[VIDEO] Tech City UK’s ‘Tech Nation On Tour’ event @ The Core, Newcastle Science Central

Watch the live stream video of Tech City UK’s ‘Tech Nation On Tour’ event at The Core, Science Central on Friday 24th March 2017 below:

You can also download the full report by clicking on the image below:

Uncovering hidden opportunities in the North East digital economy

Paul Lancaster at Bunker Coffee

I was saddened to read in The Journal recently that teenagers in the North East are the least confident in the country about their future prospects (see here).

Apparently just 45% think they’ll be in a career of their choice by 2026, they have much lower salary expectations than teenagers in other parts of the country and are completely unaware of opportunities on their doorstep. There’s a clear mismatch between the jobs teenagers say they want and those which economic forecasters say are likely to be available in the future, with too many looking to traditional industries that are dead or dying.

It’s easy to blame the Government, schools or teachers for not doing enough to provide good and up-to-date careers advice but what are we as parents, grandparents, business owners or leaders doing to help raise awareness of the opportunities available to the young people of our region?

We need to take collective responsibility for the problem and recognise that if we don’t, the often cited ‘brain drain’ is only going to get worse as talented and ambitious young people leave our area, believing that it’s the only way to get on in life.

There are huge opportunities all around us, particularly in the IT, tech, digital and creative sectors.

The problem is that unless you work in these sectors, digital jobs can seem ‘invisible’ or ‘other-worldly’, unlike a large factory at the end of your street where everyone works. But once you know where to look, you will see opportunities everywhere in what I believe is the friendliest, most supportive and accessible industry in the UK, where your ideas and what you can make happen are far more important than your academic qualifications.

A great place to start is TechDiary.co.uk, which is a fantastic free resource that lists pretty much all of the tech/digital events, workshops and seminars happening in the region, most of which are free to attend. And for any young people in your family, I recommend showing them the excellent free https://careerhacker.uk website from Sunderland-based Geek Talent which uses data to match skills with real life job vacancies and give tailored free careers advice to students or people who wish to try something new.

I’d also encourage you to learn more about the great work that organisations like Digital Union and Dynamo North East are doing to champion and promote the IT/digital sector in our region, the North East Futures UTC (University Technical College) and National Institute for Smart Data Innovation (NISDI) and make a point of visiting Campus North too – the co-working and event space in Newcastle which is full of digital entrepreneurs and was recently voted ‘Best Workplace in Britain’ by Adzuna in recognition of the fantastic community they have grown there.

On a personal note, I’m on a mission to promote the North East as the best place to start and grow a digital business and am working with a wide range of people and organisations on a new place marketing campaign using the #ThisIsMINE (Made In North East) strapline.

We’re inventing the future of our region and would love you to join us. Let’s go!

The importance of Internal Champions & External Advisers when adopting new technology

Technology means the nature of work is changing rapidly for some with others at risk of being left behind in terms of efficiency and productivity.

Hot-desking in Pink Lane Coffee, Newcastle

I’ve already blogged about how the ‘Paperless Office’ is finally here as cloud-based tools enable people to collaborate, share and update information online from anywhere but how do you know which ones to choose and how to use them effectively in your business?

We’re all busy people so the thought of taking time out to explore and trial new apps or software that may or may not result in a noticeable improvement to your working practices can be off-putting and therefore unlikely to get done.

From a personal point of view, I now run my entire business in the cloud via my MacBook Air and iPhone using the following cloud-based tools:

These tools allow me to work from literally anywhere with an internet connection including my home, a co-working space like Campus North where my business is predominantly based, a client’s office, a coffee shop, on the bus or on the train. Almost all of them can be used on an individual basis and have been easy for me to pick up over time with little or no training but some, like Slack, have needed a bit of guidance and only work if other people in your business, your clients or wider network are on there too.

Connected and informed

If you’ve not used Slack (or one of the many alternatives) before, it’s a private messaging tool for teams where all your messages and files can be shared in one place either with everyone under certain themes or privately with individual members. Like a cross between a social network, instant messenger and video chat tool rolled into one, one immediate benefit is the reduction of internal email which is widely regarded as a major time suck and as the founder of the annual global #NoEmailDay campaign, is something I’m a big fan of using. However, the real benefit of using a team collaboration tool like Slack is how quickly it will make you and your colleagues feel more connected and informed which in turn will help everyone make better decisions at work.

I was first introduced to Slack when I worked at Sage by the ultra-efficient developers who used it to collaborate with their colleagues around the world. Although I could immediately see the value, none of my colleagues in the marketing or business development teams who I worked with the most were on it so there was no point in me using it either.

