My answers on getting a job, interviewing for school leavers and students.

I was lucky enough to take part in a Speakers4schools virtual talk and Q&A. I was blown away by the attendance, 1100 kids and 300 questions asked. Lock down or not I could not manage all 300 so I answered 18 that were sent as follow ups. If you are a school leaver or student, thinking about getting a job, work experience or how to prepare for interviews then I hope there are some useful tips!

1. What is your morning routine? Well I think my morning routine can be described as a pre and post Covid situation. Before COVID I would aim to be in the office for 830 so everything works back from there. Normally I will try and grab a few minutes with my son as he prepares to go to school, but after that quickly down to the station, so unfortunately not a good example as I don’t eat breakfast! I will try and grab something before I get to work, or when I arrive if I have time. The one rule I do have is that I don’t look at my email until I consider that work has started. As I have American bosses, I normally have a lot of emails landing in my inbox overnight, I consider the start of work to be when I am ready. It was a piece of advice I once received that if you roll over and check your email while still waking up and you see some bad news, it can spike adrenaline that is bad for the mind and body, just like sprinting before you have warmed up. The train is basically the start of my work so I’ll grab myself a coffee at the station and sit down and start to go through what has arrived through the night, I think about the day ahead, check my calendar and see what meetings I have planned, and hope I am ready for them. And that’s my routine.

2. At what age would you say was a good age to start at you first Saturday or holiday job? I don’t think there’s any rules around how young you start your first job. All work is work so if you’re helping your parents clean the car, or helping out around the house that is the start of life‘s work ethic. I think if you want to have lots of experience on your CV by the time you’re getting ready to leave Secondary School then you should have attempted to do some simple jobs we discussed; paper rounds, working in a shop perhaps some basic office work. Work experience is not always so much about the actual act of work but it’s what it says about you as a person and what you are learning to do. So when you’re thinking about your CV and you are thinking about what to do you should be thinking about what someone reading your CV would read into it. I gave the example of a paper round. The fact one has to do it every day, has to get up early before school shows a lot of commitment and energy and strength that tells someone about you. In the long run if you are thinking of working in an office then try and get experience in an office environment, but working in bars, restaurants is all important. What does working in a restaurant teach you? It teaches you customer Service, teaches you how to deal with people, it’s all life skills.

3. What is the hardest part of applying for a job and what was the atmosphere like when you first entered the interview? The hardest part about applying for jobs is the actual work you have to put into it, it is very tempting to write one letter, send it to 100 people, one email, send to hundred people, and hope that some of them will stick. Getting your first job is one of the most important things you will do in your life, so you have to treat it like that, and you have to put the work in to do it successfully. My suggestion is to start narrow and work out, so pick your top 10/20 companies that you want to work for and really do your research on them. Then and only then, should you send an email because that email should be full of insights and highlights you’ve understood from your research. Don’t take this work lightly, it’s a job in itself but if you do it well you are more likely to succeed. As far as research is concerned, follow the Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram accounts and read through them, as you will understand what is on their minds and what’s important to these companies in real time. Make sure you know when their internship program starts, make sure you understand if they have have work placements, do all the suitable research you can and then, finally, don’t be afraid to track a few people down, it is absolutely fine to contact someone directly on LinkedIn with a well written note and express your interest. It’s important that you start with that kind of communication.

4. What are good interview tips? and what can you do to stop yourself sounding nervous in an interview? Those are two very big questions! I’ll start with the interview tips, they’re not going to sound very interesting because some are very basic, but I can assure you a lot of people get them wrong. If indeed you do get them right you will put yourself in the top 30% of all the people who interview. So first of all make sure you do the basics; turn up well before the interview time, don’t take chances, don’t plan for 15 minutes before because that can be eaten up very quickly with delays. Turn up an hour before, and go and have a coffee, then you stake the place out and you’re ready to go. Secondly, it’s important to dress smartly – now a jacket and tie may seem an overkill nowadays, and probably is, but it is a sign that you care and that you really want the job, I personally don’t believe it will be taken as a negative, I think it shows that you’re trying to be as smart as you can which can never be a bad thing. That said if it’s not a shirt and tie I think it’s fine to have more casual clothing, just be smart smart casual and well turned out.

Lastly, and most importantly, do your research, don’t be afraid to ask who is interviewing, try and get the name of the person because perhaps you can search them online. My favourite is if they have presented at an event and it is on Youtube, you really get a feeling for them. Maybe they put stuff on LinkedIn etc, this is a window for you to understand something about the interviewer, and what happens is when you enter the interview you feel like you know them a little bit better and you will naturally feel relaxed. Don’t over use the information; I suggest not repeating back to them things are set on Twitter or on LinkedIn, just use it as background information and try to combine with your answers so it sounds a bit more organic. Lastly, do your research on the company as we said before in terms of writing the letter don’t answer obvious questions with obvious answer if Sam says ‘Why do you want to work at Spotify’ don’t say because you ‘love music’, say it’s because you’ve been reading about the sustainability policy, and that is something you care about deeply and you only want work for companies that have that kind of policy. Make sure you know everything about the job you’re doing as much as you can. I would also suggest trying to find out if there are people you know in the industry that you’re trying to get into, that could be distant relatives friends or friends of friends, ask around, because a single conversation could give some tips and insight into what actually happens in these companies, and it will make you sound much better than the candidate who hasn’t been able to get that inside information.

The question about nervousness is a really really good one, there are good tips and techniques about this, but without sounding repetitive one of the best things that will make you feel less nervous if you are well prepared. If you know your topic, if you’re prepared, if you’ve written notes, if you thought about it, I promise you you’re going to feel more confident when you walk into that room. Always make sure that you have prepared for the easiest questions, what I often see and hear when people are practising for interviews is, take a question like ‘why should I hire you’ for instance and in your head you may have a really great plan for that answer, yeah I know I’m gonna talk about this I’m gonna talk about that. This is where nerves kick in and if you have not practiced, you can fluff your lines! Make sure to have a proper answer to why should I hire you and why do you want to work at this company, that needs just as much effort as working at the balance sheet of a company or whatever else you might prepare for. The other small tip for the interview is people often ask you about your life, tell me about the things you’ve done, tell me about the job you’ve done, what you don’t need to do is go through those jobs one by one and explain each one of them. Have a story ready, in business they often talk about the elevator pitch; it basically means how could you describe yourself or your company in 2 minutes, so what you have to do is script an overall story that people can follow, that will describe your journey and highlight the most important aspects that say the most about you.

