there's another solution that could take you off in a different direction. It could get better results. It could reduce the risk, reduce the cost and so on.

Veronica:
Exactly. Exactly. So it's back to, okay, so what are the objectives here and who are we trying to speak to? Once we answer that, then we can decide the messaging and the platforms. So we've got a range of modules that we teach and the nice thing now is that these qualifications are bite-size. So you can do two or three days study plus an assignments and that is CIM accredited, accredited award or a CIPR award or even with DMI. Within that we've got something like planning campaigns as a module. So how useful would it be to do something like that? And in that, the most useful question is one of the tasks might be write an agency brief, and that really gets you to take a suitable framework that really gets you to think about what were some of the objectives here and where we're saying. But don't tell them what to do - tell them what you're trying to achieve, but don't come up with a solution, and it's very hard when you're used to being, you know, having to come up with the answers to stop coming up with the answer and really focus on what your objectives are and what success looks like. What we need to do across all aspects of business, including marketing goals.

Andrew:
Yeah. There's nothing wrong with having a solution in your mind, but I think you almost use that as a as a test for what the agency might come back and suggest. How does that stack up against your own view? But don't sort of direct thinking, because I think once you're given a theme, sometimes it can be very difficult to move away from that theme. And obviously from an agency's point of view, they don't want to waste time and feel that, well, actually, if we're making a suggestion to do something different, how is that going to be received? But at the same time, we don't want to necessarily do what we might view as bad work or the wrong work. So do you think there's the barrier to entry into the industry is is too low? I mean, that's a really difficult question because, of course, everybody has to start somewhere.

Veronica:
I think the best companies at the moment are ones that are recruiting talent and not qualification, dare I say.

Andrew:
Okay, interesting.

Veronica:
Yeah. Get the right person in, but then please invest in them doing suitable qualifications for their role. There are some superbly qualified people around, so obviously that doesn't apply further up as you go through the hierarchy of jobs, so senior people, you need really good experience and qualifications as well. Barriers to entry? I think it turns on his head. How do I become an attractive candidate? And I think it would be about having qualifications and it depends on what you're trying to do. It might be that you're trying to become very focused and so it might be that you want to be a data analyst or a content manager and I would encourage people listening to look at what jobs are coming up at the moment. What are people asking for? The sort of languages that are coming out that we're not used to seeing. So they might not necessarily be saying advertising manager, it might be more something like content manager. So the language is changing, so watch what keywords you're using when you're searching as well. And there's a shift, a huge seismic shift across to data driven roles. So if we're looking at things like analytics, looking and gaining intelligence, being able to program you know, talking about apps - can't live without an app. So if you're going app-wards, then you need the skills to be able to do that. And to think about, you know, my example was the Trainline, that's not somebody dreaming up advertising slogans, that's putting all that investment in that app to make that work, so that I go back time and time and time again and don't even think about another supplier. And that's what we've got to do. And there are organisations that I'm working with at the moment who are actually designing the jobs that you need for the future. So they would come to your agency and look at your team and say, great, you've got this now. However, this is what's emerging and this is what you need to start recruiting Andrew so that you're fit for purpose, your company's fit for purpose for the next three to five years. So don't recruit another one. You've just got look at what you need next. Companies need to be doing and there's data available to that and services available to do that. The skills requirements in this space, I'm staggered at how they vary from area to area. So the requirements, for example, in Glasgow, the landscape in Glasgow is hugely different to Edinburgh for example, and even at a micro level, for example, from Kendal to Carlisle, the requirements there. So somebody looking for a job in Carlisle, their skill set requirements will be very different. Somebody looking for a job in Kendal, even at that micro micro level. So it's about looking at what you've got, what you've got to offer. Look at the breadth of what you've got to offer as well. Look at how contemporary your qualifications are and see if you can't bolt on something if you haven't got digital on your CV in any shape or form, get it! And it's very easy to do that, as I say your investment is going to be probably minimum about three days, but you'll get a qualification out of that, and employers are looking for those qualifications as well.

