Sunset over Emirates Towers Dubai UAE

Fancy a photo?

Although I have never been one to think of myself as a professional photographer, times are such that, upon receiving an email from an online photography shop that I have occasionally bought from that I can easily set up an online portfolio with a potential to maybe possibly sell a few snaps, I thought “Why not?!”

Zenfolio is the site, as recommended by Photobox, and I have put a few sundries of some incredible travels up there. Not professional by any means, but perhaps you will find something that strikes a chord. But do not enter the Cats About Town album unless you have either a) already met our cats and love them to bits, or b) have an otherwordly obsession with other peoples’ pets and checking out repeated, only slightly different, photos of said pets. You have been warned.

Take a look, tell me what you think, maybe even buy something random from the online shop 🙂

Ashton and Ashton LinkedIn SEO Profile Refresh Advice From Forbes

Recycling Excellent LinkedIn Advice From Forbes For Your Personal SEO

This blog post appeared on my personal LinkedIn profile just moments ago. I hope you arent reading it twice in quick succession by accident.

I am in the midst of a huge research project, attempting to compile a Best Practice list of CEO bloggers right here in the Middle East. During recent training presentation research I was inundated with international CEOs who blog, mainly from the US and Europe, but left bereft of any from the UAE or wider GCC region. Hence why I feel I need to try and fill the gap with my own findings.

During said research I was also completing a digital communications strategy for a client, and find myself recommending more activity from the whole company on LinkedIn – apparently it boosts your SEO and inbound lead hits from potential buyers, even in the slightly unglamorous realm of IIoT and smart city infrastructure. And I stumbled upon this article on Forbes: 50 Ways To Get More LinkedIn Page Followers. Which turns out to be a really useful compendium, so I thought I would share.

Thanks, Forbes, much appreciated.

In the meantime, I am cranking the gears of the Ashton and Ashton blog once more in an effort to discover and be sent links to stunning, shining examples of stellar CEO bloggers in the Middle East. Not Instagrammers, not Youtubers, but bloggers. Less fashionable in this day and age, I grant you, but infinitely more useful for positioning yourself as a thought leader in the niche of your choice. Firing out two paragraphs on sustainability in the desert is definitely more liked by Google than posting a square picture of a solar farm with a dozen hashtags.

Picture courtesy of the ever-awesome Stocksnap.io, as ever. Thank you for making my blog posts look slightly more interesting!

Inbound Smarketeers

If you are in the market for a communication agency, you could do a lot worse than enquire as to their credentials in terms of Inbound Methodology. All communication rockstars worth their salt work within these parameters, paying mindful attention to today’s consumer who is seriously fed up of traditional approaches – ad blockers are on the rise, spam mail is a massive concern, and who today consumes media in the same way as 5 years ago (think YouTube, iPads, SnapChat, NetFlix)?

Do not fear, as of today I am the proud recipient of a refreshed Hubspot’s Inbound Sales Certification, yet another of their excellent online training courses. The excellence is not just in the price either, but free is definitely a bonus – the value is in the content itself. Inbound is all about customer-centricity and being mindful of the key role the internet plays in arming potential buyers with the information they need to compare and contrast competing services. And I say “refreshed” as these courses are updated annually to ensure we stay on top of latest developments in the digital space.

Essentially, those of us who operate in a sales environment need to tailor and personalize our approach to a customer who has already made certain decisions before you even get the opportunity to present your wares. To rephrase something I have been previously guilty of:

A salesman who assumes his buyer knows nothing makes an ass out of u and me.

The logic behind Hubspot creating such an insightful course is clear – by equipping sales teams with an effective inbound methodology the company will solve your entire sales and marketing – or smarketing if you prefer – needs, reducing friction across departments in the process. The Inbound Marketing team generate the useful content in the form of blog posts, social media content, ebooks, webinars and white papers that the buyer is looking at before the Inbound Sales team step in.

The opportunity to roll this sophisticated and logical communication approach out for clients and see the success in terms of ROI and improved bottom line is incredibly satisfying and, although not a fully signed-up Hubspot afficionado at this stage, here at Ashton and Ashton we are fully commited to Inbound Methodology and content marketing.

Certification as it now stands, July 2016:

Hubspot Inbound Certification 2016

Hubspot Inbound Sales Certificate 2016

To follow: Email Marketing and Growth-Driven Design Hubspot courses – watch this space. And make sure you check your agency or in-house team are up to speed too 🙂

Digital audits are sexy

I think everyone in communications probably had a double-take when they read this headline and are now shaking their head in disbelief. But, like many other things in life, a digital audit is a necessary process to carry out in order to progress to greater things. Like doing your laundry and cleaning your fingernails. From a brand perspective, it is an essential way to keep your online reputation in check and forms the foundation for a forward-looking strategy.