5. How does good communication skills play a role in an interview? There are two things to take into account in an interview; good communication and good knowledge, we talked a lot about good knowledge so I won’t go over that again, so good communication becomes the next biggest thing. Body language is an incredibly important aspect, it may sound a little bit daunting but in actual fact people judge you very quickly in the first 10 seconds so you have the potential to lose an interview. As you wait to be seen, dont slouch around on a couch staring at your phone. Be upright and attentive, always be polite to receptionists, look around you, read any materials lying around about the company. When you’re being welcomed stand up straight and confident, be confident and don’t be afraid to ask questions about how they are, shake their hands firmly (if we are still shaking hands), and don’t have too much clutter, bags and jackets, keep it simple, keep it clean. When you come into the room if they ask if you want a coffee, my suggestion is to probably say no, I am just always one for keeping it simple, you can sit down at the same time, and get on with the meeting. In the interview, sit up straight, lean into the conversation, that is then giving signals that you’re keen and enthusiastic and you want the job. My last piece of advice on this that I was given, which I wish I had remembered back in the day, if halfway through or at the start of an interview you don’t like the feel of the person or you don’t like the sound of the job keep going like it’s the most important job you’re ever going to get. What happens is because there is an interviewer will pick up on your disinterest and write you off but maybe by the end of the interview, you change your mind and have warmed into the sound of the role, but by then it will be too late. You only should only worry about whether you want the job or not when it’s offered to you, before then you have to impress. My final tip on the interviews is that you may be interviewing in three or four different categories of industries like finance, advertising and travel. Treat every interview as if it is the only job you have ever wanted. It is totally fine to be interviewing with different companies within finance but an interviewer does not want to hear you say you would happily work in travel or finance or whatever – that shows indecisiveness and not enough desire, so keep that to yourself!

6. On a scale from 1-10 how determined do you think you were in getting the job you applied for? It is funny you should ask that question because my very first boss will tell you, and this is very old sounding, that the fax machine was ringing non stop on their desk with me repetitively sending my application letter. I didn’t actually do that to pester them, I just wasn’t sure if it was getting through so I kept sending it! If I see that person now today 25 years later they still remember it and I still still talk about it, so I think it’s fair to say that I was pretty determined and then I think if you really want the job it’s the only way to be

7. What advice would you give to current year 12s who are writing their personal statements who as a result of Covid-19 restrictions are unable to fulfil their work experience? That is a really good question, and I know it is incredibly difficult for people today in this situation. The only thing I can say is always be honest, honesty will always come first, but start to think about how you could frame your experience. Think in terms of what you wanted to achieve or perhaps what you missed out on doing, but at least set out what your plans were during this period of time with complete honesty. I would say don’t waste time when you come out of the situation start to think about what you can do in advance and, depending on your age, perhaps it’s something you can do now to volunteer through this difficult times, which I know would always look make future employers look favourably upon your work ethic and show how you care about the community around you.

8. How can you write a CV if you have not had a job or work experience before? I think for your early CV, if you don’t have work experience, focus on your school career, perhaps think about anything that you have contributed during your school career. If you haven’t done that, then think creatively about what you could say your interests have been, what your interests are and so on. I will say though that not having work experience is something that you should probably start to sort out.

9. Do you normally have to rely on a person’s CV to know about his/her skills? The later into your career you go, the less we rely on the CV, whether it is Linkedin or contacts in the industry, or just searching the industry news, we can find out a lot. LinkedIn will tell them a lot about where you’ve worked how long you’ve worked there and so on. As you start your career I think yes the CV is an important starting point. I would suggest that you consider how to make it is as good as possible because we will go there first. Perhaps you have been in the local newspaper or had some kind of recognition so please make sure to mention in cover note. Your cover note is very important, it tells the story of your CV, it allows you to shine outside of just the CV.

11. What would you recommend for those of us who do not have the opportunity for work experience? (I live in a rural area with few local jobs) Obviously I can’t suggest without knowing exactly where you live or what is this happening there but I would check to make sure that you’re not being too picky about what jobs are available. Would you wash up in a pub, would you deliver newspapers, what would you do or not do because if you are being selective about what you would do, you are making life tough for yourself. If none of those things work then perhaps you can find a way to be a little entrepreneurial and create your own little business, perhaps a car washing enterprise, perhaps you can help people in the community, perhaps you can volunteer, volunteering is incredibly important and we have not touched on that; if you don’t have work experience, volunteering is the perfect way to show that you care both about the community around you, that you’ve got a work ethic and a drive to do something even in your local area for free, especially in a period like now.

12. What is the difference between the access to jobs in your time and now? I can only talk about my industry, but I would say that what we have seen over the last few years a big increase in realisation that we have to not be fishing in the same ponds. So in the white collar marketplace the default has always been to hire graduates. Now there is a much greater need for diversity and inclusion, which is incredibly important in the workplace and people are looking to scholarships and work placements and internships that are more inclusive than ever before. There is a much greater focus on the creation of opportunities that don’t rely on graduate degrees, and a willingness to see beyond the obvious set of benchmarks. So I’m encouraged that opportunities have opened up for school leavers and others which has to be a good thing. That said, it is a slow process and the BAME community is still not represented well because of hiring as much as anything, it has to accelerate.