Andrew:
Yeah. And how would someone who is perhaps let's say that the business owner, they might have run their company for the last 10 or 20 years maybe. How do they go about identifying the skills, I mean, marketing has changed so much over the last 10, 20 years. Obviously, there is still some fundamentals around sort of getting a strategy in place and the audience, but the tools have changed and continuously change. How would someone who, like you said earlier, doesn't know what they don't know? How would they sort of begin to identify the types of skills that they might need? Are they sort of more generic courses that people can go on? Are there, obviously there will be more specific courses, but that may take somebody down the wrong direction or it might not quite be suitable for that particular business.

Veronica:
Well, I think business owners need to be looking at more like an introduction to marketing or an introduction to strategic planning, and once you know what your plan is, then you can identify where your gaps are.

Andrew:
Yeah, that makes sense.

Veronica:
Because there's no point in saying, well, identify that you need a social media manager because you don't know yet what your strategy might be. Or maybe you do? If you do, then if you look at the best way to research it is online through the recruitment agencies. They are all doing this analysis. So Hayes, the recruitment agency for example, I've attended a number of their lectures about where those skills are shifting to; in fact, we've got a presentation starting next June, but that'll be here before much longer.

Andrew:
Yes!

Veronica:
This conference in Newcastle in June, just addressing this topic of what those skills look like. If I can put that plug in now, PeoplePower on the 17th of June next year is all about how we can use the skills that we need to for our workforce for the future. I would imagine as well, actually, thinking about talking to the LEPS and so on as to what the demographic is. So, I know somebody working in Eden Valley Council, for example, on inward investments, they would be looking at what does Eden Valley need? What skills do they have? What they need? What skills do they need to attract into the area? So talk to your local authorities in that respect, either the council through the LEP, the Chamber of Commerce will be able to help you, so those kinds of organisations on a local level would be probably the best people to speak to as they have the local knowledge.

Andrew:
Yeah.

Veronica:
Do a training course, do an open program. We, for example, run four of our modules, which most of them have got some digital content in them to help you with your understanding and to mirror those modules, we also do one day courses, so it's very accessible. Just give up a day of your time and we run those locally, and so that gives you a chance to have a chat about these types of things, which is why, which is something that we favour is the face to face discussion rather than online learning, because it makes so much more bespoke for the attendees.

Andrew:
I love the idea of online learning, but I have to be honest, I can have a video or a webinar on and my attention diverts. It can divert so easily. I do genuinely think that to get the best result from training, you have to take yourself out of the environment that you're normally in and I think if there's other people in the room, obviously that's a great networking and learning opportunity as well. But I think your focus is so much stronger.

Veronica:
I don't know how AI can replicate some prodding. You know, you'll say something in the room and that'll prod something that somebody's goes, oh, hang on a minute, can we just discuss such and such? And that will reverberate around the room and the rich discussion you'll get out of that, which I don't know how you can replicate that online apart from through webinars that I find that by the time you get to webinar mode, you've got such a large audience again, it's very difficult to make it as personal. So that's why we're deliberately positioning ourselves that ways to focus on the personal, focus on creating space for yourself to get away from the day to day, in fact turn all your gadgets off and come into a space where you can actually free your mind, and think about these kind of big questions, because it's important to think about where you're going and what you need, how you can go about it so we can do that with you.

Andrew:
Yeah, we're in an age of lifelong learning, aren't we?

Veronica:
Absolutely.

Andrew:
It will never stop. Do you think there's an acceptance, particularly in young people entering or the start of their careers, do that they accept that they're entering a profession that is going to require lifelong learning.

Veronica:
I think they need to wake up to that, that's imperative and I think it's a responsibility we all have. We're actually working on some initiatives at the moment. For example, in the North East where we're planning to launch an online book club, as to which marketing books are we recommending or, Marketing/Management/Life books are we recommending that people read to keep that lifelong learning going. We're looking at having a monthly meeting that you come in - it's not networking - it's more about learning from others, about problems you might be having at work. So it's all the soft side of things and problem solving because it's fact also that a lot of marketers are on their own in their organisation. We've already highlighted that, you know, it's not unusual to have everything put on your shoulders and you're just left to sink or swim. This initiative is designed to say, well, come along for lunch and let's all have a chat and talk about those types of things. And you know what? We're going to do that on three levels. So it's the person who's possibly in their first couple of years of work and then somebody who's around, you know, 5 to 10 years in their role, and then we'll have a senior marketers lunch as well. And what would be really nice is if we in the seniors marketers lunch say, do you know what, all your juniors are telling us this – what are you seniors going to do about it?

