Category Archives: General

Too Punchy apparently…

I originally wrote this for a university blog who asked for some tips for their students on breaking in and succeeding in the advertising industry. Apparently this candid account of my journey so far is too punchy, they asked me to ‘tame it down’, I said NO! I have just the audience who might appreciate this as it is. So I’m publishing it here.

It’s longer than my normal posts, so grab a brew, take five and I hope you find some of this useful…

My Seven Tips for Survival

My job didn’t exist when I was at uni, it barely existed five years ago. I didn’t grow up thinking ‘One day I shall be a Transformation Strategist, or a Creative Technologist’. The reason I studied Art & Design at college is because I liked my teacher who taught design at school and I wanted to create beautiful things.

When I went on to university, the degree was titled ‘Graphic Design and New Media’; my first lesson was on search engines, an introduction to Google, my degree introduced me to Flash, Quark, InDesign and Freehand and on the day I graduated all of those skills were already out of date.

The reason I’m telling you this is that my first tip for stepping into our industry is to understand that it moves and evolves at breakneck speed, there’s a new start up every two minutes and a new technology every one. You have to be on your game every second to stay ahead.

What I did learn during my studies was that design and creativity is a fluid process; the principles of craft, attention to perfection (not just detail) and experimenting with how far you could push the boundaries would always deliver a result. Following graduation I found that print quickly bored me, so I taught myself to code and started to design interfaces, basic brand websites back then, and got excited. Code seemed to not only bend the rules but break them entirely, what you could achieve with dots per pixel rather than dots per inch seemed to know no boundaries, the only limitations were those of my mind. This brings me to my second tip, always push the boundaries and seek terrain unexplored.

Having realised this I quickly sought out the best agency in my area to learn how to do just that, I lived in Leeds at the time. I waited for a vaguely relevant job to come up, then when it did, I hounded them to employ me. I got the job, my first proper footing on the ladder (this was about two years after I graduated), that first foot is the hardest but most important one you’ll ever take.

The job was as an Account Executive, I didn’t exactly love booking rooms and making the tea, but I was surrounded by clever, fun people and quickly identified who I wanted my mentor to be, the smartest most rock ’n’ roll guy in the building who also happened to be leading the digital transformation for the whole agency. I stuck to him like glue for the following four years and he helped me become a savvy client facing strategist, adept in the rapidly changing world of digital. Tip three, surround yourself with the people you aspire to be and don’t be afraid to ask them to mentor you.

When it was time to move on life took me to London. I got a job at one of the leading UK agencies where I learnt how to manage big platform projects and start up enterprise solutions. I worked 12-18 hour days, every day to cram 3 years of progress into 18 months. It paid off, one of the top agencies in the world head hunted me into their team.

From then it was about jumping in with everything I had and pivoting my way through the most breakneck world I had ever experienced. I said yes to everything, then worried about how afterwards. I pushed myself to be the best at everything I took on, failure was not a situation I would accept. Tip four, do whatever it takes, if you don’t someone else will.

The hard work paid off when six months into the job I got a real chance to prove my abilities, arguably the turning point that made my career. Following leading a successful series of workshops I was asked to move to Japan and run the resulting global project for a major client. I had one week to pack up my life, lock up my flat and get on a plane, I didn’t even have an address to go to, it all happened so quickly my living arrangements were being organised whilst I was on the 13 hour flight to Narita.

48 hours later I found myself in an alien environment; I was half the age of the people around me, western, female and not able to speak the language. Was I nervous? Hell yes. I was amongst an incredibly intelligent bunch of people who knew this organisation inside out. Japan is a culture that lends to following a career path within the same company for the span of an entire career, these guys had started on the factory floor and worked their way to the top, then here I was to lead them through a massive change program. I swallowed the nerves, rolled my sleeves up and threw myself in. Tip five; if you’re not shi*tting yourself slightly, then you’re not pushing yourself enough.

Over the next six months I had to adapt daily to navigate many challenges. I started to build a strong team around me and the agency team back in London were nothing short of amazing. We spoke every day, we tackled problems together, when I got stuck they were there, when they couldn’t tell what was happening where I was, I brought them in, it was fluid, with many highs and lows but collectively we succeeded by working tightly together. Tip six; you are only as good as the team around you.

Since starting my career I’ve been a designer, a coder, a planner, a strategist, a client lead and half of a creative team. I’ve built teams, projects and many, many beautiful, useful things. I’ve changed minds and lives, kickstarted businesses, led huge programs, mentored, managed and broken every rule in the book. Most of all I’ve taken risks. Tip seven; don’t be afraid to take risks, it’s how we improve ourselves.

The words of my mentor when I left that first job in Leeds still ring true today, ‘Why will Karen succeed? Quite simply, because she has no fear’.

So my advice to you as you start on your journey in a particularly exciting but turbulent industry, is ‘Just say yes, be brave and jump in’.

What’s the worst that can happen…

jumping-off-a-cliff.jpgimage found on – thank you

Tagged , , ,

The future’s cloudy

I’ve been asked a few times recently what this is, in simple terms, so here goes:

Cloud storage basically lets you create documents and save to a central location which, you can access from all of your devices; laptops, tablets, mobiles etc.

This means you can view or edit your files on the hop, wherever you want without having to sync or transfer explicitly from one device to the other. Your work is effectively floating, like a cloud, waiting to be rinsed for information.

So, if you’re running to a meeting and you’ve picked up your personal mobile, not your work mobile (not that I ever do that of course) it means you can save your graces and find the file regardless.


Want to know more? I thought this post was insightful too.