13. Did you think that you would be in your current position when you were Young? I always like to put that question back into context of if I was 18 and you offered me my current job role and company at this age, I would absolutely take it now. I would never have imagined that I could have ended up being at such a great company in a really interesting job at 48! At school, I would have been described as an average student for the type of school it was, yet here I am. So I didn’t think back then that I would be in any specific job, the only thing that I would say, I had self confidence and determination to keep working hard. I mentioned on the Q&A that my parents are an inspiration for hard work and determination and I definitely had that built in, and always felt that if I kept pushing, kept trying and didn’t let defeats set me back that I could achieve something.

14. What sort of things does your job entail? And what experience did you have before you joined the company? My role is about leadership, now there are lots of definitions, but the way I would describe leadership is you have to be a good communicator, both in the company and externally, you have to set a direction and a goal for people to be able to get behind and understand. Everyone likes to know where they are heading and why they’re heading there. It is also a role that is not always pleasant, you have to make tough decisions about people and structures. You don’t do it lightly, but if you have a plan and you understand what the end benefits of this will be it is important to stick to your plan. Although this job was very different from previous roles, there were some needs that required what we called transferable skills. That means that some things you do are very specific, others can carry from one job to another in a different industry, leadership skills are very much an example. That is why it is important to understand your skills and grow them in any role you may be in, because you don’t know what the next job may be.

15. Have u been through challenges? How did you overcome them? Great question! Careers are long, careers often have ups and downs, the part of it where things go great and accelerate very quickly, but there are points where your career may plateau slightly and become a bit uneventful. The key to your career is to recognise the different stages and when to make the right decisions. I was fortunate enough to make a couple of decisions in my career that took me into parts of my industry when they were very early on and most people were not interested in them, but then turned out to be huge. That put me in growth sectors and exciting times. That always takes a little bit of stubbornness, and not listening to everyone around you. But as I say careers are long and you have to not panic when you do have a difficult patch. Equally if you are happy at work, my advice is hang on to it, careers are long and it is important to try and be happy at work. I had a period of my career in a company that I really didn’t enjoy and ultimately I had to take leave from that company and I was out of work for a few months. During that time I never once thought that I wouldn’t get back to where I wanted to be, in fact the 18 months experience taught me exactly what I did not want out of a job and after I wrote my tick list I worked hard and I chased companies that fitted my ideal job. The next seven years of my career were possibly some of the happiest and most successful, it just shows, a set back does not have to be the end. Just dig in and keep trying.

16. Do you need to be able to work well with other people to work for Spotify? and is there any way in which disabled people can get employed by big companies? I think any company has a requirement to work well with other people, how we communicate with each other, collaborate with each other, and work with often quite complex matrix of teams to deliver on projects is all part of working office life. So yes, I would assume that that has to be part of the equation for my industry. Every industry is different however and of course there are more jobs that are more insular and don’t require a lot of team interaction. There is absolutely no reason why a disabled person should not be able to find employment and whether it’s Spotify or elsewhere, it’s an area that is Incredibly important, There is so much further to go in terms of making that a reality at scale though. But I know there’s a lot of good people and a lot of great companies that want to make sure that they create opportunities for everyone in an equal and fair way.

17. Do you think music can change someone’s life who has Cerebral palsy? That is such an interesting question, I don’t have a specific response to that but I do know that we have worked with Parkinsons as an example, and we teamed up with a Parkinson‘s charity where they studied how the repetitive beat of certain music could help people judge the steps as they walk and time the steps with the music. So I absolutely think music is important. It’s also important to mental health as well as physical and wellness issues. It’s one of the reasons why I love working in the Music industry, and work at a company like Spotify because we have various examples of where we have used music to help others and it is incredibly inspiring.

18. What is the best way to make your music stand out on Spotify i.e be selected for Editorial playlists? We talk a lot about this topic and I think everyone wishes there was a magic wand that you could wave to achieve that. The truth of it is that everyone who wants to be registered on the scene has to get out and has to play and has to do the hard yards to be able to get noticed. In effect playlists are a combination of data and human editors, but data is actually probably one of the most important factors early on where we can see if artists are popping. Those spikes in listening often come from an artist being out on the road and growing their fan base. There have never been more ways for an artist to be seen and heard. All the social media channels can be used to grow an artists visibility, then they get listened to, streams grow on the platform and then perhaps you get noticed by our editors. It is s complex business but as with everything we have said in this Q&A, hard work first!

Corona Virus Log. I miss meetings.

Running a team in this climate is very hard right? I am navigating my way through these weeks, one day at a time, and i know that most of you out there feel the same. Since starting at Spotify my focus has been on trying to make sure I have been visible across the region, visiting markets, keeping regular management meetings going, and being out with clients wherever I have visited. I cant do any of that right now.  I have never seen the value more of face to face. I would defend an offsite all day long now.

I have always observed that sales is a business that over indexes on momentum, energy, determination and a strong dose of inter-personal skills. My view has been that one person can change everything in a sales team as a leader, much more so than in an agency, just a different dynamic, a different mentality. So what happens when you take that away. Well for me, I feel like it is really hard to understand and get your arms around whats happening. You cant judge the mood, you don’t read between the lines, the Hangouts with multiple people, stuttering, difficult calls where it is hard to reveal the true emotions of people, I feel like I cant connect. I hope they are coping, I hope we are saying and doing the right things, but it is hard to know.

Ignore the fucking Work from home articles: I have studiously ignored the articles on how to work at home, not because there are not some smart tips, but because every person is living their own challenge. So often in businesses we are forced to come up with guide lines, guard rails, suggestions and or rules, but I feel that right now they are all useless. We all want different things, we are all living a very private life. If we do an all hands, there are people in big houses, with big gardens and country side, through to people sharing a small flat with 4+ others, we are at various stages of lock down and length of shut downs, the rules don’t work. The only rule is let people work it out, let them adjust.