Andrew:
Yeah.

Veronica:
Then we've achieved something there, but its about bringing it all back to being personal, and that's about learning from each other as well. And a lot of people that I meet are pretty savvy and they'll come and they'll do – a lot of them are graduates already so they're onto a great start, but they recognise they need professional qualifications, so they'll come come and do Level 6, which is another BA Honours qualification, to give them the confidence, they've got the marketing cannon under their belts and everything they do is based on their organisation. So another thing about all the big corporates out there, we're learning about our organisation now and as I said, we've had Windermere Cruises, we've had James Cropper, you know, any other big brands that you think about in the area, we've worked with them, individuals in those companies to help them to understand their roles. And then they might sort of augment that with a further digital qualification if they haven't achieved one already or they may go right through to Masters level in looking at the strategic planning for the organisation and any other bits of digital along the way.

Andrew:
Right.

Veronica:
There is actually a newly revised syllabus coming out, which is very exciting, which gives us all of this campaign planning, customer insights, digital marketing techniques, digital customer experience, digital optimisation. So you can get a qualification in that. That says quite a lot about you as a person, so I know for a fact that people listening haven't got those qualifications, because they're brand new from January.

Andrew:
Right.

Veronica:
If it's worth looking at what's marketing investment priorities are for the coming year. I've been looking at the inside group and they're looking for business intelligence solutions, social media and monitoring and real time engagement with their employee, with their customers. So, you know, anything that's going to enable you to do more of that within your company, would suggest the skills that you need to do that are not going to be traditional marketing skills. They're going to be pretty data orientated.

Andrew:
They're quite specific there. How much do you think culture has an impact? I mean, obviously it does from a learning and development point of view. But obviously these companies that are making that investment in training, they want to retain staff as well and I think you're particular working in marketing we're exposed to what the latest that might be happening at Instagram or the cool offices that agencies might have or slides that Google have down into the foyer, all that kind of stuff. How much does culture beyond just learning and development impact someone's growth in a marketing role?

Veronica:
It's actually an interest - it's one of my hot topics at the moment actually, because I'm about to write an article which is, "I need a new job, let me lie down", because where did the monthly massage come from? Have we not all survived without a monthly massage? And somehow that's suddenly an imperative in the job spec which I'm not knocking, it's a really great thing.

Andrew:
There's a big theme around wellness, though, and obviously your mental health has become much more prominent...

Veronica:
I've noticed it amongst agencies, (sorry to cut across you there) I've noticed it amongst the agency market, its like, if we've got to attract good talent, we've got to be a good employer. To be fair, let's take that outside; I've also seen that in a huge accountancy firm quite near to me where, you know, you've got to have attractive packages to attract the right people, especially if you're trying to entice them away from the big cities to wherever you might be based. So culturally, there is a huge shift there and I think part that package has to be investing in people as well. So, yes, you're right, it's investing in wellbeing, but is investing in learning and development. And sometimes people will invest in their staff, in training or qualifications to retain them. So they, to be honest, may not perceive that that person, the company has a need for that person to develop their skills. Few recognise that that person does have a need personally to carry on developing, then it's your job as an employer to help them to do that. And that's what we find a lot of on our Level 7 courses, which is Masters level, so you can do a Masters in Marketing Leadership Planning, and it's not unusual for the people to tell me on that program that it was easy for their boss to give them support to do that at £6,000 to retain them than it was to actually give them a pay rise.

Andrew:
Right.

Veronica:
So I would like to think culturally that organisations do recognise it's an important part of people's employment. I think people are recognising it's increasingly competitive, so they need to have you know, they need to have the skills to be marketable, but the best employers are the ones that realise that if I support my employee in these skills, then actually my company will benefit as well because it helps me, my company to be stronger.

Andrew:
It is very competitive. What are some of the interesting things that you might have seen people do to sort of stand out in terms of applying for marketing roles? Because I think the needs to be an emphasis on personal branding as well doesn't there if people are to stand out, and that's something that isn't taught?