Internal champions and external advisers

So, it was only when I started working for Tech North, the Government-backed organisation set up to promote digital entrepreneurship across the North of England, that I could really use Slack properly and appreciate just how valuable it was for keeping me informed and engaged with my colleagues as we worked on the move and in different geographical locations. Even so, what became a hugely important tool for collaboration still required my excellent colleague Laura to take time out to set things up for the team and show us all how it could be used to share information with each other and be more effective in our roles.

In my opinion, every team needs an ‘Internal Champion’ like her who will lead by example and show their colleagues how to make the most of new technology, otherwise it simply won’t get used. But even before that stage, you need a trusted expert and adviser who can help you understand what problems you are trying to overcome, what appropriate solutions are available and how best to implement them in your business.

This could be your tech-savvy team mate or your in-house IT Manager (if you have one) but if you’re unsure of what technology is available, the potential benefits to your company and how to adopt it with the minimum of fuss, I recommend speaking to an external consultancy like Newcastle-based Forfusion whose business is all about using the latest technology to improve efficiency and productivity for their clients. This can save you a lot of hassle, time and stress and lead to a huge improvement in efficiency, productivity and even happiness in your team!

To see how the Forfusion guys can help, take a look at their ‘Professional Services‘ page and then get in touch with their friendly team of experts.

The pen is mightier than the sword

With a background in content marketing, blogging, social media and PR, I’ve seen firsthand just how valuable the media can be when trying to promote your business, a campaign or a particular viewpoint.

Posting regular news and updates on own website or blog is the best way to ensure your message is heard in the exact way that you want it to be, but in my experience a good piece of media coverage in a quality magazine or newspaper is still one of the best ways to reach the general public, potential clients and partners.

I’ve been fortunate to get some excellent media coverage for both myself and the businesses / organisations I’ve worked for over the years but have been particularly pleased with the articles in The IoD’s Director magazine this month (June) and The Journal and Bdaily last month (May).

The IoD’s Director magazine (June 2016)

SHARE Leadership The Northern Powerhouse – Seizing the opportunity

The Journal (May 2016)

From international DJ to tech 'SuperConnector': meet Paul Lancaster of Plan Digital UK

Bdaily (May 2016)

North East Northern Powerhouse insight: Paul Lancaster talks tech and digital entrepreneurship

Small Business Marketing Advice For…Everyone!

Last year I was asked to do an interview for The Learning People website, sharing my marketing and social media advice for ‘Project Managers’ and small business owners.

I’ve done quite a few interviews in my time but in my opinion this is one of my best. It was published over a year ago and although it apparently got a decent number of views, unfortunately it didn’t get many shares on social media. So, rather than risk losing the info contained within, I thought I’d republish it on my own blog below…

Small Business Marketing For Dummies by Paul Lancaster

WHAT KEY POINTS WOULD YOU WANT ANYONE READING YOUR BOOK TO TAKE AWAY?

“When it comes to marketing your business there are so many different things you could do that it can be hard to know where to start.

“Like all For Dummies books, ‘Small Business Marketing For Dummies‘ sets out to clearly explain every type of marketing that a micro or small business in the UK might want to do, with lots of useful and practical tips and advice.

“None of the techniques are particularly difficult to do, and much of it can be done at little or no cost, especially social media.

“The main cost is simply time and effort.

“It’s unlikely that a small business owner will be able to do all the things outlined in the book, but I hope that after reading it they will have a much better understanding of what’s relevant to their business, what they can do themselves and what they might need to outsource to a professional marketer.”

IF SOMEONE WITH A NEW BUSINESS IDEA WAS NERVOUS ABOUT SHARING IT, HOW WOULD YOU ADVISE THEM?

“Most people are too busy living their lives and working on their own projects to steal your business ideas.

“Although it’s true that you should be careful how much information to share with people you don’t know very well, at some point you will have to share your business idea with someone in order to get it started.

“This could be in a business plan that you show to a bank manager or investor if you’re trying to get funding, to find a business partner, or just to get support from your friends and family.

“Once you start trading or building a presence online then your ‘secret’ is out and you become open to competition, but that’s where marketing comes in as you try to explain why you are different and why people should work with you or buy your products and services.

“If you’re too scared to invest in your own business idea – in time or money – you can’t really expect anyone else to.

“It’s highly likely that a bank manager, lender, angel investor or venture capitalist would want you to have some ‘skin in the game’ to demonstrate your commitment.

“This could just be investing your time, but is commonly cash.

“Having said that, ‘fear’ is a very real barrier that stops potentially great business owners from taking the plunge.