In defence of meetings: I know things will change, we will challenge a lot of what we have done before, the obese list of trade magazine events that we have all inflated will have to decline as we realise that we have lived happily without them as an example. That said I don’t agree with a lot of other stuff. There are some very vociferous attackers of meetings, I have come to miss meetings, I now wish I could sit in a room and discuss a plan with someone without the video glitching or wifi issues – it is SD vs HD. Its like emails, when people say that after they have done their emails, they can get on with their work..I am sorry but many of my emails are work, and many meetings help me achieve a lot and by god I miss them now.

Pros and cons of Lock down: I read a fascinating letter from someone in Italy who was predicting our future and the one thing that really struck me was the apathy, the lethargy, this view that we can do so much with our time, but in reality, life is being sucked out of us, one day at a time. It is being replaced on the positive side by some small wins, personally for me, that is spending more time with my family, as someone who travels relentlessly this is a bonus. I have never been at home with my son, outside of holidays ever, this bit is special. As I said above, we all have to do our own thing, I feel better doing constructive things either work related or home that have a clear start and finish, something I can tick off to drive progress.

In support of hearing from others: In the last few days I have reached out to clients from across the spectrum, I did not have anything to sell, I just wanted to hear from someone else, I wanted to learn what was happening in other industries, learn from others. I am so glad I did, it has been a good day today – thanks to those who spoke with me, I learned stuff and felt like I had moved on. It will be something I continue to do, I hope there are many more people I talk to over coming months – your shit is very interesting to me.

We are busier than ever: I have saved a commute of about an hour each way, thats two hours plus a day saved, and yet..I feel like I am constantly checking my watch, every day we attempt to do so much. Well being, work, home schooling, walking kid/dog, play with kid, work more, be mindful. Its a tread mill, I am now grappling with my agenda to get back on top of meetings and calls, I think we have to shift our days, we have to find a new way – I feel like we are trying to do everything, everyday?

What do I miss?

  • A relaxed chat with someone without straining for sound or vision
  • Being able to draw on a wall and brainstorm
  • Walk into a bar or restaurant and hug some friends
  • Some friendly laughing and joking at work
  • Getting on a flight to anywhere in the world and seeing people you know
  • Varied menus!
  • Seeing my son play with all his mates at football or just messing around
  • Seeing all the kids pour into school, all chattering away

I did not write this for any end goal, more a stream of consciousness. This blog has been going for 10+ years, it is a diary of my last decade plus and somehow it felt right to log a journal of this crazy time we are all living through. A friend of mine once said as we hit a tough part of a long run, ‘just put one foot in front of the other’ that seemed sensible at the time and right now, that is the best we can all do. Big hugs to everyone out there and best of luck with whatever way you choose to put one foot in front of the other.

 

Is kids mental health being left behind?

I sent a tweet last week that seemed to hit a chord. It started with a chat in the office about school homework with Sam Hicks and the pressure that builds around doing it, who does it, tuition etc. It is something that is a regular conversation with all parents of kids at a certain age. Parents will pretty much universally agree that as kids they did not have to do as much at a certain age, around 9ish. No one remembers the same level of activity, homework, after school activities, weekend stuff, it’s frenetic for a nine year old. The most important thing for me, it’s seven days a week.

The thing is, it coincides with the sea changes going on in society and in the work places. Just look at the ‘interruption’ to BGT the other night? At our work place and many others over the world companies are working hard to support people who may be suffering with mental health. There are very visible initiatives like Mediacom with Josh pushing the agenda very hard, at Spotify we have Heart and Soul at its core with lots of opportunities for support and to talk openly which some of our team have been doing. It’s all so important that these issues are discussed.

Beyond ‘corporate’ acknowledgement there are smaller initiatives. My leadership team have agreed that we should not be emailing the teams after working hours, at weekends and not have fifty emails waiting for them at 6am Monday. We have been really working on this over time, when my directs are on holiday I have a hard rule that says they go on holiday and switch off. It sends shivers when people say ‘yeah I am off but will be on email.’ Don’t do it, don’t do a poor job of your holiday and a poor job of working and at the end or it all, not properly relax. That’s no use to me. All my directs know how I feel on this and I encourage them to do the same. A break is vital.

So all good, we are on it as adults. We know however that education moves slower than industry, schools can get stuck in old fashioned ruts, they do not adapt fast enough. So here is the thing. Why is it good for us to switch off when the kids are getting homework on Fridays for the weekend, why is it ok for kids to come home and work when we get to take a break in the main, why is it ok for kids to have to work through holidays when we don’t. Have we forgotten that their minds are more fragile than ours, we are setting behaviours, we add to that stress with arguments about how hard they are trying or how well they are doing? Pressure, lack of rest, lack of relax, arguments and more. If we were to set this as our approach to the work environment we would not hold on to a single employee.

The worst of this is that it’s tough to say here is what we do about it..stop doing homework gets reprimand at school and depending on schools will leave kids behind. So it’s open ended but feel like we should keep talking about it and asking schools what they intend to do. Certainly my next parents evening, it will be my first question.

Diversity is more than just Gender.

How can we adjust how we think about diversity? Diversity is currently dominated by gender, and there is so much going on in that space, which is fantastic, long may it continue, but there is a much wider issue we have to face together.  It has been some time that I have been going into schools and talking to students and seeing just how different our working environments are from all of these back grounds.

It is an area that for me is important we begin to focus on more, we pay lip service to it right now, so here are some thoughts about where we can all start to adjust and plan for the future. We should ask ourselves the difficult questions about what we all stand for and whether we really want to drive change.

As a group of companies we need to set some new rules of engagement for the industry if we are going to initiate change. Some of the scenarios that would be fantastic to see change are the following:

  1. Hiring has to come from outside of Grads, every business should be creating plans to hire a number of school leavers every year and from non white middle class backgrounds, and definitely not related to the boss.
  2. Every organisation should think about the make up of what they are doing, my latest observation of MediaWeek judges all being white middle class people is an example, I am certain that someone ticked the gender diversity box but nothing else.
  3. Think about the sub sets of organisations – if you are promoting female diversity and there is a room full of 500 white middle class people, we should not be content with that, we should be supporting diversity within gender.
  4. If you are creating a List of important people then it should not be the same old, same old, there are talented people out there, we have to find them and create inspiration.
  5. If we look at panels, events etc all you see is the gender discussion – we need to think outside of that, we need to think about how the panels are made up to represent the world outside.
  6. Kill two birds with one stone – if you focus on helping under privileged schools rather than the usual grad schemes, you will naturally drive diversity of thinking and people.