Veronica:
Yes. Yes. We've got a product actually we work with which is called Brand You, and that's about stopping and thinking about yourself as a marketable individual, and my adage is always, nobody's going to look after you but you in life, so the sooner you recognise that and get up and sort yourself out, the better. So the people that stand out for me are the ones that have a focus, know what they want to do, if you like, have a strategic plan for themselves. So you're 20 now, what does 25 look like? What does 30 look like? What does 35 look like? And people do work that way. I've just done an article actually, if people want to look on our website, you'll see quite a few articles we've done, and the last one I did was with a lady called Claire Riley and when she was starting out in her career, she said to me, I want to be Chartered by the time I'm 30. That's like okay. So our article ended with that question. So what would that advice be to people coming in now? And her advice was about getting leadership as well.

Andrew:
Right.

Veronica:
So always be thinking about your next job, what will, you know do you aspire to do, and what would that employer be looking for? And she worked through Senior Management Leadership as it is a key thing for that.

Andrew:
Yeah absolutely.

Veronica:
Anybody who takes control of their career. We have people 70% of our students are funded by their employer, that's an interesting stat. Anybody who is funding themselves is going that extra mile to find that money, whether it's borrowing it from their parents or...

Andrew:
They're making a real commitment to it aren't they.

Veronica:
That's a real commitment, yeah. It's the fact that qualifications give you a better chance of a higher salary, because that gets rewarded, it gets you noticed. I actually recommended my daughter to do CIM qualifications on top of her degree and she said you'll be amazed at how much of the interview was actually spent raving about the CIM qualification. So it works, in her case, I encouraged her to do digital as well, and she's now funnily enough working in an agency. So, I would like to think that those 3 things have got got her that job, but also to have a focus on the kind of company you'd want to work for, and we thought that an agency would be a great environment for her to thrive in, and I think that'll work, so that's what she's just done. So think about your own ambition, where you want to be. I think the most important thing is for people to be able to have a choice in what they're doing, and not, you know, 20 years later going, oh, well, I did that because it is convenient, or it was the easy thing, or it was the only thing. It's like, I love my job, I'd like to, I want to contribute to it. I'm going to keep moving so that employers can to realise that you can't hold good people back either. Give them something to thrive on, or be pleased to send them on their way to the next job and then welcome the next person...

Andrew:
Exactly. Yes. Yeah.

Veronica:
...for the role that you've got, so the people that stand out are those who are clearly taking control of their career and that is demonstrated through your career path. The kind of jobs that you choosing to go through and also how you are shoring up your CV to the max. You know, there's never too much to do but keep it focused. Don't go too broad.

Andrew:
No. I think that's good advice. I think, again, we talked about some of these marketing roles been very broad, but I think there are specific skills that people look for. I think there's also an expectation that certain skills will be there. Just having gone through education, having grown up around sort of social media, I think back to the day when I was writing my CV out regularly, it was always you know, we were always putting things like Microsoft Office on there, obviously.

Veronica:
Yes.

Andrew:
That's all a given now, isn't it? You know, people are almost expected that they can use things like, well, it could be Google Docs, it could be all sorts of different platforms now. But also the social media platforms; there's an expectation that they've come across that and that's not a core skill that needs to be taught. I think it does come back to those skills that can't easily be seen and that's the planning side and understanding the reason for it. You know, why are we actually doing this? It's not just about the tool. It's not just about a tick box exercise and doing it for the sake of doing it because everybody else seems to be doing it, there's got to be a real genuine reason for doing it, that at the end of the day, it's got to deliver a return on the investment, hasn't it? In terms of the time that people spend, creating content takes time. It doesn't just happen overnight. You know, whether you're putting effort into video, to blog posts, to podcasts and things like that, they all take time to create and it's got to be done with some purpose in mind.

Veronica:
Exactly. And however good people might be at managing their social media and being quick and agile with it, it has to be on message. It has to be targeted, and you know, they'll be 600 people I don't want to be talking to, thanks very much. I'm quite happy to be talking to these 60 and saying the right thing to the right people, not having the old scattergun approach to stuff, and people need to understand that; that's what can be taught in-house is to, you know, this is what we do, why we do it and how focused that needs to be, so you're not actually wasting effort either.