“The trick is therefore to build up your confidence by doing lots of market research to make sure there’s a demand for your products or services, and to do some test trading in your spare time before quitting the day job.

“Seek professional business advice as soon as possible.”

DO YOU THINK THE CURRENT FINANCIAL CLIMATE MAKES THIS A GOOD TIME TO START UP YOUR OWN BUSINESS?

“Some of the world’s greatest businesses have been started during a recession – there are opportunities everywhere if you know where to look.

“I think a common mistake some people make is to start a business without doing any market research, and only after launching do they find that no one wants their products or services.

“This is why market research and test trading is so important.

“You will have a much higher chance of survival if you build a business around a market rather than try to change the market to fit your business.”

HOW WOULD YOU ADVISE APPROACHING KEY FACTORS SUCH AS BUDGET, TIMESCALES AND TEAM MANAGEMENT?

“At a local enterprise agency I used to work at they used to get potential business owners to define a Personal Survival Budget – clearly setting out the minimum amount of money you need to pay your bills and have a reasonable quality of life.

“This is important because it will help you see exactly how much money you need to make from your business in order to do it fulltime.

“For your business, you can do some basic accounting in Excel or Google Sheets but I recommend using a simple online accounting solution like Sage One Accounts, which will help you get into good habits, help you with your cashflow forecasts and includes free 24hr telephone and email support if you’re unsure of anything.”

IN YOUR OPINION, HOW SHOULD PROJECT MANAGERS BE USING SOCIAL MEDIA?

“Social media is really easy to use, but it’s hard to do right.

“Trial and error is the best way to figure out what will work for you and your business but in a nutshell, honest, genuine, helpful, interesting and funny Tweets and Facebook posts written by real humans are always better than ones that look like they’re been written by a robot.

“You should also have some basic measurement tools in place to help you see what is and isn’t working.

“At a basic level, Google Analytics will show you how many Social Media Referrals you are getting, whether it’s increasing or not and which tools are working best for you.

“In my experience, Twitter is by far the best tool for raising awareness and acquiring new/potential customers, but Facebook is great for deepening engagement with people who are already using your products and services.

“So measure things and set goals to help you define success but be careful not to overdo it.

“Stats are only useful if you actually take time to learn from them and make changes accordingly.

“Social media is becoming increasingly visual too so great looking photos and short videos are a good way to build engagement and promote your business.”

HOW DO YOU PERCEIVE BUSINESS USING SOCIAL MEDIA IN THE COMING YEARS?

“Social media is moving so fast it’s impossible to predict what things will look like in the coming years.

“New tools will come on the market whilst other ones will die off and lose favour, but I think the big ones like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube will continue to dominate.

“As broadband speeds increase and become available to more people, video will continue to grow in importance, especially for mobile users.”

WHO INSPIRES YOU?

“I’m inspired every day by the people who are brave enough to start their own business and try to change the world, even if it’s just their little part of it.

“My wife and kids inspire me to want to make a difference and do things that they would be proud of.

“I’m an avid reader and always have several books on the go, mostly business and personal development ones related to the workplace, marketing and social media.

“If there’s one person who I would encourage everyone to read, it’s bestselling author and marketing guru Seth Godin.”

If you find any of my comments above useful, please share it by clicking on all the social sharing buttons below and then Following me on Twitter @lordlancaster. Thanks :o)

Many Paths

Signed to Perc Trax in 2005, here’s the awesome Spartak techno remix of my track ‘Many Paths’.

No Email Day: Why Sending Email Is Anti-Social

Sending lots of emails to your colleagues is one of the worst things you could do to them this week. It gives them extra ‘busy work’ to do (reading, replying or deleting all sucks up valuable time), can lead to stress and reduce the amount of time they can devote to the ‘real work’ that adds value to your business and customers.

As I reflect on the 4 annual ‘No Email Day’ which took place on Friday 4/4/14 I’d like you to stop and think about how much email you are sending (and receiving) each day and consider alternative methods of communication to get the job done.

When I announced the world’s first global No Email Day on 11/11/11, it struck a chord. My original 9-page manifesto was read over 30,000 times in one month on Slideshare after being featured on The Next Web and covered by BBC Radio 5 Live, Wall Street Journal, Wired, Lifehacker and The Sunday Times. (At the time of writing it’s had over 50,000 views).

It soon went viral with thousands of people around the world Tweeting, Sharing and blogging their support for the campaign. Something was clearly wrong with the way email was being used.

Since then, No Email Day has continued to build momentum and support, becoming an annual event with 12/12/12, 3/3/13 and now 4/4/14 all acting as a focal point for people who can see the value in working ‘Outside their Inbox’ in a more social and collaborative way.