It is at the grass roots we are failing – we are not bringing in enough talent early on, when we do it is really fulfilling. Our work placement programme is in its infancy but it only pulls from state schools to make sure we are creating opportunities. It is something I am hopeful we can continue to grow, I would encourage everyone to start these opportunities if you have not already.

Whether it is mentoring, helping organisations that are trying to do this, the industry press, the Twitter commentators, can we all start asking our self the question of whether what we are doing is either bringing in diverse talent, or inspiring it through highlighting the talent we already have in the business. This is not a rant, it is not a preach, it is a gentle call to arms. After my last blog and twitter engagements on mentoring, I know there is so much appetite to do better on this, but it feels on the fringe, so hoping mainstream industry can lead the charge. I am excited to try and do more after engaging with some of the organisations that contacted me earlier in the month, hopefully we all can do our bit.

Mentoring: How can I help?

One really important factor that I have discovered since moving from agency to sales is the ability to do more, more easily at my level. The array of things that get categorised under ‘more’ is significant, but on the whole they all have one thing in common, a request for money. I am not exactly sure why, but generally speaking, sales companies find budget to support a whole range of causes. We are asked by charities, by clients, by industry bodies, by trade titles and so on. It is brilliant to be able to do so much to help out and at Spotify we really support a range of different organisations. I have enjoyed that so much for the last two years, it has been very fulfilling.

Thing is, I also feel like we jump around and try to do too much / everything and although that is admirable, it is also perhaps skin deep at times. As a company we can do this to a point, but as an individual it becomes even harder. One person, especially someone who is travelling a lot and has all the usual time pressures cant do everything so more recently I have been considering what is most important to me, and what have I really enjoyed.

A number of years ago I started Speakers4schools presentations, and I have consistently been doing them ever since. I am pleased to say that we then moved from just presenting to working with an extension of Speakers4schools, NextGen who encourage their speakers to create work placements in their businesses. I am hugely grateful to my HR team who have allowed me to do this, and all the band members across the business that supported with their time and expertise. More recently I have been thinking about how to focus my energies and try to do more with less time and what is it that I really enjoy and adds value. Mentoring has always been fun, not the deep, lets meet every two weeks for years type mentoring, but the shorter, more specifics advice that when given could make a difference to someone, and even get them a job, they would otherwise of not had the chance to get.

As I reflect on our industry with a real focus now on gender diversity and indeed wider diversity, I still feel as if we are talking to the same types of groups, we still have not truly  moved the agenda. My personal goal and where I can, hopefully with support of Spotify, is to try and help under privileged young adults who are not getting access to the expertise that some schools or areas do. Speakers4schools has introduced that to me, and I feel it is great in its own right, but would also serve to bring more diversity into our industry and so I wanted to explore how I could help. I need opportunities that can mould around a busy schedule so advice, mentoring, speed mentoring etc is interesting. Today I was amazed at the response to a simple tweet I sent this morning.

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The response was fantastic not a ‘likes’ count, but people passionately responding and making suggestions, and it served to highlight how many amazing things are happening, and so I thought it would be great to list out all those responses so everyone has a chance to identify opportunities that they may like to get involved in.

Female mentoring with BloomUK http://www.bloom.org/the-exchange

Brixton Finishing School for underprivileged young adults http://www.hoxtonunited.com/

Media Trust http://www.mediatrust.org

IAA Speed Mentoring sessions http://www.iaauk.london/events/iaa-mentoring

DevelopHer – Elevating women through community based opps http://www.eepurl.com/bJAKKL

Creative Mentor Network http://www.creativementornetwork.org

Mediatel Speed mentoring http://www.mediatel.co.uk/newsline/2019/05/02/sign-up-for-free-speed-mentoring-2/

There are others no doubt, so add in the comments if you want to keep it all in this article. Bottom line, there is the chance to give your time, and there are different routes you can take, but for me it is time to focus and I am excited to explore how I can help!

Interview with M&M on Global trends pre Festival of Media

What are the key trends and insights driving global media in 2018?
The key insight is that not everything is as it seems. We have come to question so many things around digital media and we are seeing erosion of trust across the board. No one can ignore this as a trend. The positive trend though is a thorough reevaluation of
where advertisers place media. This is encouraging for those who love this industry versus those who just want to make high margin revenue. It means that premium advertising environments are becoming far more sought after and the belief that context and environment are not important is slowing fading and becoming a distant memory. I hope we see this trend continue and the blind, low CPM retargeting networks fade away.

What is the toughest challenge the industry faces?
We have to get ourselves out of the vicious cycle of pitches begetting lower and lower CPM campaigns. This type of behaviour means agencies squeeze publishers, only looking for low cost inventory, and then find themselves at a higher risk of fraud, which then creates mistrust. We need agencies to charge properly for their services, clients to pay for quality service from whomever is best placed to provide it and then we will see a move away from opacity. We are still confronted by too much of a ‘we have to pay less than last year’ attitude. It is a path that leads nowhere for all involved.

What does success look like for you in 2018?
Spotify is on a very exciting journey. My role was to re-look at the European business and accelerate positive momentum and a strong proposition in market. We are well on our way to doing that, and it has been a lot of fun. 2018 is a year in which the topics of audioand programmatic are converging, so we look forward to working with key advertisers and partners on bringing this innovation into the mainstream. Success stories leveraging data and dynamic audio creative suggest this is just the start of a fabulous year.