Ideally carried out in-depth on a quarterly basis, but usually undertaken by a new agency to provide clear starting points for all parties to work from, an proper dig should inform a company exactly where they stand in terms of efficacy of message but also what people are saying about them. Are they having any influence on their target market, and if not what/who is? A decent audit often throws up relevant competition as well as examples of effective campaigns that have “moved the needle”.

A great article I just read on the topic, courtesy of Econsultancy, covers off most of the key points here, but perhaps the most important thing to note is this: audits aren’t really sexy at all, that’s why you need a third party to do your dirty work and tell you what needs fixing, conveniently removed from any potential internal politics.

 

Happy Birthday UAE

It is 2nd December 2015, the 44th birthday of the United Arab Emirates, a country I have called home for almost 5 years. I have lived and learned, developed and honed, broadened and focused. At this point in time I am grateful that I am increasingly healthy, not so wealthy but certainly wiser.

I made the decision earlier this year to step away from circumstances that were clouding my professional and personal character. Since that day, following weeks and months of evaluation and discovery, I have been able to realign and recalibrate with the support of my dear wife and various other key people (you hopefully know who you are and also read this blog).

I am proud of the work I produce for clients I am thrilled to collaborate with today and I wish this for everyone. This post may be slightly late for Thanksgiving, but I believe it needs to be written and today is as good as any.

Thank you and a very happy birthday to all our readers.

The Downside Of Publicity

The last few months have been incredibly eye-opening and one of the reasons I first began this new venture – I have been able to fully embed in a company looking for hands-on marketing communications guidance and production and genuinely make a difference. The step away from rigid agency life into a closer client role has been refreshing, and occasionally frustrating but that is another blog post…

There was an odd pride came over me yesterday during lunch with the founder and CEO when he told me he had got into an argument with his wife. When I asked why, expecting the response to be about a shopping trip or forgetting an anniversary, he explained that a friend of his wife’s had seen in the news an announcement of a major industrial accolade for his company, and his name all over the press. The CEO, always focused on sales and market development rather than the glitz and glamour of events and awards, was in trouble with his proud and supportive wife because he had forgotten to mention the prize. He was grassed up by his newfound fame, all because of a media campaign I had instigated with the Head of Marketing.

That CEO is Bakhtiar Wain of Avanceon and they are now recognised as Best System Integrators by Schneider Electric, a company they have partnered with on various projects across the Middle East. This little anecdote serves to remind me of the great strides I have managed to take at this company, where the very idea of communicating their success is alien. Now, with this little taste of fame, we are starting to turn the corner.

Unearthing Gems

I’ve recently been working through a knowledge nanagement course via the wonderful MOOC that is edX, littered with intriguing modules delivered by Harvard, MIT and other global leaders in education. What drew me to this course was a common concern clients have, which is linked to intellectual capital.

It is remarkable how much company knowledge is held inside the minds of employees, but not recorded anywhere else. The danger here is if you lose the employee, that knowledge is lost forever. Short of inserting a dystopian microchip into employee heads that can easily be extracted as they finish their contract, the only option available is to elicit knowledge through interview or conversation.

This initial knowledge audit can help build out the framework for a knowledge database, because until you have a firm handle on what they know you can’t really start classifying for later accessibility. Perhaps most important in the whole process is how the data is recorded. Clear naming and tagging should enable easy access, with hosting in a shared drive possibly hosted in the cloud. The next step is defining access levels per company member.

Two examples from my five year career in agency spring to mind.

Upon arrival in Dubai, my agency didn’t even have a shared drive, which scared me! Imagine if a laptop broke that stored all aspects of a project, or supplier database goes missing? Wasted time and frustrations would run high, but a shared drive with clear folder structure is a step in the right direction.

The second example was at my last agency, and my excitement when they launched a global knowledge repository and encourage everyone to upload case studies, credentials and best practice. Brilliant innovation and empowered individuals to blow their own trumpets through posting success stories to share with your global colleagues. Although I was somewhat surprised it was only happening in 2015, it was a major step forward in company-wide knowledge sharing.

When the knowledge is accessible, it makes it easier to tell your stories and enhance your business efficacy in a much shorter timeframe. The job of the content creator and strategist is streamlined, always appreciated and something we can put into place for your business as part of our comprehensive communications planning.