People continue to blog and complain about information overload and some exciting tech start-ups have appeared which all try to help people tackle the problem.

By using Social Media I’ve been able to discover and share some amazing tools, tips and advice on how to manage your workload better so you can be more productive, efficient and happier at work via our Facebook Page at www.facebook.com/NoEmailDay and Twitter account @NoEmailDayHQ.

But could you really live without email, even just for a one day?

Former IBM Social Media Evangelist Luis Suarez has been living in ‘A World Without Email‘ since February 2008 and both he and Paul Jones (University of North Carolina) are key supporters of No Email Day and of replacing email with social media (see their great videos athttp://uk.sageone.com/2014/04/01/no-email-day/).

Luis and Paul have been a great inspiration to me since 2011 and I feel closer and more connected to them than I do to people who only ever communicate with me by email. This is despite the fact that we live in England, Gran Canaria and the USA, have never exchanged an email between each other and instead using our blogs, Twitter and Google+ to share ideas and support one another from afar.

But it’s not just a bunch of ‘radical individuals’ who are championing the cause. Thierry Breton (Chairman and CEO of IT consultancy Atos) declared that they would stop sending internal email completely and Matt Cutts (Google’s Head of Webspam Team) recently blogged about his need to ditch email for 30 days so he could help more people at once by using his awesome videos.

Big businesses are getting involved too so they can free up more of their time and promote a more collaborative way of working both internally and externally. It was especially exciting to have Microsoft UK’s Social Media team and conference call company Powwownow get behind No Email Day 4/4/14.

If you’d like to know more about No Email Day and show your support, please visithttp://plandigitaluk.com/no-email-day, Follow us on Twitter @NoEmailDayHQ and Tweet your comments, tips or advice including the #noemailday hashtag.

How To Use Social Media To Promote Your Business / Yourself

Handy beginners’ guide to Social Media tools to promote your business.

Social Media is the term used to describe the 2nd generation of websites (or Web 2.0) which enable greater interaction with their users. Traditional websites required passive consumption of information by the reader in a top-down approach, while the new wave of Social Media sites encourage the reader to contribute their own content and ideas.

Examples of popular Social Media that can be useful for business include;

Twitter

Twitter is a micro-blogging tool which enables users to post 140 character messages online about themselves and their business. By searching for topics that interest you and are relevant to your business you can quickly build up a network of people to ‘Follow’ and recruit your own tribe of ‘Followers’. Individual posts or ‘Tweets’ can be posted online via the website or sent as an SMS text message from your mobile phone. Unlike normal text messages or emails, a single Tweet not only appears on your own profile page, but on those belonging to each of your Followers, making it a highly effective tool for spreading the world quickly about your latest news and ideas.

For help getting started, check out Twitter’s own ‘Twitter for Business website‘ or Follow Me @plandigitaluk and @lordlancaster.

Facebook

With over 200 million users worldwide in 2009 (70% outside of the US), Facebook is one of the biggest social media success stories of recent years. Originally a way for college students to stay in touch with their friends, Facebook has since evolved into an easy and user-friendly way for individuals, businesses and groups of like-minded people to communicate with people around the world. With so many people using Facebook on a day to day basis it’s worthwhile having some kind of presence for your business on there, and it can be another useful way to market and launch a new product or service.

To start a Facebook Page where people can ‘Become a Fan’ of your business, comment on your products or services, interact with you and share content with their friends visit: www.facebook.com/advertising/?pages

To see how this works, take a look at the Shell LiveWIRE Facebook Page.

Shell LiveWIRE Social Network

A bit like Facebook for business, the Shell LiveWIRE Social Network is a great way to promote yourself and your business and should be seen as your ‘shop window to the world’. All users are provided with a free profile in which they can add photos, videos, classified ads, events diary and blog, providing the perfect place to network and do business with other Shell LiveWIRE members.

The Shell LiveWIRE Social Network is extremely well indexed by all the major search engines so regularly posting something on your blog will ensure high rankings in search results. (See our ‘Top Tips on using the Shell LiveWIRE Social Network).

YouTube

The moving image is one of the most powerful ways to get your message across to people quickly. Businesses can use YouTube to post individual videos about their product or service, or create their own YouTube Channel containing a collection of videos related to what they do. Even with a basic video camera or mobile phone and a little bit of imagination, videos can quickly become viral and there are numerous examples of people who have had their clips viewed by over 50million users! Even if just a small number of people view your videos, YouTube is a useful and compelling medium for marketing and promoting your business that should not be ignored.