The second area I will be focusing on is showing the industry that we have some of the best video advertising inventory in town. We only sell completed video impressions, with 100% viewability. Audio has traditionally been our bread and butter but video is a large part of our business and we want more brands to enjoy its benefits. Our current customers all report strong results so we hope the education we are doing across the industry will be music to people’s ears.

What is the key to winning new business?
I  don’t think that has ever changed, whether on the agency or publisher side. All you need to ask yourself is whether you are helping the advertiser grow their business. New business needs to be built on insights that unlock something fundamental (and often
very simple) that will create a reaction in consumers. Too often in new business one gets carried away with internal structures and technology. Keep it simple and customer-focused and you can win.

What do you find clients want more than ever?

There is still an eternal hunt for the new thing, the first thing etc, but actually if you just come up with great ideas those usually win out. As I mentioned there is a trend for better environments and contexts taking us back to the basics of advertising. Note
that 2017 was a very strong year for traditional channels like radio, outdoor etc. At Spotify we continue to innovate, which is what makes the company an exciting place to be. And where we develop innovations our partners get to be the first to try things
out, which makes selling a whole lot easier.

How does the industry develop measurement standards for digital that are universal?
Sucha big question.. The only possible answer is relentless collaboration involving both the biggest and smallest players and this is going to be even more true with the GDPR implementation. My view is to worry less about common measurement and keep focused on common standards. Some of the basic requirements are very low in terms of viewability etc. I believe we should raise the bar significantly as a starting point. ‘Three seconds partially-in-view’ inventory should not be the benchmark.

How important is inclusivity to your business?
Inclusivity is enormously important to Spotify. As you might expect from a Swedish business, inclusion is at the core of the Spotify culture and values, and we are putting a great deal of focus on D&I initiatives. Indeed, just this week we held our annual, global, Diversity and Inclusion Summit at Spotify’s Stockholm headquarters, which was an opportunity for members of staff from all over the world to discuss ideas and opportunities to drive change and innovation where needed at Spotify and to make us even more of a leader in this space.

How do media owners and tech companies capitalize on the changing media landscape?
Combine good environment, trustworthy inventory and clever use of technology and data. Technology has a bad rep at the moment, but it is not technology that is the problem, rather how it is used. Used correctly you can achieve great things.

Audio is seeing a resurgence and we are very happy about that, but that’s not about traditional ‘radio’. Across connected cars, homes, voice assistants, speakers, TVs, fridges, you need an audio strategy that is future proof. However, we believe the real opportunity is in combining audio formats with video to generate the greatest impact. The media landscape is definitely changing and Spotify is in a great place to be at the heart of it.

Marco will be speaking at Festival of Media Global next month and Spotify is one of the key partners of the event.

Happy 30th! The Zenith Media impact on my career.

Zenith Media is 30 years old today.  There has been a lot of water under the bridge since then, our industry has changed in so many ways but nevertheless, that agency shaped many of my thoughts and approaches and I am grateful for those early years.

I was first encouraged to apply to agencies by my brother who was a sales exec at Autoexpress who said that ‘I would be good on agency side’ and he told me to write to Andy Tilley the MD of Zenith at the time. So I wrote, I faxed, multiple times and eventually got an interview with Tim Greatrex. I got the job.

What was Zenith like back then? What was Media like? Well let’s start with the shed at Paddington, no, not the Paddington you know today, the high rises, the fancy station, the river with its restaurants and cafes, no this was derelict land in the middle of council estates and drab, redundant looking office buildings, a place where people looked unhappy at all times, except when you walked into the one pub, straight opposite the building, The Dudley. The Dudley was a place we spent a lot of time, well most lunches and evenings to be exact, it was ‘our local’ it was home from home and so much fun was had there. People were ejected, fought, laughed, competed, celebrated, commiserated, met the loves of their life or of the night, you name it. The Dudley could solve most ills. The king of the Dudley was of course John Lynch although everyone went from CEO to graduate, each with their side of the pub, even press and TV had subtle areas of dominance.

The office atmosphere as a graduate was exactly what you might have imagined, full of testosterone, a buying floor, TV in particular, it was full of smoke as we smoked all day long and although a male environment, many strong women flourished. I worked for two strong female leaders in Yvonne Scullion and Tracey Stern, I hope that set me up for the rest of my career to appreciate female leaders as the equal of anyone, but there were many more future leaders with Anna Campbell, Cyanne Bonnell, Rachel Forde, Marie Carey, Natalie Cummins amongst many others. It was a time where we learned to be accountable to clients, if something went wrong then we had to ring up our clients and explain, not hide behind email, we had to fight for our media plans, it was a time where your TV schedule was everything and I had sleepless nights if I was not securing what I had personally committed to, somehow the platform buys and AI and Algos of today blunt that or at least give you excuses. No, I had to fight with Mark Finnegan who invariably stole my centre break of coronation street on Friday for his newspaper accounts, to me it was everything.

By today’s standard no doubt it was a non PC environment and would not live up to the standards we ask of people today, but the class of ’96 onwards created a strong bond that to today is still probably some of the closest ties we have in media. I know we all root for each other and our careers and the media world actually revolves around the silent axis of ex Zenith employees. Just like publisher side revolves around Microsoft.

We were taught to work hard, play hard, and we have all learned that that approach needs tempering with the advent of always on technology, but the fundamentals still hold true. Enjoy working, and you won’t mind going the extra mile, have a great team and atmosphere around you and everything seems possible. In those days we could switch off and head home, difficult today, in those days, working from home was unheard of, mainly as we lacked technology to connect us, but the heart and soul of Zenith and what it taught me to expect from work remain about giving a shit about your colleagues and your work.

A testament to Zenith that there are many still there to this day, at least in the group and many returning in recent weeks, perhaps we are all destined to return to the place we loved the most? So many behaviours are now being realised to not be acceptable anymore but it was not all bad, there was a lot to look back on and celebrate and every time I walk in Zenith reception anywhere in the world there is always that reminder. What we all long deep down is to receive a farewell card of the ilk we used to get back then – we wish limping phone repair man well.