Tagged , ,

Digital to Analogue

I was sat with my grandfather  the other evening putting the world to rights over a glass of Cotes Du Rhone. Fed up with the crap on TV we started trying to fine tune his relic of an analogue receiver, this lasted about  five minutes before I got annoyed and fired up my laptop.

I suggested perhaps now that he has his own laptop (there’s got to be some bonuses from having a geeky granddaughter right?) we try streaming something through the internet which, returned rather a blank expression. (Worth noting at this point when I first showed my grandfather how to work his laptop the first question asked was ‘where does the paper come out when you print these ‘email things?’)

Never the less, it took less than an hour to get him set up on iTunes and creating playlists of all his favourite artists and minutes later we were ordering speakers from amazon.

This got me thinking about just how much we’ve progressed in the world of digital audio. Its usefulness in the recording and quick mass-production of sound has made distribution of music across the internet staggeringly easy.

(If you find this interesting read on, if you don’t skip to the last paragraph for the happy ending…)

With an analogue audio system, when sound is created it’s done so as a physical waveform which moves in currents across the air, to capture that sound you have to transform the waves into an electrical representation via a transducer where it will be stored or transmitted. Then to re-create into sound, the process is reversed through amplification and then converted back into physical waveforms via speakers.

With digital audio you take the analogue sample and convert the pulses/ waves into binary signals which are then normally further encoded to allow modification and enhancement. This digital audio is then far simpler to transfer, transmit or store and from today’s wild variations of music you will know that filters and effects are commonly applied too (think N-Dubz, Gorillaz etc).

Once all this fancy pants wizardry has been applied the digital audio is ready to be distributed, which is significantly easier and cheaper as audio data files rather than as physical objects e.g. CD’s (or records if you’re my grandfather).

To be honest I lost him the second I started chatting about waveforms, but the story ends with a happy grandfather with the complete works of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven all for less than a fiver.

Sorted, thank you digital audio.


Tagged , , ,

Achieving digital balance

The online world evolves at such a breakneck speed it’s easy to get sidetracked by the latest shiny gadget or cutting edge technology.

Once we lived in a world where clients would phone up and say ‘We want a website’, now more often than not the call I take is ‘I saw this and I want one for our businesses’.

The key is to strive for digital balance. Remember the business requirement but add in enough innovation and excitement to keep your client and the audience enticed. By delivering a balanced media plan you will achieve a greater ROI by allocating accountability and measurement to each media chosen. By being media and technology neutral your results will be integrated and effective.

I’m not saying that you should ignore new technologies and only rely on the tried and tested, absolutely not, but don’t just adopt technology for technology’s sake.

Start with your staple ingredients of a tried and tested planning model, add in a dash of innovation, a spoonful of pioneering technology, a splash of something daring then check it against your ROI model.

If it all adds up you’re on way to achieving your digital balance.

Tagged , , ,

If you don’t make mistakes, you won’t make anything

Being wrong is ok, failures and false starts are a precondition of success.

Some of the most successful people and companies I know are so, because they allow themselves to fail. Edison made over 200 light bulbs before he made the one that worked but he learned something from every mistake before reaching the end result.

It is the wrong turns in work and life that define us, risks are a measure of who you are. Those of us that take risks will end up leading more fruitful lives. Knowledge is built upon things that happen but if you stop taking risks and only keep the same knowledge it will quickly become unoriginal, and lets face it, who wants that label.

So, go on, get it wrong! It’s the right thing to do.

‘Fail. Fail again. Fail better.’ Samuel Beckett

Tagged , , ,

handy tips to successful email marketing

  1. Create an eye-catching, attention grabbing ‘open me’ title. The title will be the first thing your reader see’s so keep it snappy and relevant.
  2. Ensure you have a lovely creative feel. Following on from your snappy headline your content needs to entice the reader down the page so you can get them to…
  3. A clear Call to Action. What do you want the user to do? Keep it clear and un-cluttered
  4. Hooray – No spam here! Honesty is the best policy, the email content and subject line must be accurate. Avoid using language that spam filters will pick up on. If you want more information on this I would recommend reading Econsultancy’s best practice guidelines. (It’s very comprehensive)
  5. Get your timing right. Think about when would be best for your intended recipient to receive the email. Hint – Monday morning first thing = bulk delete of emails
  6. Don’t send emails for the sake of it. Everyone’s gets annoyed when they’re bombarded so send relevant information over a considered length of time. Develop a contact strategy based on the trends of your consumers.
  7. Track it and optimise your campaigns! What’s the point in sending an email if you don’t know how many people opened it or clicked on your CTA? Implement some basic tracking and read the reports… this will help you optimise your campaign and improve your results.
Tagged , , , ,

working with the Brainstrust

I’ve just finished the first draft of a children’s book for the Brainstrust and I’m really excited to be working with these guys as they truly are a brilliant organisation.

Essentially they’re a support service but unlike other charities, they offer pragmatic support and advice at the point of diagnosis and they have a
unique network of advisors in the medical, scientific and nursing community.

Ultimately their work aims to help put those with brain tumours back in control of a very daunting situation. One of the latest things these guys are providing is a Brainbox containing useful tools such as a ‘brain book’  for keeping a record, a pill box, leaflet’s and lots of information about what’s available for you. You can read more about it here.

Essentially this book is aimed to help both children who have been diagnosed with a brain tumour and their carers, in it is featured ‘the monster’ (brain tumour) and the ‘elephant in the corner’ (Brainstrust’s mascot). The story helps identify symptoms of a brain tumour and what help and support you can get.

It’s only a first draft but I’m really happy to have this chance to help make a difference and raise some awareness. I will be posting updates here so check back to read the latest…

If you or someone you know could benefit from the services that the Brainstrust offers or if you would like to get involved in some way please visit and get in touch.

Tagged , , ,