Andrew:
Where do you stand on the idea of experimentation? Because that's a really important thing to give people the leeway to be able to try things, to make mistakes. But you know time and time again, we see big brands making really day one of school type mistakes when it comes to, particularly social media because it's obviously very much in the spotlight, and you say one wrong thing on social media that can have a huge impact, damaging impact potentially. Sure. Sometimes it can sort of die down and people can forget. But what sort of things can companies do in terms of giving people that leeway to try new things, to explore other opportunities without them going too far?

Veronica:
Yeah, this is what is now known as innovation isn't it? And this is another module that we work on. So innovation is really about creating a climate which is an enabler, to enable people to try things out - just that, and the first thing to do is to have that culture where it's okay to try things. And by that, it means it's okay to fail as well. And Tom Peters has been saying for a very long time, it's called fast falling forward, and you got to fall flat on your face because every time you know the other time, you'll be finding that gold nugget that takes you and gives you that great idea that's going to help your business, you know, leap forward. So people are quite nervous of doing that, it doesn't have to be very radical. Just have, build it into your culture so that you have a regular space, whether you have it as a monthly meeting or however you create it, but an opportunity for people to be allowed to try ideas and look at processes, it might simply be managing your timetable slightly differently or bringing in monthly massages or whatever it is, you know, try it and see if it generally makes the difference or not.

Andrew:
You see what the response and the impact is.

Veronica:
Then, of course, talk to your clients about it and about what you do, so that's all about collaboration, and again, you'll find that some of the stuff you're doing is totally unnecessary and all they're focusing on is, you know, the fact that they don't need to speak you as much as you think they need to. It's just about the interactions you have with them. They never need to see you. Some students don't, you know, once we've met them, having said we like to do all the personal stuff, they're quite happy once they've been– I was going to say hugs, but once they've had their induction and they know they're in a safe environment, they'll go away and work quite happily on their own.

Andrew:
Yeah.

Veronica:
But they know the environment they're plugged into.

Andrew:
It's supportive and it gives them confidence.

Veronica:
So I don't have to worry if people don't want to come to class they don't have to. They can do it independently as well.

Andrew:
Ok, just to round things off a little bit, how did you see the future over the next 2, 3 years of digital marketing evolving? Obviously you're doing lots of training and development, we've talked about how that is just par of the course. It's a life long thing that I suspect isn't limited to digital marketing either, I suspect most jobs and careers now will have that element of life long learning.

Veronica:
Yeah, I think so. If you think about accountancy in Fintech, a number of professions as we know are being superseded, so rather than make ourselves redundant, we do need to keep ahead. I think is being aware of what's going on, I was at the Barbican at the weekend in London and they were showing the, an AI exhibition, they actually had robots serving cocktails.

Andrew:
Right.

Veronica:
If you take it to the extreme, I think it's about looking at the Trainline example and think, well, what what was the service provision like at one time and how has that involved? And can I mirror that in my organisation? So would I walk into a pub and take a drink from a robot? I don't think I feel like that at the minute. But how far away is that for us? Are we going to have pubs anymore? Just a bit surprised today to see in in-Cumbria. One article said this old pub is closing down and the next article said and here's Costa. Oh, that's a shame. But its that contrast. One next to the other. What's replacing what we have now and what is going to come in and replace it? So I think for all of us, we need to have our eyes and ears open and this is about learning, it's not just about studying, it's been aware of what's going on in the space that we're in. I've read also about, we've had a huge influx of USA tourists coming through, to the Lake District.

Andrew:
Yeah, pretty good value for them this summer!

Veronica:
Have you noticed that? What does that mean? What do they expect?

Andrew:
What are they familiar with in terms of their own, perhaps travelling within the US? If they're going to...

Veronica:
Exactly!

Andrew:
...be travelling a little bit further, how do we need to pick up on that? I think one of the things to be fair, we are seeing now, but you know, they've had the USB sockets in the hotel rooms, for example, for the last sort of 3 or 4 years. They're just starting to come in to hotels as things are refitted and refurbished and so on...