Marketing Week Article: Advertising on Spotify

Original article by Charlotte Rogers in Marketing Week – here is the original

Today Spotify will embark on one of the most hotly anticipated initial public offerings (IPOs) since Twitter went public in 2013 and Snapchat started selling shares back.

The Swedish streaming service has taken an unconventional approach, opting for a direct listing which circumvents the cost of an IPO by simply enabling existing shares to be traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

The chance to buy shares in Spotify is likely to prove extremely popular with investors. Globally the streaming service has amassed 71 million premium subscribers, up 46% year on year, and 157 million active users, an increase of 28% since 2016.

The average customer spends 25 hours a month streaming music on Spotify. Spanning 65 markets, Spotify’s audience has, to date, created two billion playlists from a library of more than 35 million songs.

Europe is the company’s largest market with 58 million monthly active users, accounting for 37% of its total audience. Spotify claimed a 42% share of the global streaming market in 2016, boasting a 95% share in Sweden, 59% in the UK and 41% in the US.

The streaming service has a dual subscriptions and advertising business model. Premium subscriptions accounted for 90% of Spotify’s total revenue in 2017, according to documents filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission on 23 March, in preparation for the IPO.

“It’s almost a return of radio-like thinking because brands now have to have their own unique sound.’
Neil Shah, Smirnoff

Last year premium subscriptions delivered €3.7bn (£3.2bn) in revenue, up from €2.7bn (£2.4bn) in 2016, dwarfing the ad supported side of the business, which generated €416m (£365m) in 2017. Its ad business did make a profit of €43m (£38m) for the first time last year, however, after making a loss of €35m (£31m) the previous year.

Spotify has approximately 90 million ad supported users, typically aged between 18 to 34, who are given limited, shuffle-only access to the platform’s full catalogue. Brands serve display, audio and video advertising to these listeners, delivered through impressions.

Despite being a far smaller element of the business, Spotify’s advertising arm has increased revenues by 41% since 2016, prompting the streaming giant to describe it as a “strong and viable” element of the business with “considerable long-term opportunity for growth”

To explore the possibilities of enhancing its ad revenue, Spotify is working on a number of different formats, including podcast partnerships with publishers like Buzzfeed, sponsored playlists and self-serve advertising platforms, as well as trialling skippable audio ads and finding new ways to use programmatic.

In March, Spotify revealed its first ever 3D audiovisual advert, created in collaboration with film company Lionsgate UK to promote the release of horror film Ghost Stories.

Audio from the original trailer was re-purposed to give a 3D audio effect on top of the existing trailer, creating an immersive experience. In the first week of release the 3D ad received click-through rates up 50% from benchmark level, according to Spotify stats.

Last month the streaming giant also rolled out its self-service Ad Studio feature to the UK, which allows brands to create their own adverts within the platform.

The advertiser picks its audience based on age, gender, location, activity and musical taste, selecting whether to opt for mobile, desktop or both. They then set the budget and campaign dates, and use Spotify insights to track the campaign’s success.

Spotify managing director of sales for Europe, Marco Bertozzi, believes Ad Studio will open the possibility for smaller advertisers to get involved on the platform.

“I think at the moment we tend towards working with big clients and agencies,” he explains.

“Ad Studio is going to allow us to open up a whole raft of new, potentially smaller advertisers, who will be able to log in individually and build their own campaigns.”

Spotify is also keen to take on mainstream radio. The streamer believes it can differentiate itself from radio’s “linear model” by offering personalised experiences based on real-time insights into listeners’ behaviour across a variety of devices from smartphones and desktops, to car audio, games consoles and in-home devices.

This all plays into a resurgent interest in audio seen over the past year, as advertisers begin work on defining the sound of their brand, Bertozzi explains.

“With Spotify we have the intimacy that radio has always delivered, but because we can apply the data and insight it’s really important that that creative message matches those moments adequately.

“If you just get a jarring radio ad you’re probably missing an opportunity. Think about the creative and how it sounds to someone in that intimate moment. It’s vital you tailor your message.”

This opinion is shared by Cristina Sarraille, senior strategist at media agency We Are Social, who believes brands need to start thinking about how their brand sounds and what position this occupies in the wider cultural landscape.

“We got into this area over the past few years of sound blindness, where everyone was so excited to think about narratives around images and text, ignoring the use of sound in the way we communicate about the brand,” she argues.

“An agency may say, ‘let’s work with Spotify’. But the brand and the agency should step back and say hold on, do we have a sound for our brand? Do we actually understand the music ecosystem of the culture where our brand is supposed to be playing in order for consumers to identify that sound with our brand?”

Data making a difference

Streaming intelligence data gathered on the moods, preferences and listening habits of Spotify’s 157 million active users is being harnessed by brands to build engaging campaigns. Bertozzi claims the company’s number one priority is respecting its listeners’ data.

“This is our only business model. That app and the music that comes out of it is everything for us, so making sure that that relationship is not disrupted is really important. We have 100% logged in users, so we have a direct relationship with them. All media is on our platform, so those relationships are tightly controlled,” Bertozzi explains.

“A lot of advertisers want our data and they want to put it in data warehouses, we just don’t do that. Our message to advertisers is that we’ve got loads of great ways that you can use this streaming intelligence, but it has to be respectful to our users and it has to be on our platform.”

A recent example of a brand utilising streaming intelligence to share an important social message is the collaboration between Spotify and vodka brand Smirnoff.

Based on Spotify data, which revealed none of the top 10 tracks streamed in 2017 were performed be female artists or bands, Smirnoff decided to redress the balance in time for International Women’s Day 2018 with the launch of the ‘Smirnoff Equalizer’.

The tool provides users with a percentage breakdown of the number of male and female artists they have listened to over the past six months, allowing them opt for an “equalised” playlist that balances it out with female artists personalised to their musical tastes.

Neil Shah, Smirnoff global senior brand manager, describes the campaign as a great example of a brand being clear on its purpose and then leveraging it to have a positive impact on society by delivering something interesting to consumers in a personalised way.