LinkedIn

Boasting over 41 millions users worldwide, LinkedIn is a useful place for business professionals to host an online CV which can be used to find work or networking opportunities with other users. See my LinkedIn Public Profile at: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/lordlancaster

MySpace

If your business is in the creative industries, particularly music, art and fashion, then MySpace is somewhere that you should definitely maintain a presence as it’s a great way to highlight your latest news and releases and reach out direct to your target audience. The Arctic Monkeys, Lily Allen and Little Boots famously built up huge armies of devoted fans through MySpace before signing their first record deals and so it has become an essential place for new businesses, record labels and artists to break new markets.

Bebo

With a target audience of 13-19yr olds (mostly teenage girls), Bebo obviously isn’t for everyone. However, if your business provides products or services for this particular demographic then it’s the perfect place to get yourself known.

Ning

With over 1.3 million Ning social networks created and more than 30 million registered members around the world, Ning ‘enables artists, brands and organizations to simplify and control their online presence with their own unique Ning Network that integrates with other social media services while providing a direct relationship with fans, consumers and members.’ Take a look at my wife’s Ning network ‘Baby Friendly North East’ at: http://babyfriendlynortheast.ning.com

Flickr

Flickr describes itself as ‘the best online photo management and sharing application in the world’ and provides an easy to use online system for uploading and sharing your pictures with anyone you like. Businesses can use Flickr to share photos of events or products they have available to buy which can be linked to from their emails, website, blogs or any other Social Media.

Blogs

Blogs (an abbreviation of the word ‘weblog’) are a type of website that allow an individual or business to write a running commentary or diary of their activities which can be made available for anyone to see. Blogs can be purely text-based, but really come to life when enriched with other Social Media tools like YouTube videos, Twitter feeds, photos, audio and links to other external sites of interest.

There are a number of free blogging tools available, including WordPress and Blogger which provide users with a simple way to establish an online presence without having to pay for a website, and all Shell LiveWIRE members are provided with a free blog in their Social Network profile. Meanwhile, Technorati was founded as the worlds first blog search engine and has since evolved into a content provider for blogs around the world.

The Rise of the IJ – Book Publishing Parallels With Music Digital Downloads

Seth Godin is on a mission to change the face of publishing with ‘The Domino Project‘ and I think he’s onto a winner.

Seth Godin's The Domino Project

For anyone that’s read one of Seth’s books like Linchpin, Tribes or The Purple Cow or subscribed to his fantastic daily blog / newsletter / RSS feed, you’ll know that it’s all about THE IDEA and not the medium on which it is consumed.

Many people, including myself in the past, have poured scorn on the idea of e-readers like Amazon’s Kindle, but why?

As Seth himself has said in the past, there will always be a place for books – as artefacts, ornaments and mementos of someone’s life and history. There’ll always be people that love the look, smell and feel of the paper in their hands. There’ll also be people that are willing to pay vast sums of money for limited editions, slightly more for hardbacks, or less for paperbacks and on special offers in the latest bestselling book chart.

There’ll also be those that don’t really mind what format the book comes in because all they want/need are the ideas contained within – and I’m hereby dubbing these people the IJs or ‘Information Jockeys‘.

Just like a DJ (which I used to be), these people have a voracious appetite for new ideas and thirst for knowledge. They could be book addicts, academics, journalists and book reviewers or just people that consume more books than the average person. For these people they need the books fast and they want them now, and they’re more than happy to download it to their e-reader if it means that they can get the book for slightly less money or slightly quicker than everyone else.

The IJs see themselves as curators of ideas and pride themselves on being ahead of the curve and more knowledgeable than most about a subject and so for these people it makes perfect sense to download a digital version of a book at a time and place that’s convenient to them, not when the traditional book publisher or shop tells them they can access it.

When I was a DJ I was a self-confessed vinyl junkie (I’ve got a room full of records to prove it) and still love the look, smell and feel of it in my hands. However, when I turned from being a bedroom DJ into being a professional DJ, getting paid to do gigs and to be on the pulse with the latest music – digital downloads became more and more convenient and necessary to my career. Again, there were lots of sceptics around MP3s and the use of CDs used to be frowned upon by ‘serious DJs’ until the Pioneer CDJs came along and changed the game forever. Once the technology arrived to make the use of MP3s and CDs more convenient and user-friendly (not to mention easier to carry from gig to gig) there was no turning back and now it’s hard to find a vinyl turntable in a modern nightclub these days.

So, I say there’s still room for multiple formats but the issue here is about choice. Different formats for different types of user and Seth’s The Domino Project is going to be right there in the thick of it pushing rhe envelope and championing the cause. Watch this space… 😉