Veronica:
As a a standard. Yeah, yeah.

Andrew:
Yeah, that's right. I do think you'll see a lot of the web and digital marketing services are certainly heavily influenced from the US, if not US based obviously, you know Google and Facebook and so on, so they do lead the way and we do have to, I think, look to other audiences. I think potentially we could look at what's happening now in the US in terms of technology consumption and content consumption, because it will make its way over here at some point.

Veronica:
Yes. Yes. What can we learn from others and what do people expect? I'm going to Tokyo later in the year and I know I'm going to come back blown away as to how far things have moved there as well. And you think, well, it's not relevant to the Lake District and Cumbria. Yes.

Andrew:
Of course it is, yeah.

Veronica:
Those people are coming to this region and going to be spending money in the region and we need to make it an enabler for them to recommend to come back again, so it's important to understand all that.

Andrew:
And it all comes back to that idea of not just looking at yourself in terms of thinking about your activity and your audience, because it's a small world, isn't it, now? And it'll only get smaller!

Veronica:
And you know, we've only talked about millennials, we've only talked about 20 or 30 somethings at the moment, so let's not forget that you know, I've got relatives in their 80s who are quite happily looking out for holidays and making comparisons, maybe a bit hesitant about booking or maybe a bit hesitant about putting their credit cards details in, but certainly, as you suggested, the earlier part journey where they're browsing and looking at their options, you know, so you've got to be there, you've got to be in that space, and really, that's where your investment needs to go.

Andrew:
That in itself just shows that the digital demand is across all demographics isn't it?

Veronica:
Exactly.

Andrew:
It applies to everybody. You can't rule anybody out. You look at the data. Look at your analytics. Look at who are your core customers and that will obviously set you on a good path in terms of deciding how best to serve them.

Veronica:
Exactly. Yeah. So we've got, that's why we've got customer experience, we've got customer insights, customer journey planning, again you can even be qualified in that, so certainly thinking about the leisure and hospitality sectors that you're servicing, it's equipping your staff to do that very ably and understanding. And so you're at a pretty micro level as well, so every moment of truth gets looked at and scrutinised and what we learn from that and how can we improve that. Yeah, insightful.

Andrew:
Fascinating stuff. Well, it's been a really interesting conversation and I'm sure we could carry on for a few more hours quite easily. But thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and your insights. Where can people go to find out more about NESMA and some of the courses that you offer?

Veronica:
Okay. So its www.nesma.co.uk. Our social media is at @nesmatraining? And I'm also trying to practice what I preach in that we are always looking to build our team, our delivery team as well. We have qualified, consultants, practitioners and teachers who are delivering our programs, but if anybody in your customer client base has those skills as well, we'd like to support us in that on a part time basis, we'd be very interested to hear from them, too.

Andrew:
And is that geographically specific? I mean, you're based, of course, in the North East.

Veronica:
I mentioned that specifically for Cumbria, actually.

Andrew:
Okay. Right.

Veronica:
But if you're willing to travel as well, we do operate in, we do a lot of work in Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow. So that's our patch. We keep away from, where we operate in the north predominantly, so if anyone works up here we'd be pleased to hear from them.

Andrew:
Ok, super. Well, thank you ever so much again, Veronica. Really interesting conversation. Lots of change, which is inevitable. And it's always going to be a changing landscape, isn't it? But hopefully people have found the discussion useful. Definitely, if there are companies that are listening who aren't sure where to turn, I'm sure that a bit of an opening conversation with you or someone from your team Veronica would be able to point them in the right direction, perhaps as a starter to help build on those internal skills that they might be looking for.

Veronica:
Absolutely. Yes. I mean, obviously, I like to chat. So if anybody wants to have a live chat, or actually a real telephone chat, be more than happy to do that. If you'd like us to pop in and see you, we'd be happy to do that. We work in Penrith and Carlisle and a base in Kendal, so we are in the area, quite happy to do that.

Andrew:
Fantastic. Well, thank you again, Veronica. I really appreciate time. It's been a great conversation.

Veronica:
Thank you.

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You've got to have that continuous learning because the market is changing around this all the time, so the better employer will be one who is good at identifying what skills his market needs and then how well his workforce matches those needs.

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