The ‘Equalizer’ tool plays into the way Spotify’s business model works by rewarding artists who attract more streams and bigger fan bases with greater exposure.

The campaign’s core KPIs were to raise awareness of the gender bias in music and enable users to take action. Shah’s team measured the number of visits to the Smirnoff Equalizer platform, paid impressions and earned reach. It also analysed whether listeners were generating and sharing their own playlists, as well as reviewing how overall listening statistics were being affected by the campaign.

With the rise of voice search, Alexa and audio-based platforms like Spotify, Shah believes that marketers will increasingly need to think beyond just their brand’s tone of voice.

Going ‘all in on music as a platform’ has enabled Bacardi to drive real results with its paid strategy.
Fabio Ruffet, Bacardi Europe
“It’s almost a return of radio-like thinking because brands now have to have their own unique sound,” he explains.

“With partnerships like Spotify, where the opportunity exists to interact with consumers in a meaningful and personalised way, it’s important that you have something relevant and interesting to say, otherwise essentially you’re going to be a brand that’s interrupting a user’s listening experience, rather than enriching it. I fundamentally believe brands don’t have the right to do that.”

Artist collaborations

Brands are also finding new routes to connect with listeners on Spotify by linking up with high profile artists.

Making the Spotify environment shoppable is a focus for merchandise specialist Merchbar, which enables artists to bring product listings to their Spotify profile pages. Merchbar recently partnered with beauty company Pat McGrath Labs and US popstar Maggie Lindemann to sell cosmetics from directly from the singer’s Spotify artist page, an industry first.

Merchbar founder and CEO, Edward Aten, explains that Spotify offered the perfect opportunity to take the collaboration between Pat McGrath Labs and Lindemann beyond traditional distribution channels and reach fans in new ways. He believes tie-ups between brands, artists and commercial partners will be the future method to make Spotify shoppable.

“Artists are the most influential group of people in the world, so whether it is through their own merchandise or branded collaborations there is tremendous possibility,” he claims.

“The best part is that as the channels and opportunities keep growing, it’s a huge win for everyone involved – something that’s super rare in the music industry. At the end of the day, you have to start with something that is truly authentic to the artist and resonates deeply with their fans.”

Last year when rum brand Bacardi wanted to change the way emerging Caribbean artists were being represented in the music industry it teamed up with DJ collective Major Lazer on the ‘Music Liberates Music’ project.

The campaign centred on ‘The Sound of Rum’, a Spotify playlist of songs from up-and-coming Caribbean artists, supported by a track from project ambassadors Major Lazer. Every time fans streamed Major Lazer’s track ‘Front of the Line’ and listened to ‘The Sound of Rum’ playlist Bacardi donated studio time to the emerging artists.

 

Major Lazer’s song ended up being streamed 4.6 million times, contributing to 127 hours of studio time for the Caribbean acts. According Fabio Ruffet, creative excellence director for Bacardi Europe, this activity also boosted brand affinity, made listeners more likely to view Bacardi as a “relevant brand” and reinforced the brand’s credibility in being associated with this category of music.

Ruffet believes that going “all in on music as a platform” has enabled Bacardi to drive real results with its paid strategy.

“We have been able to target the right audience at the same time as leveraging our key artist relationship with Major Lazer in an innovative way and giving up-and-coming Caribbean artists a chance to share their music with the world. We had multiple media touchpoints from casual fans all the way down to hardcore EDM [electronic dance music] lovers.”

Data from Bacardi’s ‘Sound of Rum’ playlist reveals that Fridays and Saturdays were the peak days for streaming, with Afrobeat, Dancehall and Crunk standing out as the most popular genres.

Bacardi used similar insight when devising its branded moments campaign on Spotify in 2016. When the brand saw its audience was listening to its party playlists, Bacardi rewarded listeners with 30 minutes of uninterrupted music in exchange for watching a short video. The brand also served mobile overlay ads providing drinks recipes for them to try.

Ruffet advises brands looking to carve out a space on Spotify to leverage data to unlock consumer insights and never forget to get the basics right first.

“Be open to new opportunities, but start with the basics – standard products are proven to drive business results, so it’s important to leverage them to their best,” he suggests.

“Customise. Creative should fit people, platform and a moment in time. And listen to your partner, they know the platform, so can save you from making simple mistakes.”

Speakrs4schools. Best part of my job!

Well today was all about Speakrs4schools. For those are not aware, it is an organisation set up by Robert Peston to help kids in state schools be inspired by people coming into their schools and talking about their journey and advice on how to  approach the daunting prospect of a) having the ambition to go for their dreams and b) getting into work. 

The organisation has had speakers talk in front of 500K students and they want more! Robert Peston was pretty clear – ‘I don’t want to go to Eton or Harrow, why do they need my help, it is State schools that have to help kids broaden their horizons’ that was where it started. He was regularly asked to speak in high end schools but noticed a lack of request from state. Years later he has a 1000 speakers on the books and big backing.

Let me talk about my personal experience, I have probably done around 6 talks so far, and each one is a joy. Watching often shy students slowly get up the courage to ask questions, begin to see signs of some reacting to talks. I have already had students email me to say they have started a blog or got a job etc – it’s so exciting. I hope I have encouraged a few to join LinkedIn and Twitter over the years and start to network. It’s the best part of my career. Give back – it feels good.

Speakrs4schools is now moving into the work experience space with S4Snextgen. Robert Peston hammered home the point that these kids don’t have the networks, they don’t have the privilege that many Interns have, ‘most Interns are populated by nepotism’ so true!! How many sons and daughters of senior staff people have got their kids in work experience? Many many…This is a great next step for companies in our industry to look into and try to support, I know I will be. 

Today saw me travel from Campion School in Northants to No10 in one day and it was an inspiring day! Already some students have LinkedIn! I know a lot of senior people out there in lots of different companies – I encourage you to look into this amazing organisation.

https://www.speakers4schools.org/